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  • Twins To Sign Phil Hughes

    Similar to the consumption habits of most Americans during Thanksgiving, the Minnesota Twins are devouring free agent starting pitching at a frenzied pace. On Wednesday, it was Ricky Nolasco. On Saturday, the Star Tribune’s LaVelle Neal reported that they were in agreement with Phil Hughes on a three-year deal.

    The deal, which is contingent on a physical that Hughes must pass, is a three-year, $24 million contract.



    Hughes' numbers, both last year and over his career, are underwhelming. He was 4-14 last year with a 5.19 ERA and is 56-50 with a 4.54 ERA for his career. His strikeout rate is mediocre (7.6 K/9 for his career) and he has been hurt by home runs, especially lately (59 home runs in 337 IP over the last two years).

    But there are several caveats to those numbers that made Hughes attractive to other teams, including the Royals, Marlins and Mets. The Twins have been targeting him since at least July. You may also remember that Hughes was mentioned as part of the package the Twins requested from the Yankees during the Johan Santana trade talks. That's a pretty good place to start with why Hughes remains in favor despite recent struggles.

    In 2008, the Yankees weren’t willing to trade Hughes for Santana. Read that last sentence again. Actually, let me rewrite it, with the hidden words shown. In 2008 (eight years into their “drought” of not winning a championship), the Yankees (for whom dollars are nothing more than monopoly money) were not willing to trade (21-year-old pitching prospect) Hughes (with all of 72 innings of major league experience) for Santana (who had finished in the top five of Cy Young voting for four consecutive years).

    That speaks to exactly how highly Hughes was thought of. And it’s not like the Yankees had too much pitching. Their starting rotation was mediocre (16th in ERA in MLB) and their winningest pitcher was Chien-Ming Wang. Santana was exactly the guy they needed, and all they needed to do was swap some prospect for him and pay him, just like the Mets did. But they wouldn’t part with Hughes.

    Hughes was one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and was projected to become the new ace of the Yankees staff as early as 2008, starting to fill in for the aging arms of Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, all of whom were over 35. But a fractured rib derailed 2008 and raised questions about his durability, which we’ll get to later. Part way through 2009 he was moved to the Yankees' bullpen, where he was outstanding, helping the Yankees win their only World Series title of the millennium.

    He returned to the rotation in 2010, where it became apparent he was a poor fit for Yankee Stadium. Hughes is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and right-handed, which makes Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch his bane. His career ERA pitching in the two Yankees Stadiums is 4.96, versus 4.10 on the road. The difference? He’s given up more than twice as many home runs at home.

    The hope is that escaping from New York, whether it be the ballpark, the media or the expectations, will allow Hughes to become the pitcher everyone expected five years ago. That hope might be even more realized if his home park is Target Field. Because he was so young when promoted by the Yankees, he will be only 27 years old through the first half of the 2014 season. He’s entering his prime.

    From a raw stuff standpoint, he’s solid (7.5 K/9 and 92.4 mph fastball last year), has good control (2.6 BB/9) and isn’t afraid to throws strikes (66.7% of first-pitch strikes over the last four years). The biggest concern is his durability. He’s battled some nagging back and shoulder issues, but has made 61 starts over the last two years, throwing 337 innings.

    Hughes represents a calculated risk/reward move for the Twins. If the move away from NYC works, he has the potential to be a solid #2 starter for the next few years at a relative bargain price. And then he can hit the free agent market as a 30-year-old for a big pay day. If not, the Twins are overpaying a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, an asset of which they already have a glut. There are big numbers on both sides of the ratio, but the Twins can afford the risk and desperately need the reward.

    It also means the Twins are likely done adding pitching. At least three spots in the rotation are now spoken for by free agents signed the last two years: Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Correia and Hughes. It seems likely Samuel Deduno, who posted a 3.83 ERA last year before being sidelined with a shoulder problem, will also have a spot if he shows he’s healthy. That leaves a last spot for several younger pitchers with lesser track records, like Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Kyle Gibson and Andrew Albers.
    Comments 119 Comments
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      This is awesome. We still dont have a number one pitcher but this definitely makes our rotation a little more respectable. Just what I wanted 3 years for 24 million is a pretty nice contract especially if he flames out. Way better than having Arroyo for 3 years 30 million. I honestly dont think Arroyo gets even close to the contract he wants anymore and maybe, just maybe the Twins could get him at a better rate.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I was not a Hughes fan but I am now.

