Tim Hill is no Josh Hader. That's putting it mildly. But he's also not going to command a nine-figure, record-setting contract in free agency and, with the Cubs all-in on Shohei Ohtani, Jed Hoyer might have to find ways to address other needs on the roster in a most cost-concious fashion.
It's no secret the Cubs lack left-handed relief options. Depending how the rotation shakes out, Drew Smyly seems likely to slot into that swingman/long reliever role for Craig Counsell, with Jordan Wicks and Luke Little potentially factoring into the picture in some way, as well. But in terms of short-relief lefties, it's a well that's run dry with the team non-tendering Brandon Hughes earlier this month.
Speaking of recent non-tenders, the Cubs could dip into that pool to add relief depth this winter. Specifically, there's a buy-low candidate (and we all know how Chicago loves their reliever reclamation projects) in Tim Hill who seems likely to be available at a low cost, short-term deal after a brutal 2023.
Cubs signing Tim Hill would hardly be a head-turning move
Hill had pretty much nothing go right for him this year with the Padres, setting career-worsts in ERA, FIP, WHIP and H/9 - all while watching his strikeout rate dry up, to boot. That led to San Diego non-tendering him, setting the 34-year-old up to find a new home for the 2024 season.
Given his struggles in 2023, how Hill is deployed will be critical moving forward. Thankfully, if you're the Cubs, who have one of the best bullpen managers in the game in Craig Counsell, that shouldn't be a concern.
Hill got rocked by right-handed hitters to the tune of an OPS north of 1.000 and while he was hardly dominant against lefties, there's reason to believe he can find success against left-handed bats. Even including his disastrous 2023, he's held lefties to a .606 OPS in his career. His groundball rate, which ranked in the 87th percentile this season, could be particularly impactful with the Cubs' Gold Glove middle infield tandem behind him.
Again, this isn't a sexy free agent target. But Hill could add some depth where Chicago sorely lacks it and, with Counsell calling the shots, there's optimism he could be utilized in the right way where he could get things back on track in 2024.