Most people who spent a lot of time watching the 2016 Orioles and don’t work for the Orioles agree that the starting rotation needs a lot of work. How much they’ll be able to do about that problem, given that they have $33 million committed to Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, and Wade Miley already, is unclear.
Yet the Orioles, if one hot stove season rumor is to be believed, have not completely shut the door on trying to do something about the starting rotation this offseason. ESPN’s Jim Bowden described the Orioles as being “in the mix” on free agent pitcher Rich Hill, who was a bad pitcher as an Oriole eight years ago but somehow got better a couple of years ago, when he was 35.
Not every baseball rumor is created equal. That’s why my default response to rumors is to say, “Probably nothing will happen.” As rumormongers who work for mainstream baseball outlets go, Bowden may well be the worst of them solely on the strength of the “Ralph” incident from two years ago, where Bowden stole “breaking news” from a fake Twitter account, got caught, then deleted his account and claimed he’d been hacked.
The whole escapade was so thoroughly absurd and pathetic that it’s hard for me to assign much credibility to Bowden ever since. So in writing about this rumor, note that I’m not writing about it because I think it might be true. I’m telling you about it so that you know, if you hear “Orioles in the mix for Rich Hill,” it’s more likely to be nonsense as long as it’s only Bowden who’s saying it.
Even if we take Bowden’s rumor at face value, the “Probably nothing will happen” still applies because of the nature of Bowden’s rumor itself. He describes there being four teams “in full pursuit” of Hill. Those are the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Astros. The Orioles, along with the Red Sox, are of secondary interest here, merely “in the mix.”
The Yankees and the Dodgers are two of baseball’s biggest-spending teams. The Red Sox are up there as well, and the Astros, while not traditionally a spending powerhouse, have been the most aggressive team in taking on money - perhaps the only aggressive team - so far this offseason.
What I’m trying to say here is that even if this rumor is the truth, it still won’t mean anything for Orioles fans because, seriously, if all of the above teams decide they want to get Hill in their starting rotation, are the O’s going to outbid them all? Of course they’re not. That’s ridiculous.
MLB Trade Rumors projected that Hill would receive a three year, $50 million contract from the Yankees this offseason. That is a lot of money for a guy who will be 37 next Opening Day and who, in one of just two successful seasons as a starter he’s had in a career dating back to 2005, still only started 20 games. Hill missed a lot of time due to having a blister, which did not clear up even after he peed on it. I’m not making that up.
Again, let’s set aside whether or not it’s a good idea for the Orioles to sign Hill. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The guy did just pitch to a 2.12 ERA last season, and more than half of those starts came in the American League. You don’t have to look very hard to see why a team would want him. And he is a lefty. If the Orioles are obsessed with having a lefty in the rotation, better Hill than Miley.
But are the Orioles, with needs in right field and at catcher, with six starting pitchers already under contract, very likely to shell out over $16 million per year to Hill over top of big-spending teams? Who, mind you, even if they DID, would have to pass the dreaded Orioles physical having already had a shoulder surgery and a Tommy John surgery?
The world is always capable of surprising us, as the Orioles surprised us last season by opening up the wallet in a big way. Still, unless that same thing is going to happen again this offseason, it’s not worth indulging in rumors about a player like Hill, no matter which baseball media member is peddling the rumor.