Chicago Cubs should get in on a Rich Hill reunion early this offseason

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images /
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The Cubs need pitching – and veteran left-hander Rich Hill could be an answer.

The Chicago White Sox made one of the biggest plays of the offseason by acquiring right-hander Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers late Monday night, giving the South Siders a legitimate frontline starter who immediately bolsters their chances of competing for a World Series. But the Cubs are not in the same stratosphere as the White Sox.

Not only are the North Siders in a budget crunch, but the Cubs also lack the assets to go after an arm like Lynn, who will cost the White Sox a mere $8 million in 2021. The White Sox are a team on the rise. The Cubs are in transition.

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Yet, the Cubs have the very same need for starting pitching, especially if Jed Hoyer really does want to have a shot at being competitive in his first year as president of baseball operations.

Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay figure into the rotation mix behind Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. Maybe the Cubs give Brailyn Marquez an extended look if, say, he performs well at spring training. Even still, there would seem to be at least one hole in the rotation, one likely to be filled with a veteran arm on a one-year deal.

Chicago could still look to re-sign Jon Lester. Our own Jake Misener wrote last month former Cub Cole Hamels could be extremely affordable after injuries have ruined the last year-plus of his career.

But one former Cub might make the most sense out of any on the open market: left-hander Rich Hill.

Hill broke into the majors with the Cubs in 2005, and has been the very definition of a late bloomer. The Boston native’s success began in earnest when he was already in his age-36 season in 2016, as Hill–then with the Oakland Athletics–pitched himself into being a top trade deadline target, and he was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The crafty left-hander went on to post a 3.16 ERA in 361 1/3 innings of work in three-plus years with the team.

The 40-year-old had a bit of a setback when he underwent elbow surgery last November, but it proved to be a non-issue. The Minnesota Twins signed Hill to a one-year deal and, after he made his recovery, Hill had a 3.03 ERA in eight starts.

Chicago needs a guy who can get outs and pitch to his strengths. Hill does just that.

Hill ranked in the 88th percentile in hard-hit percentage this past season, per Baseball Savant. He can throw that big, spinning curveball in any count to any hitter. This sets up an otherwise mediocre fastball (in terms of velocity) as an out pitch, especially since he can locate it above the zone.

At this stage in his career, Hill can really only be counted on for around five innings per start. But the innings he does provide are quality, and – more often than not – would put the Cubs in a position to win games.

Whether Hill is an affordable commodity remains to be seen. His age would suggest many teams are going to pass him up, but contenders looking for depth could be chomping at the bit to sign him.

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The Cubs should inquire as to Hill’s market value. He might be a cheap addition who would then allow Hoyer and Co. to spend on bullpen upgrades.

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