Posted on July 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Hill will not make his next scheduled start on Sunday, as he continues to have problems with a blister on the middle finger of his left hand. Hill being scratched from Sunday’s start makes a trip to the DL a distinct possibility for him. At the same time, Oakland says it continues to receive trade interest from other teams regarding Hill, setting up a rather unpredictable few days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline on Monday.
Hill left his last start on July 17 after just five pitches because of the blister. He threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Friday, and despite saying progress was being made with the blister, he also reported the blister feeling “hot” afterwards. That was enough for the A’s to bump hill from Sunday’s start. “It feels like we’re making good progress, but if we run out there and end up in a situation like we were last time, we’re pushing it back even more,” Hill said Friday. “We’re already at two weeks at this point.”
Interestingly, Hill’s blister issue “hasn’t diminished the number of phone calls we’ve fielded,” according to Oakland GM David Forst. “The Deadline is Monday, no matter what happens with Rich,” Forst said. “There has been interest, we’ve had conversations. We’re not going to give Rich away just because he’s a free agent next year. He has a lot of value to us and, frankly, who’s to say we’re not interested in keeping Rich beyond this year?”
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On paper, Oakland is clearly out of contention, but Forst has been impressed with the team’s play as of late and appears to be in no rush to trade Hill or anyone else on Oakland’s roster that may be a viable trade chip, specifically outfielder Josh Reddick. “The fact is, our guys have played really well since the All-Star break. We’re obviously looking up at a lot of teams in the standings, but they deserve a lot of credit,” Forst said. In terms of making any trades before the deadline, Forst commented: “We’re having a lot of conversations. I couldn’t handicap it right now as to whether we do something or not.”
Hill’s relatively cheap contract makes it likely he would get claimed if the A’s try to pass him through waivers after the deadline, which would lower his trade value considerably. Of course, the value of a pitcher who may be about to go on the DL is also diminished unless Forst can work out a trade that involves contingency plans based on how many starts Hill makes for the team that acquires him. Forst has also floated the possibility that Oakland will try to retain Hill after the season, possibly making him a qualifying offer, which could tempt him to return.
What ends up happening with Hill at this point is anybody’s guess. In 14 starts this year, Hill is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA, making him a potential game changer for a contending team. However, the current situation with his blister and his history of injuries throughout his career could impact his value. At this point, just about any possible outcome is on the table when it comes to Hill.