Monday, February 2, 2009

Chicago Cubs East

Andy MacPhail takes the next step in his plan to acquire all blocked/disappointing Chicago Cub, picking up left-handed pitcher Rich Hill for a Player To Be Named Later (I assume it'll be cash or some A-Ball, Henry Williamson type guy).

Hill was very good in his first full season in 2007, using his 90 mph heater and big-time curveball to pitch 195 inning of 3.92 ERA ball. He got strike-outs (8.5 K/9), showed solid control (2.9 BB/9), but had some issues with the long-ball (1.25 HR/9). His 4.28 tRA (114 tRA+) showed a lot of promise for 2008.

Some regression might have been expected, but nobody saw Hill's control issues coming. 18 walks in 19.2 IP and Hill was sent down to the minors despite a 4.12 ERA. Instead of getting his head on straight, he walked 28 in 26 IP in AAA (5.88 ERA) and 11 in 12.1 IP in A+ (8.03 ERA).

There's been some speculation that his issues were due to a mechanical change the Cubs tried to impart on him after the 2007 season. Rich Kranitz was Hill's pitching coach in the minors, so hopefully he can help him return to form.

I think it's a great low-risk, high-reward move. The O's are one of the few teams that can give Hill (who's out of options and so must be on the roster) a spot on their pitching staff to try to work on his control. If he can harness his stuff again, Hill would be a good guy to slot in behind Guthrie in the rotation.

To make room for Hill on the 40-man roster, the O's designated Brian Burres (6.20 tRA in 2008; 6.11 tRA in 2007) for assignment. I like Burres, but he's a replacement level pitcher without any real upside. He'll probably pass through waivers (as Oscar Salazar did) but if not it's no big loss.

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