NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The A’s didn’t make waves in the opening stages of the winter meetings, but one of their former pitchers did.
Rich Hill signed a three-year $48 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In doing so, he returns to the team that acquired him from Oakland at last summer’s trade deadline.
It’s quite a career pinnacle for Hill, 36, who the A’s took a chance on last winter by signing him to a one-year $6 million deal. The lefty was less than a year removed from pitching in independent ball with the Long Island Ducks, a move he made to transition back to starting after years pitching in relief.
Hill showed emotion at times as he addressed reporters Monday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. He also expressed gratitude for his half-season in green and gold. The lefty flourished in 14 starts with Oakland, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA before the trade. That validated him as a legitimate big league starter and helped pave the way for Monday’s payday, as Hill stood out as arguably the top starter available in a thin free agent pitching market.
“Obviously that’s an opportunity we were incredibly thankful for,” Hill said. “To be able to do that with Oakland, be re-established as a starting pitcher. When you look back at that time, I’m extremely humbled by that but also the opportunity in Boston and going back even to Long Island. Connecting the dots going backward, we feel very fortunate getting to this point. But all those things had to fall into place.”
Hill said his camp had discussion with several teams this winter, but that there was no meaningful dialogue with the A’s about a return. Now the Dodgers hope he can bolster their rotation for the next three years behind superstar ace Clayton Kershaw.
Hill turns 37 in March, so signing him to a three-year deal can be viewed as going out on a limb. But Hill says he looks to other older pitchers as an example of what can be accomplished even pushing beyond a 40th birthday.
“You see guys like R.A. (Dickey) and Bartolo (Colon), who are still pitching into their mid-40’s, it’s inspiring because it’s something I would love to do,” he said. “ However, we all know the body clock says other things.”
A’s officials weren’t scheduled to arrive at the winter meetings until Monday evening, with the first media availability for Oakland’s front office set for Tuesday. At the top of their to-do list is finding an everyday center fielder, either through free agency or a trade.