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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. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      My prediction: Jason Bartlett will be the Twins' starting SS. I know, I know, it's a long shot. He took last year off. But if he's still got the SS skills and the hitting skills, I think he'll be back. Florimon and Escobar will be the two infield backups.

      Here's my lineup:
      1) CF Aaron Hicks or, less-likely, Ryan Presly
      2) 2B Brian Dozier
      3) 1B Joe Mauer
      4) DH Josh Willingham
      5) LF Oswaldo Arcia
      6) SS Jason Bartlett
      7) 3B Chris Colabello (I know, I know, a very long shot)
      8) CA Pinto/Pierzynski/Salty
      9) RF Wilkin Ramirez

      The reserves: Hicks or Pressly for fourth OF; Florimon and Escobar. If Josmil Pinto is the primary, and no backup CA is signed, Doumit will be the backup. If Salty or AJ is signed, Pinto will be the backup. Doumit, Parmelee and Plouffe are the odd men out. The Twins would be better off without all three.

      This is as much a wish list as a prediction; as much as I feel Doumit, Parmelee and Plouffe should not be on the team, because of their lack of defensive skills and their lack of offensive abilities, I dread the notion that two of the three will still be playing for the team.

      The rotation is getting clear:

      1) Nolasco
      2) Hughes
      3) Correia
      4) Pelfry (I think they'll sign him, but I wish they wouldn't)
      5) Deduno
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      @ 101- With you on Pelfrey, though I'm not sure they make a move for him.

      #4 Spot, to me, is Deduno- gut tells me he improves in '14 and has a chance to put it all together. #5 spot is Albers/Diamond/Worley/Swarzack/Meyer? fighting it out. Competition for that spot takes care of itself.

      Apparently TR has changed his spots- hanging with Bo Jackson & swilling 8-hr. energy by the case? Anyway unexpected given his m.o., but a welcome surprise.

      With abut $30m left to sped, I see three options after signing a C- PLEASE let it be AJ!

      1) Traditional approach: Twins stand pat now and re-evaluate come July; package #5 spot losers plus a prospect & do a midseason trade. Depending on how Deduno does, he might be in that mix. Pick up 1-2 arms?

      2) Twins wait for better SP FA market following '14. Evaluate needs following extended looks at everyone.- SPs & pos. players.

      3) Through the looking glass: TR really has changed his spots & makes a bid for another arm now, hopefully a power/SO type like Garza (please, not Kazmir).

      I like the aggressiveness (for a change), and the years/dollars terms are not unreasonable. We've got a lot of tradeable guys/can package a few arms + a prospect + cash? heading into the winter meetings, and still have cash to spend. Would not be surprised to see one more deal for a 'quality' arm- whether this OS, midseason, or postseason. Lord knows we need it, but '14 looks a lot more like meaningful baseball now. A bridge to '15 & '16 to be sure, but with breathing room for guys like Pinto, good chance for the SR to stabilize, & get Sano, Bux?, and maybe Meyer wet behind the ears.

      Pick at the details all you want, but this is heading in the right direction. Next, make Molitor mgr. in '15!
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      This comp perked me up. How nice would it be if we were on the other end of a Kyle Lohse type turnaround
      That would be fantastic! But he (and others) did better away from Anderson and Gardenhire, not with them in their ear.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by wabene View Post
      Here, here (chortle). About time someone sees the light. AJ was awesome. On a team that had such Milquetoast stars I loved this guy. Without Hunter and him Minnesota Mild. BRING HIM BACK
      I second that. I have always liked AJ. He was always a good Twin and he is a funny guy. Some just don't have an evolved sense of humor. He doesn't help with the language barrier like Navarro would, but he would be a welcome addition, and with Joe's added presence, would be able to help Pinto ......with gestures.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      I second that. I have always liked AJ. He was always a good Twin and he is a funny guy. Some just don't have an evolved sense of humor. He doesn't help with the language barrier like Navarro would, but he would be a welcome addition, and with Joe's added presence, would be able to help Pinto ......with gestures.
      AJ is a good receiver and handler of pitchers. His other defensive skills have slipped over the past few years, however. He's especially poor on the running game. For these reasons and age, I would prefer Salty, but maybe he's out of their price range. An AJ/Pinto platoon would be my second choice.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      I like Navarro as a first choice. He can handle the translation problem. Communication can't hurt.
    1. Kirbek's Avatar
      Kirbek -
      I like the Hughes signing. If they could get Baker and AJ we could all sing Kumbaya at the opener.
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      I guess we are still in on Arroyo according to MLBTR. I actually would not mind if we signed him as well(2 years on 3). I think he would provide good leadership and a solid 200 IP. It definitely would not hurt to continue to let the young guys get experience in the minors. Also, lets sign AJ already JEEZ!
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kirbek View Post
      I like the Hughes signing. If they could get Baker and AJ we could all sing Kumbaya at the opener.
      Thanks for my laugh of the day. Don't forget Johan.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by strumdatjag View Post
      In other words, I'd hate to keep a great prospect out of the rotation, just because we're paying big money to an average pitcher (potentially Nolasco) or worse a below average pitcher (Hughes). Now, they both could be great, which would create a non-problem if Meyer is delayed. Moreover, Hughes could very well stink (look at his HR numbers, pitching in Target Field could just mean he gives up a slightly lower but still ridiculously high number of HRs). If he stinks, he will be jettisoned or promptly demoted like Worley was last year. In other words, I don't mind if excellence delays a prospect, I just don't want it delayed by mediocrity.
      Hughes will not be Worelied to the Minors, if he fails as a starter ,look for him to become the new Burton, just paid slightly higher
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      While a Spanish-speaking catcher is a good idea in the abstract, am I the only one who has looked at the roster and noticed that it isn't a real issue?

