• 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. TKGuy's Avatar
      TKGuy -
      These acquisitions are legitimate ML starters instead of running AAAA guys out there. An ERA of around 4 would be a legitimate upgrade.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I never thought that much of Hughes. However, the Twins can't be overly choosy until this team gets retooled into a winner. The alternatives (those we watched the last two years) are unacceptable and new talent must be acquired. I would rather see Pinto as the #1 C instead of a free agent. Whatever he does at AAA is meaningless anyway--see Parmelee.
    1. crapforks's Avatar
      crapforks -
      I thought Kazmir's handedness and (probably) one year commitment would have been a better move, but its hard not to be excited. I think it's important for the Twins to shore up the outfield defense now. They have no pitcher who can really claim to be a 'ground-ball-type' pitcher trotting out there. Nobody want Colabello/Parmalee/Willingham/Arcia combined with a decent decent CF shagging all the fly balls
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      You can view the page at http://twinsdaily.com/content.php/25...gn-Phil-Hughes
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      I'm interested to know what people's expectations are for Mr. Hughes. Do people think he's going to average a 3.50 ERA? 4.00? 4.50? How many innings do people think he'll put up per year? Many people have talked about his "upside" and I'm curious to know what that means to people.
      Something similar to but a bit better than his 2012 season - ERA+ 105 or so, 190+ innings or so, roughly 2+ WAR. I think he'll do well here.
    1. EephusKnuckler's Avatar
      EephusKnuckler -
      Good news. Surprised by the three years though...thought for sure it would be a 1 or 2 year deal.

      Safe to assume that TR is done signing starters.
    1. NoCryingInBaseball's Avatar
      NoCryingInBaseball -
      The Hughes signing, along with the Nolasco, makes Ryan look mighty aggressive. Guess all that needed to happen was for Ryan to win Reusse's Turkey of the Year award.
    1. by jiminy's Avatar
      by jiminy -
      I love it! At that price, he'd be worth it even if he ended up a reliever!

      Sure he could flame out, but given his history and his unfriendly home park, he's also got some serious upside -- and for a total investment less than one third the cost of Nolasco. This is the type of gamble they need to take, and it doesn't even use up their remaining budget. If he finally reaches anything near his potential, this is a steal. If he never pitches below a 5 ERA, it won't kill them. Plus his worst case scenario isn't even that bad, as he has experience as an effective reliever. I'm thrilled. Maybe that's just knee-jerk amazement that they signed two pitchers in three days, but hey, how often have we ever ever heard that sentence?
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The extra year may be what brought him to the Twins. He is young enough that the third year won't matter. In fact 8 million in 2016 won't buy 1 WAR.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      Pelfrey's still got a chance and wouldn't surprise me. LOL, I can't help but wonder what a bunch of our other pitchers are thinking right now. A few probably hoping to be traded.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Dang, I'm not in love with either Nolasco or Hughes but I like the signings. Until other pitchers sign we really won't be able to fully judge these signings. If they could have gotten Garza and Kazmir for similar money I don't know, I'll be a bit disappointed but not devastated. We've talked ad nauseum about Hughes potential in Target Field and just a change of scenery in general. These guys together take up only 20 million per year for the next 3. Assuming we're done with starters from this point and will likely only sign short term deals on any position players I like how this sets us up for future FA spending if needed.

      Next year a lot of big names could be hitting FA including Scherzer, Homer Bailey, Kershaw (gonna re up though, Shields, Masterson, and Lester. Not to mention some guys with options like Gallardo, Morrow, Brett Anderson, Cueto, and Bllingsley all having options next year. Could be some nice names to spend on next year. If the twins show enough improvement and some of the young prospects start to pan out, Minnesota could suddenly become a nice destination.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      2 pitchers for 20 million per season. That brings us close to 79 million for next season. They still plan on signing a Catcher and it looks like they are getting closer to AJ Pierzinski signing. I am guessing he'll get a 1 or 2 year deal in the 7-9 million per season range. There is still talk of signing Pelfry and if all of that happens I may have to fly out to Minnesota and buy some tickets to games this year to financially support this type of spending behavior. (Yes I know my 100 in ticket sales plus concessions won't pay the contracts but its more than I spent the last 10 years In Minnesota).
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Let's hope that the twins penchant for low risk moves pays off here. Whether or not these signings work out, it was hard to imagine the Twins spending 75 mil this offseason.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      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. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by halfchest View Post
      Dang, I'm not in love with either Nolasco or Hughes but I like the signings. Until other pitchers sign we really won't be able to fully judge these signings. If they could have gotten Garza and Kazmir for similar money I don't know, I'll be a bit disappointed but not devastated. We've talked ad nauseum about Hughes potential in Target Field and just a change of scenery in general. These guys together take up only 20 million per year for the next 3. Assuming we're done with starters from this point and will likely only sign short term deals on any position players I like how this sets us up for future FA spending if needed.

      Next year a lot of big names could be hitting FA including Scherzer, Homer Bailey, Kershaw (gonna re up though, Shields, Masterson, and Lester. Not to mention some guys with options like Gallardo, Morrow, Brett Anderson, Cueto, and Bllingsley all having options next year. Could be some nice names to spend on next year. If the twins show enough improvement and some of the young prospects start to pan out, Minnesota could suddenly become a nice destination.
      Correia will be off the books after 2014 so they "could" add someone to replace him.
      1. Nolasco
      2. Hughes
      3. * Sign Scott Kasmir *
      4. Correia
      5. Gibson
      That could actually be a nice rotation. Flush all your AAAA scrubs away. In 2 years they can all play for the St Paul Saints.
    1. DuluthFan's Avatar
      DuluthFan -
      Good signing. It may not be what everybody was hoping for, but it definitely is an upgrade over what the Twins had last year. Which is what was needed. I don't expect a jump from worst rotation to best in one year. This could be a good interim step towards that goal.
      I would like to see one more starter signed, preferably to a two year deal. It would then set up the rotation to be able to be "refreshed" each year with an opening to be filled either through free agency or from the minors. The young players will then have the time to develop at their own pace at Rochester without being rushed to the major league level. The last open spot should be left for last year's starters to EARN in spring training. Let them push each other and the vets for a spot in the rotation. If the young pitchers push a vet out of the rotation, so be it.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      ok Now that the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation are filled who do we run out 1-3?
      Just kidding (kinda) Kudos Terry you had a plan and went for it...good for you .
      The big question now is who comes off the 40 man roster and will you be trying to trade some players?
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Omg! Omg! Omg! Omg! This is a perfect signing!!!!!
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Hughes 3/25>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>arroyo on ANY 2 or 3 year deal.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I like the signing though I am a believer in Deduno if he is healthy for the 5th starter making the rotation for next season

      Nolasco
      Hughes
      Corriea
      Dedunno
      Gibson and others

      Though how likely is it that either Deduno or Hughes miss time for injuries? and We can always trade Corriea from a position of strength during the season if Gibson and or Meyer look to be ready. So signing 1 more pitcher is an option except Worely and Diamond are likely to be lost as they are out of options (though Diamond might be able to stay if they nontender Deunsing to save a buck or 2 and pitch in the pen) Also if they sign Pelfry and AJ Pierzinski then our payroll will likely be just over 90 million next year. We need to go buy some tickets and support that.
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