Dodgers Trade Targets: Rich Hill

May 29, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill (18) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill (18) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

With the trade deadline coming up, it’s time to look at another pitcher the Dodgers are reportedly interested in.

The Dodger made it to the All-Star break barely in one piece, but here they are. Their 51-40 record is the eighth-best in all of baseball and the fourth best in the NL, only behind the three division leaders. They were 51-40 after 91 games in each of the last two years, so despite the injuries and seemingly poor performance, they’re really in the same position as they were last year in terms of things they can control.

They’ve done this despite a pitching staff that’s barely held together. It’s been shockingly solid, despite having used 12 different starters already. Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda have each made 18 starts, and while not all of them have been pretty (especially Kazmir’s), they’re the only two Dodger starts to avoid the DL through the first half of the season. Clayton Kershaw was having the best year of his career somehow, but the injury bug bit him. Alex Wood had finally turned it around before hitting the DL. Brett Anderson went down in the Spring. Julio Urias and Ross Stripling are young/Stripling is coming off TJ, so the Dodgers are rightfully being cautious with them. Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu have each returned from injuries in the last couple weeks, but are both coming off arm injuries so they’re being eased into it.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the Dodgers could have two different 5-man rotations that are better than some other rotations in baseball. Depending on how their pitchers return from injuries, the Dodgers could have an excellent seven-man rotation, with the ace of all aces and five low-caliber number two starters/high-caliber number three starters (and Kazmir, who has shown flashes of being a two and flashes of being a five). They might not have a huge need in the rotation, but adding a pitcher could pay dividends as they head down the stretch.

Enter Rich Hill, who the Dodgers targeted in free agency this past offseason. Via Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

"His old friends in Boston are logical, but know, too, that the Dodgers were ready to pounce on him had Brett Anderson not accepted the qualifying offer."

Anderson was part of a group of three players that, for the first time ever, accepted a qualifying offer. Had he not done that, the Dodgers would have likely gotten a pick as Anderson signed with another team and could have had Hill.

Hill was quietly one of the better signings off the offseason. The journeyman only had started 74 games in his 11-year career prior to this season, only 22 of which came in between 2008-2015. Hill has a great year in Boston as a reliever in 2012 and had four good starts for them last season, but he was still only signed to a one-year, $6 million deal this offseason.

The 36-year-old lefty has had a career year this season, with a 2.25 ERA/2.57 FIP in 13 starts for Oakland. He missed a little time with a groin injury, but when he’s healthy he’s been the ace of the A’s rotation. He has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start this year and he’s gone at least six innings in 10 of his 13 starts. Aside from Kershaw, Maeda is the only Dodger pitcher to go six innings in more than 10 starts (11 times in 18 starts).

Hill would likely be the second-best pitcher in the Dodgers’ rotation, depending on how McCarthy and Ryu come back from their injuries. He would be a rental, so he shouldn’t be all that expensive. The first half of Hill’s season has looked eerily similar to Kazmir’s first half last season. Kazmir, whose contract was also expiring, was traded by the A’s at the deadline to Houston for Jacob Nottingham and Daniel Mengden. Nottingham is a promising catching prospect, but was flipped to Milwaukee for Khris Davis. Mengden had put together a nice start to the season in the minors, but hasn’t quite found his footing in the majors yet.

Kazmir wasn’t sold for pennies, but those two prospects aren’t exactly irreplaceable, especially in a farm system like the Dodgers’. Mengden finished out last season as the A’s 22nd-best prospect on MLB, Nottingham 15th on the Brewers’ list.

The only issue I could see is that with such a weak pitching class in the upcoming free agency, the A’s could offer Hill a qualifying offer, have him decline it, and get a pick out of it. Teams with starting pitchers have a ton of leverage at this trade deadline, as even a pitcher with an expiring contract could be valued a lot higher than they were last year. At 36, Hill likely won’t get a huge long-term deal no matter how well he pitches, but he could potentially get a pricy two year deal with an option on the open market. If they A’s value that qualifying offer/draft pick, they could choose to hold on to Hill unless they’re blown away.

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The Dodgers are in a weird position where they both need pitching and probably don’t actually need pitching. A move like Hill would undoubtably help the team and maybe be a boost for some of the other pitchers fighting for a job. At the same time, if a pitcher like Wood/McCarthy/Ryu is on their game, the difference from one of them to Hill is marginal at best. This front office won’t and shouldn’t pay premium prospects for a marginal upgrade. This is something we’ll probably be saying a lot as we approach the deadline, but if the price is right, this is definitely a move the Dodgers should look to make.