Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill was introduced on Monday morning at a press conference at the winter meetings at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel in Maryland, after his three-year, $48 million deal was finalized.
This contract is the culmination of a remarkable turnaround for Hill, who opted out of a minor league deal pitching in relief with the Nationals’ Triple-A team in 2015. He was nearly out of baseball until turning things around in the second half of that season as a starter.
A brief run with the independent Long Island Ducks got Hill another minor league deal, this time with the Red Sox, where in Triple-A Hill met up with Brian Bannister, a former pitcher now in Boston’s front office. A far too simplistic recap of their encounters is that Hill moved to the first base side of the rubber and started using his curve ball more often.
Hill earned a September 2015 call up to the Red Sox and was dominant in his four starts, with a 1.55 ERA, 36 strikeouts and five walks in 29 innings. This was from a pitcher who in his first 10 big league seasons totaled 471 innings and posted an ordinary 4.72 ERA.
The Red Sox were his sixth major league team.
“I really didn't know what failure is until I got older, and understood that's just experience,” Hill said on Monday at his press conference.
Hill parlayed those four starts into a one-year, $6 million deal with the A’s, and was traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 1. He posted a 2.12 ERA in his 20 starts in 2016. He said his success comes from a renewed approach, and living in the moment, something he referred to often in his two months with the Dodgers last year.
"There are going to be down times, or times of failure. But being consistent in your routine, meaning staying in the moment every single day and knowing what I want to do before I get to the field, that's part of everything seamless and consistent,” Hill said. “That consistency is what builds championships, and that's where winning comes from, to me. That's being in the moment to me.”
Being in the moment got Hill $48 million over three years with the Dodgers. Per the Associated Press, Hill receives a $2 million signing bonus, then annual salaries of $12 million in 2017, $16 million in 2018, and $18 million in 2019.
He slots in behind Clayton Kershaw at the top of the Dodgers starting rotation. Hill mentioned Kershaw’s work ethic as one of the reasons he wanted to return to Los Angeles.
"Being around the likes of Clayton Kershaw, watching how the guy works — I bring him up specifically because he's contagious — guys feed off of that, and that's what you want,” Hill said. “Every time I go out there I hope that's what I bring and that guys feed off that. You can't compromise.
“The wins and losses will come and go, but your consistency of your effort cannot change. It's something I have learned over my entire career, but it has definitely become more pertinent in the last few years.”
Hill’s competitiveness did not go unnoticed.
"You see the competition, you see the consistency in his focus and preparation, there is a lot of intensity,” manager Dave Roberts said. “There's a huge competitor in him. For me, the coaches, and the organization, these are the players we bet on, and want to be a part of our organization."
"With the number of young starters we have coming up, to look at two very successful guys. They aren't successful by accident. It's because of the work they put in,” said president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “To have that trickle down to our young guys, that's significant to us.
"There aren't 10 guys I've been around in my career that rank as highly as Rich does, in terms of truly having that burning desire to win."