Twins sign pitchers Bailey, Hill to 1-year deals

December 31st, 2019

On the dawn of what they hope will be a fruitful 2020, the Twins have addressed their most glaring roster void. The club on Tuesday signed veteran starting pitchers and to one-year contracts.

Bailey’s deal is for $7 million, a source confirmed to, with performance bonuses if he reaches 180 innings. Hill’s deal includes $3 million in guarantees, has confirmed, with escalators that could take it to $9.5 million with 75 innings or 15 starts, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.

Bailey, 33, and Hill, 39, both carry a veteran pedigree but also come with uncertainty.

Bailey enjoyed a bounceback year in 2019, going 13-9 with a 4.57 ERA in 31 starts. The right-hander signed a Minor League deal with the Royals in February and was acquired ahead of the Trade Deadline by the postseason-bound Athletics, but he owns a 5.56 ERA over 77 starts since ’15.

The left-handed Hill is recovering from October surgery on his pitching elbow, and he’s not expected to return until June. Hill was effective when healthy in '19, going 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts for the Dodgers.

Couple Hill with Michael Pineda, who will be serving the remainder of his 60-game suspension to start the season, and the Twins are -- as it stands -- rounding out their rotation for a mid- to late-season run, leaving their Opening Day unit still in question. The unit is anchored by All-Star José Berríos and Jake Odorizzi, who was brought back on a one-year qualifying offer after a breakout '19. And after the club declined the $7.5 million option for Martin Pérez and Kyle Gibson signed with the Rangers, Minnesota carries a contingent comprised of promising but mostly unproven young arms.

President of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine had said that they expect the fifth rotation spot to be filled by an internal option -- likely one of Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak or Lewis Thorpe. Tuesday’s deals give the Twins more of a bridge to that younger unit.

Minnesota’s front office has been explicit in its search for rotation help this offseason, reiterating multiple times its need for an impact starter. But after losing out on the top crop -- the Twins had been linked to Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu before each signed elsewhere -- the club’s pivot on Tuesday addresses a need at a low cost and leaves open the opportunity for further upgrades.

The trade market is also an area that the Twins could still explore, with names like Matthew Boyd, Robbie Ray, Chris Archer and Jon Gray having been loosely linked as available.

But by committing to just one year and $10 million to Hill and Bailey, Minnesota could conceivably still have the financial capital to make another move -- perhaps even for star third baseman Josh Donaldson, whom the club has been linked to.

Hill will be 40 by the time he returns to a Major League mound, but the 15-year journeyman has pitched his best over the past three-plus seasons with the Dodgers, going 30-16 with a 3.16 ERA over 69 appearances, including 68 starts, and earning a three-year extension worth nearly $50 million through '19.

In 2015, Hill was released from his Minor League contract by the Nationals, at which point he decided he wanted to go back to being a starter -- the role he had been in before several arm injuries derailed him. In ’19, Hill dealt with left knee and forearm woes.

For Bailey, who reached a career crossroads just last year, it’s another shot at a Major League job. Bailey received a $105 million extension from the Reds in 2014 in what was largely a disappointing deal for Cincinnati, for performance that could be correlated to three elbow surgeries. Bailey was eventually traded in 2018 to the Dodgers, who footed the final $28 million of Bailey’s deal in ’19 even after he agreed to the Minor League deal with Kansas City. Over parts of 13 seasons, Bailey is 80-86 with a 4.57 ERA.