"We've been talking to the Cubs about Rich for at least a few weeks now," said Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations. "His ability speaks for itself and what he was able to accomplish with the Cubs, and we're hopeful that with the presence of two of his former pitching coaches, we can get him back to where he was in 2007."
Hill, who has an 18-17 record with a 4.37 ERA in the big leagues, had a huge season for the Cubs in 2007. The left-hander went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 195 innings that season, but struggled with back spasms and inconsistency last year, when he notched a 2-4 record and a 5.88 ERA for Triple-A Iowa.
Still, the Orioles believe they can get Hill back to his prior heights, and part of what makes them believe that is a shared history with him. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Alan Dunn have both worked with Hill during their prior tenures in the Cubs organization, and MacPhail solicited their opinions before making the deal.
"We all think it makes sense for us," said MacPhail. "We'll monitor the situation and see how things progress, but our situation is clearly wide open. If we can get him back to where he's been, it will be a no-brainer."
Baltimore's current rotation appears to consist of Jeremy Guthrie and Japanese free agent Koji Uehara, with Hill leading a wide group of candidates to fill the final three slots. The Orioles also acquired veteran Mark Hendrickson this winter, but they've said that they'd prefer to use him as a swingman and long reliever in the best-case scenario.
Hill, who will turn 29 during Spring Training, will have every opportunity to establish himself with the Orioles. And that's partly why MacPhail, who used to hold a similar position in Chicago's front office, was able to make the deal.
The Orioles have made the Cubs their most frequent trading partner in the last few years, with last month's trade for Felix Pie serving as the most recent example. MacPhail sent veteran Steve Trachsel to the Cubs in exchange for Scott Moore toward the end of the 2007 season and also entertained long-lasting trade talks for Brian Roberts.
In this case, though, MacPhail said that Jim Hendry, Chicago's general manager, was partly invested in finding a new home for Hill. The former fourth-round pick is out of options and appeared to be locked out of a potential job with the Cubs, and Hendry apparently decided it would be better to deal him than lose him on a waiver claim.
"We've made a lot of trades, and we've made them with a lot of organizations," said MacPhail. "Jim had a desire to get Rich somewhere where he would have a chance to get back to his form from the 2007 season."
Baltimore designated Brian Burres for assignment to make room for Hill on the 40-man roster, and the Orioles are still pursuing free agent Braden Looper to possibly fill one of the remaining rotation slots. It is believed that Looper wants a three-year contract and the Orioles are only offering a two-year deal, but MacPhail declined to discuss specifics.
"I don't really see anything on the immediate horizon," MacPhail said, speaking of completing something before Spring Training. "We have conversations that are ongoing, but I see no reason to believe I have anything in the offing."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.