      The FA arms available were what they were. TR just jumped up grabbed two of the best choices.

      It's great. At the very least... New blood in the clubhouse. The old blood wasn't doing so well.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      His strikeout
      rate is mediocre (7.6 K/9 for his career)


      For a starter that's definitely not mediocre in my book. I actually think that's above average.
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      Also lets not forget how bad AJ Burnett was when he played for the Yankees. Some people just cant handle playing in New York for whatever reason, whether it be the homer friendly park or all the pressure of playing in the BIG Apple. Lets hope Hughes can turn his career around like Burnett have been able to.
    1. howeda7's Avatar
      howeda7 -
      I'm happy with both moves. Only time will tell if they were the right choices, but I agree with being shocked at TR shelling out $73 million. I wouldn't mind a low-risk 3rd pitcher. Johan perhaps. Maybe Pelfrey, though I'm not that excited to give him 2 years.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Surprised by the 3 year commitment like the AAV for sure. With the Twins current and foreseeable payroll this is fine though. Could really capitalize on Hughes if he gets it going in Minnesota. Worst case he doesn't pan out and you can convert him to a reliever where he's been successful in the past. Expensive for a reliever but could still show value there. That's a worst case scenario though. I'm gonna hope for 3 years of around a 4.00 ERA
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      You can all make fun of me if you'd like, but I'm excited to see what Rick Anderson can do with Hughes. He throws a flat fastball and needs to work low in the zone to avoid home runs. Plus, he could really benefit from a third pitch - changeup perhaps? Maybe Anderson and Hughes can save their careers together!
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brad Swanson View Post
      You can all make fun of me if you'd like, but I'm excited to see what Rick Anderson can do with Hughes. He throws a flat fastball and needs to work low in the zone to avoid home runs. Plus, he could really benefit from a third pitch - changeup perhaps? Maybe Anderson and Hughes can save their careers together!
      Um we alredy do , this is just icing on the cake ...
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Now the real question , who gets DFAd or who gets traded?
    1. FlsPrpht's Avatar
      FlsPrpht -
      "But there are several caveats to those numbers that made Hughes to other teams, including the Royals, Marlins and Mets. "
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Shelling out $73MM?? Last season the payroll started at nearly $83MM for the entire season. It's not like the Twins are spending like the government.
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Now sign AJ!
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Holy hell I have to eat my words.
    1. FlsPrpht's Avatar
      FlsPrpht -
      JR? Jeremy Roenick?

      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      3 years worth it? IDK. People who wanted JR. to gamble must be happy. Thats about 20 mil a year for 2 pitchers. Salty for 10 a year would be pretty awesome and I would bet make the total still under 100 (96 off the top of my head).
    1. FlsPrpht's Avatar
      FlsPrpht -
      We're laughing with him not at him!

      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Um we alredy do , this is just icing on the cake ...
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Holy hell I have to eat my words.
      Most of us do....Most of us do.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This $8 million per year makes me calm down about Nolasco's $12 million per year. Getting these two for $20 million per year works out pretty well.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I don't like the years but I love the aggressiveness. Well done.

      It wouldn't take much in the first year for the $8 million per year to look good either.

      Last year the Cubs overpaid for back end free agent pitchers. Perhaps Ryan is going to now cause every other team to over pay in years for mid to back of the rotation arms.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Sources say AJ is next. Who am I going to boo now? My question is…will you still boo AJ even if he is a Twin?
    1. SwainZag's Avatar
      SwainZag -
      Why are so many people not happy with this signing? Look deeper than W-L and ERA folks.

      He had a FIP of 4.50, while which wasn't good, but was almost a run lower than his ERA.

      He also performed MUCH, MUCH better outside the bandbox that is Yankee stadium. Let's not forget the division he pitched in.

      Home: 6.32 ERA, 22 2B, 17 HR
      Road: 3.88 ERA, 16 2B, 7 HR

      Move him to Target Field with a better defensive team, I love this signing. I like it more than Nolasco even.
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