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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. twinsanity's Avatar
      twinsanity -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      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?
      This is a boo proof plan. You sign AJ and no one will ever boo Joe again!
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      For 1 year ? I'd have rather had AJ Burnett.

      for 3 years ? Well thats easy PHIL HUGHES! -- over Burnett, Arroyo, Garza, Santana all of 'em i guess.

      But 2 years for $ 15, 16 Million would of been about perfect.

      Look at it this way:

      the Twins are Paying P. Hughes 24 Million to make 90-93 starts for them essentially right?

      well I think EVEN the Twins know, they'd be Thrilled, happy; If Hughes made 65-68 starts for them with maybe a few relief apperances in there in the next 3 years.

      I think he'll make about 45-50 starts and about 15-20+ relief appearances between 2014-2016.

      With something like a 7.8 K per 9 , 3.0 BB per 9 , 3.95 XFip , 4.15 ERA , and 1.5 HR per 9 or about 22-25 HRS given up a season.

      * Hughes averages about 92.0 MPH on his Fastball !!!! Perk and Tonkin the Tank can only top that. (untill Meyer, Berrios, May)
      * Hopefully his other Fastball is a Mariano like Cutter and not a two-seamer....
      * Hughes has a mid 70's curve-ball , a low 80's slider , a mid 80's change up too !!!
      5 pitch pitcher
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Interesting exchange between to statistical analytic types (note: Law thinks the deal is excessive):

    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Hughes had a 5.19 ERA (-0.7 rWAR) this year, 4.85 ERA over the last 3 years. In 2 of the last 3 years, his value has been below replacement level. Why guarantee $24M/3 years to a guy like that, on the slight chance that a change of scene will cure him?

      Last winter, everyone was so pissed about Correia's $10/2 deal. This year, Ryan is throwing even bigger deals at below-average pitchers, and most everyone seems thrilled to see him spend the money. On guys who are not really GOOD, but NEVER MIND! I don't get it.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      In most cases, a 3-year deal for a mediocre pitcher seems like a win for the pitcher, and it is. But in this case, which so much being bet on improvement and so muc room for upside, I think it might end up being a win for the Twins. I wouldn't be shocked if by the end of 2015, Hughes isn't wishing he was hitting the free agent market as a 29-year-old.
    1. Zephrin's Avatar
      Zephrin -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      Hughes had a 5.19 ERA (-0.7 rWAR) this year, 4.85 ERA over the last 3 years. In 2 of the last 3 years, his value has been below replacement level. Why guarantee $24M/3 years to a guy like that, on the slight chance that a change of scene will cure him?

      Last winter, everyone was so pissed about Correia's $10/2 deal. This year, Ryan is throwing even bigger deals at below-average pitchers, and most everyone seems thrilled to see him spend the money. On guys who are not really GOOD, but NEVER MIND! I don't get it.
      The difference to me is that Correia basically pitched to his ceiling last year for the money we gave him - which is a #5 innings eater type in a respectable rotation. $5 million is a lot to pay for a guy who is essentially a replacement level pitcher, which we can get for $500K (see Albers, Andrew; Diamond, Scott), and guaranteeing it for 2 years seemed asinine to me at the time and still does today.

      Hughes, on the other hand, has the stuff and peripherals of a #3 pitcher if he pulls it all together. $8 million per year is a steal if he pitches to that level (Remember, we just gave $12 million per year to Nolasco, who many view as a #4 in a decent rotation, and most agree got basically a market-value contract.) And while there is risk in the contract, Hughes floor (if healthy) is probably a decent relief pitcher. None of us want to pay $8 million per year to a non-closer in the bullpen, but many of the other pitchers on the market have a lot lower floors than that.

      So yes, in general I do feel better about the Hughes deal than I did (and do) feel about the Correia deal.
    1. ScrapTheNickname's Avatar
      ScrapTheNickname -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      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?
      I never understood why Twins fans booed AJ in the first place. He didn't demand to leave like C. Knoblauch, for instance, he was traded away. The booers just seemed uninformed to me.
    1. James's Avatar
      James -
      Quote Originally Posted by ScrapTheNickname View Post
      I never understood why Twins fans booed AJ in the first place. He didn't demand to leave like C. Knoblauch, for instance, he was traded away. The booers just seemed uninformed to me.
      The booing comes from all kinds of bad mouthing he did about the Twins organization after they traded him. At least that is what I recall. It was so long ago, I don't even remember why I boo him. It just is tradition at this point.

