Many fans were surprised Tuesday after the Pittsburgh Pirates inked a one-year, $8 million with 42-year-old Rich Hill.
Some lauded the move, saying Hill could provide great leadership to the young roster while also filling a need in the rotation. Others gaffed at the move, mainly because of his age.
No matter how this move turns out, it isn’t the first time the Pirates have brought on some veteran leadership, especially in the modern day.
Let’s look back on some former players that found their way to Pittsburgh after their prime, whether they were signed or traded for, in the 2000s.
Jose Contreras, RHP – 2013 – Age 41
When you think back to 2013, or the year Buctober resurrected in Pittsburgh, you start to think of all the names that helped get the Bucs to their first winning season since 1992.
Some obvious names include Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett. Others include Jason Grilli, Russell Martin, and Neil Walker.
Rarely does anyone remember that Jose Contreras started the year with the Pirates.
He signed in February as a minor league free agent and got an invite to Spring Training. He then cracked the active roster in May, finding a spot in the up-and-coming “Shark Tank.”
Time on the bereavement and injured lists, however, plagued Contreras and limited him to just seven appearances. In that span, he posted a 9.00 ERA and a 2.60 WHIP, along with five strikeouts and six walks in five innings of relief.
The Pirates released him in June but he re-signed on another minor league deal on June 17, according to MLB Trade Rumors. He was released again later that month.
Benito Santiago, C – 2005 – Age 40
Like today, the Pirates catching situation was hot garbage in 2005. Headlined by a staff of Humberto Cota, David Ross and two young Bucs in Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino, the team needed a veteran presence to help guide the ship.
That presence was former All-Star and Rookie of the Year Benito Santiago.
The Pirates acquired Santiago in a trade with the Kansas City Royals in the prior offseason. He caught six games but was cut from the team in May. In those six games, he put up a slash line of .261/.261/.391 with an OPS of .625.
10 years ago today, the Pirates released Benito Santiago, ending his MLB playing career. pic.twitter.com/df5aCPQbbV— High Heat Stats (@HighHeatStats) May 8, 2015
Not awful numbers for a 40-year-old catcher.
While his time with the Pirates was short, he provided a decent buffer for the younger guys.
Joaquin Benoit, RHP – 2017 – Age 39
It’s still puzzling to think about, but the Pirates traded for Benoit during the 2017 trade deadline, acquiring him from the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Seth McGarry.
The reason why they traded for him remains a mystery. The Pirates were 51-54 at the deadline and had very little hopes of making the Postseason and they already had an established bullpen at the time.
Granted, it barely cost them anything and his stats at the time weren’t awful.
In 42 innings, he was 1-4 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Additionally, hitters tallied a .206 combined average against him.
With Pittsburgh, though, Benoit fell apart, surrendering seven earned runs in eight innings. Opposing hitters ate him up for a .324 batting average with two home runs.
After a stint with Washington, Benoit found his way out of the league.
Jeff Reboulet, INF – 2003 – Age 39
Still considered one of the greatest mustaches in the early 2000s, the Pirates signed Reboulet to a one-year contract on April 18, 2003, less than one month after he was released by the Baltimore Orioles.
He went on to play 93 games after making his team debut in May, replacing Pokey Reese who was shelved for most of the season with a torn ligament in his thumb. In that time, he hit .241 with three home runs and 25 RBIs. He also collected an OPS+ of 69, the lowest by all Pirates players who played at least 70 games.
His final game came on September 27 when the Pirates fell to the Cubs, 4-2, in the first game of a doubleheader. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
Reboulet’s tenure in Pittsburgh wasn’t meant to blow fans away, but he acted as a stop-gap for guys like Abraham Nunez and Jack Wilson.
Jose Mesa, RHP – 2004 – Age 38
The Pirates had a gap at their closer position in 2004 and took a chance on an aging Jose Mesa. That chance proved to be a beneficial one.
Mesa went 5-2 with a 3.25 ERA in his first season with the Pirates. He also notched 43 saves in 69 innings. He couldn’t replicate those numbers the following season, but he did pick up 27 saves over 56 innings.
Let’s not forget that Mesa also picked up his 300th career save with the Pirates.
After the Pirates released him at the end of the 2005 season, Mesa went on to play for the Detroit Tigers and Phillies before retiring in October 2007.
What’s interesting is how Mesa controlled his emotions with the Pirates, seeing as he and Omar Vizquel had a heated feud that spanned multiple seasons.
Mesa’s time with the Pirates also proved what many think about Rich Hill: just because he’s old, doesn’t mean he’s not good.
How would you grade the Rich Hill signing?
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