      Here are the possible Twins starters:

      Correia, Worley, Deduno, Nolasco, Diamond, Hughes, Albers, Gibson, Hendriks.

      On-the-way starters:


      One guy who isn't a native English speaker... A guy that has been in MLB farm systems for 11 years. I'm sure he has a grasp on the language at this point.

      The bullpen is little different. Frankly, it doesn't matter if the catcher speaks Spanish at this point and it won't matter until Berrios hits the Majors.
    1. P.J842's Avatar
      P.J842 -
      Thoughts on Gibson, Wimmers, Logan, Meyer,.....All successful pitchers so where is the timeline....I think Twins are just patching the holes in the dam....Really need to develop Draft picks and get them experience ASAP and set a solid future for the twins....Put Hendricks in this mix also....
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Hughes 3/25>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>arroyo on ANY 2 or 3 year deal.
      Totally Agree!
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      There are all sorts of factors involved in how players perform better or worse in some places and not others. See Burnett and Florida-NY-Pittsburgh.

      Also, I don't want to sound like some rube, but I wonder if Hughes was looking for a place like MN to get away from NYC, given his devout Christianity (also of note about this is Kyle Gibson's piety, and maybe this will be a good bond for these two young, promising pitchers?).
      Interesting take. Didn't know that stuff. Could have been/be a factor. You hear little things like where one's wife wants to live to being able to 'get away' (hunting/fishing) etc being deciding factors for athletes.

      I know I moved to Texas over Chicago and either of the Coasts because it had the higher number of sunny days, was more spread out, church possibilities, and no state income taxes.

      NY state and just living in the big city are giant hikes compared to Twin Cities as well.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      Interesting exchange between to statistical analytic types (note: Law thinks the deal is excessive):

      Great share. Thanks.

      What was the MLB average BABIP & HR/FB% over those years?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I think I read somewhere that the MLB average for BABIP is around .300. As for HR/FB, haven't heard, but it is a stat that correlates very closely to park effects. Right handers have a high HR/FB ratio in Yankee Stadium, where mere fly balls end up over the fence at an alarming rate. Target Field is the opposite, to RF anyway. That is why his ERA is almost a point lower away from Yankee Stadium.
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      Not sure what to think abouyt Phil Hughes. At his best he's a solid #3 starter but from what we see most of the time he's a good 5th starter or maybe a 4th. Might be a good rotation depth move and perhaps he can do well in a park like Target Field.
    1. thetank's Avatar
      thetank -
      If the bullpen keeps their 3.5 ERA and Nolasco and Hughes pitch well I could see some optimism. Even signing Arroyo won't overcome the Tigers.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Quote Originally Posted by OldTwinky View Post
      They aren't really planning to keep Florimon as the starting SS, are they?
      The 2.1 WAR SS? Yes, they will undoubtedly keep him. He's one of the last position players I'm worried about. Let's improve the outfield first. Hicks and Arcia need to step up. Hammer needs to return to decent and we might need to sign a guy like Corey Hart to avoid this becoming a mess for the next two years.
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