It really is a shame that Shawn Hill just couldn't stay healthy. As a sixth round pick in the 2000 Draft, Hill seemed to have a legitimate shot at not being just a decent major league pitcher, but a good, solid, middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Nationals.
Hill has always had a knowledge of how to pitch and made the most of his three pitches. His fastball rode low in the zone, causing hitters to beat the pitch into the ground and get nothing in exchange for their efforts. Along with his solid curve and change-up, Hill had enough weapons to succeed in the majors.
The Nationals stuck with Hill as long as they could. He never really lost any of his pitches, but was never healthy enough to stick with the club long enough to show his value. So, the Nationals made a business decision on Tuesday and cut Hill loose. The decision will save them approximately $640-thousand.
On the baseball side of the ledger though, it could cost them a fairly hefty price. If - and it's a big if - Hill can ever get himself healthy and keep himself that way, the Nationals may have made one of those moves that are good for business and bad for baseball.
From the baseball angle, keep in mind that Hill still has all of his abilities and there are no signs of serious structural damage. Perhaps a change in training regimen or a different approach to dealing with the injuries will be enough to get Hill back on track physically. If that happens, it will be for another team and Hill's release could come back to haunt the Nationals down the road.
The Nationals put Hill's open roster spot to good and immediate use, signing left-hander Joe Beimel to a one-year deal.
Beimel will be an upgrade for the back end of the Nationals bullpen and manager Manny Acta plans on putting him right into the setup role, working in key eighth inning spots. And, the money that they saved when they released Hill pays for more than a quarter of Beimel's contract. Odds are that they will get much more out of Beimel than they would have from Hill and with the emergence of Jordan Zimmermann this spring, Hill's spot in the rotation is relatively easy to fill.
While Hill's release makes sense, it's unfortunate. By all accounts, Hill is not only a quality pitcher, but a quality person. He was popular in the clubhouse and his injury history is truly unfortunate.