According to Jane Lee of MLB.com, Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill is “doubtful” to make his next scheduled start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Hill has continued to be bothered by a blister on the middle finger of his left hand, which he suffered while throwing a side session last Thursday in Houston. Hill was originally skipped from his start the this Friday as a precaution, according to the team, but the layoff didn’t seem to work. In the lefty’s last start against the Blue Jays on July 17, he was only able to throw five pitches before the blister on his finger popped, and he was taken out of the game. An injury like this isn’t making things any easier for Oakland, as they try and trade Hill to a desperate contender. After seeing the return San Diego received for starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz, it’s essential for a team like the A’s to take advantage of a current trade market that is starving for pitching. If they fail to do so, it would be a tough blow to a franchise that is currently struggling to field a competitive team.
Prior to this blister issue, Hill was having a breakout season at age 36. In 14 starts, Hill posted a dominant 2.25 ERA with a strong 10.7 K/9 and 6.5 H/9 across 76 innings. It has been a groundbreaking transformation for the lefty, who hadn’t started a baseball game at the major league level since 2009, before landing an opportunity with the Red Sox in 2015. Earlier this season, Rich suffered a groin injury that ended up causing him to hit the 15-day disabled list in the beginning of June. He would miss about a month of action, before finally taking a major league mound once again. Things were looking up for Hill when he returned and looked as dominant as ever in his first two July starts, but now he’s at risk of not making another start before the trade deadline. If one more health issue occurs and throws Hill’s return to the mound off track, it could have some serious effects on this entire process. Due to Hill’s lack of track record, his stock will continue to dwindle with each warning that pops up about his durability in 2016. It’s essential that whatever treatment Oakland is using to fix Hill’s blister issue begins to really take effect if they hope to get the most value back in whatever deal they end up making.
It’s been reported as of late that the Rangers, Blue Jays, Royals, Orioles, Tigers, and the Yankees have all expressed interest in Hill. Thanks to the cheap one-year, $6 million deal he signed with the A’s prior to 2016, Hill won’t break the bank of whatever team tries to acquire him. There’s a pretty large bidding war about to take off with the trade deadline right around the corner. He’s the closest thing to a sure bet left, unless a team wants to completely empty their farm-system in order to overwhelm another team not really looking for a deal. He’s likely all-or-nothing for many of these clubs who need a seriously effective starter in order to stop themselves from falling behind the pack and getting trampled.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com noted just a few days back, that when the Red Sox and Athletics engaged in trade talks for Rich Hill prior to Pomeranz being dealt, Oakland was asking for top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza. Billy Beane seems to have a steep asking price for Rich’s services heading into the trade deadline. It will be fascinating to see how this entire situation unfolds over the next 9 days, because whoever steps forward and makes a move, will likely alter the playoff picture as the season winds down. Even though the A’s had hoped to have dealt Hill by now in order to focus on other moves, there is no time to panic. As each day passes, more injuries arise, and teams find a way to convince themselves they have a chance to win it all. Unless something drastic happens to Rich Hill’s health, the ball is in Oakland’s court; it’s okay to be greedy, this being one of the few times the market permits it.