      As for Hughes, I really like the price. The years are a bit of a gamble, but let's hope that Hughes just needed a change of scenery to really unlock that potential.

      Now the important question, do you think Gardy is going to call him Hughesy, Huey, or just Philly?
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      Hughes
      had a 5.19 ERA (-0.7 rWAR) this year, 4.85 ERA over the last 3 years. In 2 of the last 3 years, his value has been below replacement level. Why guarantee $24M/3 years to a guy like that, on the slight chance that a change of scene will cure him?

      Last winter, everyone was so pissed about Correia's $10/2 deal. This year, Ryan is throwing even bigger deals at below-average pitchers, and most everyone seems thrilled to see him spend the money. On guys who are not really GOOD, but NEVER MIND! I don't get it.
      I applaud them for finally spending money that in years past has gone in their pockets. The only pitcher better than hughes or nolasco is garza. They're not dumpster diving.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      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?
      Depends how his hitting and defense is....=)
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Quote Originally Posted by ScrapTheNickname View Post
      I never understood why Twins fans booed AJ in the first place. He didn't demand to leave like C. Knoblauch, for instance, he was traded away. The booers just seemed uninformed to me.
      They're the same ones booing jeter.
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      I'm pretty pumped. The rotation might just be respectable.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      I'm also happy for the signing but worried about the years.

      Posters on previous threads thought Hughes might just want one year to reestablish his credentials, then hit the market again with confidence, but that Hughes asking for two years seemed borderline since he didn't have the numbers to command a longer deal like that. That made sense to me. So three years is a surprise -- also seems like an admission that the Twins are not in the business of developing young pitchers right now. Also makes me a little uneasy.

      But at least TR is addressing some needs this offseason. I'll take it.
    1. mk's Avatar
      mk -
      I like the move. The situation reminds me a lot of Kyle Lohse. Good stuff but never really put it together with the Twins. Lohse moved on at age 27 and with the change of scenery had a very good career.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      The big question about Hughes is going to be his durability. THe other issue would be the HRs he gives up which is going to be helped by the fact he is in target field and the last 2 years he averaged 2.2 and 2.6 walks per 9 innings. Hughes still throws what 92.4 MPH and K's 7.6 per 9.

      The big concern looking into next season is do we have a good enough swingman available to start when we need a 6th starter when someone gets hurt and more importantly now is how much is our offense going to improve next year as the Twins were 14th in the 15 team AL last season in runs scored.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Also Pierzinski K's in only 15% of his AB in his career so that will help lower the team K total a lot as we were historically bad in that department last year.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      There was no precedence for this club to be this active....it's such a refreshing sight. This is a perfect deal IMO - I was someone who thought the more years the better just because of the upside the guy has to pitch well beyond his price tag.

      Great work by Ryan.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      So I'm trying to think what the most obvious moves to keep the 40 man freed up would be. Is it to deal Correia and take Johnson off?

      I can't imagine the Twins abandoning Diamond, Worley, or Deduno - all three will have to make the staff or be cut. Diamond isn't a candidate to be a bullpen arm (terrible splits) and I doubt they want to move Deduno back there with his erratic control.

      The only other possibility is we see the Twins deal someone like Burton for a young arm and promote Swarzak, but then we have those recent comments about Duensing and Swarzak coming prepared to start?

      All that said - It's so, SO nice to be talking about how we'll clear the filler off our roster rather than talking about how we're adding to it.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by frightwig View Post
      Hughes had a 5.19 ERA (-0.7 rWAR) this year, 4.85 ERA over the last 3 years. In 2 of the last 3 years, his value has been below replacement level. Why guarantee $24M/3 years to a guy like that, on the slight chance that a change of scene will cure him?

      Last winter, everyone was so pissed about Correia's $10/2 deal. This year, Ryan is throwing even bigger deals at below-average pitchers, and most everyone seems thrilled to see him spend the money. On guys who are not really GOOD, but NEVER MIND! I don't get it.
      So you don't buy the optimism that his stats are relative to the park and division that he played in?
      Garza was supposed to be the top available pitcher with a 4.35 era for the rangers and a 3.17 era for the cubs, 13 starts a piece. Sure the rangers were the second half of the season and the cubs were the first, but it also points to competition and park.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I think they will keep the players they have options on and let one of the 3 out of option pitchers go or get dealt for minor league filler with potential upside. I say this because we could potentially loose 3 players in the spring if they don't make the roster which is kindof a lot.
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