Rich Hill signs 1-year deal with Pirates

January 5th, 2023

The Pirates appeared to have rounded out their Opening Day rotation by signing Vince Velasquez on Dec. 13. But even with Pittsburgh’s depth, general manager Ben Cherington expressed that the team wanted to add another starter to further deepen its pitching staff. So the organization kept adding.

The Pirates finalized a one-year deal with left-handed starter Rich Hill, the team announced on Thursday, the latest in what has been a long list of acquisitions for Pittsburgh over the past two months. The deal is expected to be worth $8 million, though the team did not disclose the terms. 

Hill, who will turn 43 in March, continued to defy Father Time in 2022, posting a 4.27 ERA and a 3.92 FIP across 124 1/3 innings with the Red Sox.

Even in his 40s, Hill has remained an effective starter. Since the beginning of 2020, Hill owns a 3.92 ERA and a 4.14 FIP with 8.11 strikeouts per nine innings to 3.05 walks per nine innings. Hill still possesses a penchant for minimizing loud contact, ranking in the 88th percentile of hard-hit rate in '20 and 79th percentile in '21 and '22.

In addition to on-field production, Hill, who projects to be the oldest player on an Opening Day roster in 2023, will be an invaluable presence to Pittsburgh’s young starters.

Roansy Contreras (23), Mitch Keller (26) and JT Brubaker (29) are in line to complement Hill and Velasquez in the rotation. Luis Ortiz (24 in January) and Johan Oviedo (25 in March) will compete for a spot in Spring Training. Quinn Priester (22) and Mike Burrows (23), the Pirates’ No. 3 and No. 8 prospects per MLB Pipeline, respectively, could make their Major League debuts next season. Similar to José Quintana last season, Hill stands to serve as the steady veteran presence who can lead the next generation.

With the signing of Hill, it will be worth monitoring how the Pirates use Oviedo going forward. He was brought up as a starter in the Cardinals’ system and started in 2020 and '21. In '22, Oviedo almost exclusively relieved for St. Louis, making 13 relief appearances to one start. The Pirates acquired the right-hander at the Trade Deadline and had him build up as a starter with Triple-A Indianapolis for several weeks before calling him up to Pittsburgh. Oviedo posted a 3.23 ERA and a 3.47 FIP in 30 2/3 innings across seven starts for the Bucs. With Hill in the mix, Oviedo may have to transition into a relief or hybrid role.

Hill marks the latest addition in what has been an active offseason. Over the past two months, the Pirates have signed Hill, Velasquez, first baseman Carlos Santana and catcher Austin Hedges; acquired first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Rays, utility man Connor Joe from the Rockies and right-hander Dauri Moreta from the Reds; and selected left-hander Jose Hernandez in the Rule 5 Draft. The adding may not be done; last week, in addition to saying the team wanted to add another starter, Cherington also said that the Bucs would like to add another position player as well.

Pittsburgh has had a run of success at signing left-handed starting pitchers in recent years. Tyler Anderson posted a 4.35 ERA and a 4.27 FIP across 18 starts in 2021 before being traded to the Mariners for Minor League catcher Carter Bins and right-hander Joaquin Tejada. José Quintana had a similar trajectory last season, posting a 3.50 ERA and a 3.23 FIP in 20 starts, then was dealt to the Cardinals for Oviedo and Malcom Nunez, now the Pirates’ No. 12 prospect.