The Los Angeles Dodgers were favored by many to make a deep playoff run in 2016. That’s been the case for the past several seasons, too, as the Dodgers boast one of the top pitchers in the game in Clayton Kershaw.
An ongoing issue had been that Kershaw couldn’t do everything himself, however, and that once the MLB playoffs rolled around, if he couldn’t elevate the Dodgers, they wouldn’t be going very far.
That still wound up being the case ultimately in this past season’s playoff run, but along the way the Dodgers at least found a strong complementary arm to aid Kershaw. That would be none other than ageless wonder, Rich Hill.
The 36-year old Hill continued a career revitalization last season, as he went 12-5 as a starter, while notching 129 strikeouts. Despite lingering injury issues, Hill stepped his game up during the post-season, helping the team get a huge 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals, and again dealing a game in a 6-0 win over the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
Needless to say, the veteran left-hander earned his keep with the Dodgers and deserved a new contract. Per reports, the Dodgers obliged, signing Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal:
Rich Hill three-year deal official with Dodgers.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) December 5, 2016
The deal itself isn’t over the top, even though Hill is pushing 37 and for the most part has only been a reliable pitcher over the last few seasons. Instead, it’s a huge deal from an impact perspective, as Hill more than proved his worth during the playoffs and also ended up being a solid trade acquisition, going 3-2 as a starter with the Dodgers in just six regular season appeances.
Hill’s story is an odd one, as he started his career as a solid prospect with the Chicago Cubs (where he notched a previous career high 11 wins), but tailed off and was largely a forgotten man until resurfacing as a strikeout king with the Boston Red Sox in 2015. Hill only took to the mound four times as a starter with Boston in 2015, but recorded 36 strikeouts and reminded Major League Baseball of the value he can still provide.
The wheels could always come off at anytime, as Hill is 36 and has battled injuries the past few years, but on paper this is a fantastic re-signing for a Dodgers team with serious title aspirations.
When people think Dodgers baseball, the first person they think of is still Clayton Kershaw. As money as their top ace has been, however, he hasn’t been able to get the job done all on his own and Los Angeles has taken action over the last couple of seasons to get him the backup he needs. That means more lively arms that can rotate in without skipping a beat, and also nail down crucial games during the playoffs.
Hill did that twice just last season, while his regular season numbers were as good as ever.
That puts Rich Hill on paper as a terrific signing and blends him in a deep pitching rotation that already included Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir and the young riser, Julio Urias. The Dodgers have even more depth, but had they lost Hill, they would have been taking a big step back. Hill has his health concerns and his age could eventually be a factor in his performance, but this was a signing that had to be made. On paper, the Dodgers are better for it.
World Series Odds
It’s tough to say for sure if re-signing Rich Hill makes the Dodgers even bigger World Series threats, but it surely can’t hurt their chances. Hill was a crucial piece to the defensive puzzle last year for Los Angeles, showing he can come up big as either a starter or a member of the bullpen. That’s massive for this team, which has a deep stable of top shelf pitchers now and can add strong versatility to their strengths.
The Dodgers undoubtedly need to make a move or two to shore up an often erratic offense, but the move to keep Hill steadies the ship on the defensive side of things. On paper, that helps keep their current World Series odds intact, which per Bovada, place them third (+1000) behind only the Chicago Cubs (+350) and Boston Red Sox (+1000).
The Dodgers know they’re close to making a big move. It nearly happened this past season, as the Dodgers started their NL Champinship series sow (down 3-0), but stormed back with two straight wins to make it a series. L.A. inevitably lose that series, but inched closer to a title run. By bringing back a key piece to last year’s playoff run, they should once again be as strong as ever.