It appears that Twins fans have another present under the 2013 Christmas tree. Star Tribune writer LaVelle E. Neal III reported this past Saturday that the Twins have agreed on a three-year deal worth about $24 million with former New York Yankee RHP Phil Hughes. The deal apparently includes bonuses of up to $1MM per year for innings pitched. The Twins have not commented on the proposed deal as is normal for them until the player undergoes a physical.
The New York Yankees made Phil Hughes their first round selection (23rd over all) in 2004 out of high school and Hughes made his big league debut in April 2007. The 6’5″ Hughes goes about 240 and is only 27 but already has seven years of major league experience under his belt. During his Yankee career Hughes posted a 56-50 record with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, not exactly stellar numbers but Yankee stadium isn’t exactly a pitcher’s park and a flyball pitcher like Hughes could and should have better success at Target Field.
The bigger concern with Hughes is his health as he has spent time on the DL four times. In 2007 he visited the 60 day DL with a hamstring issue, in 2008 he went on the DL with a stress rib fracture, in 2011 he spent time on the 60 day list again with right shoulder inflammation and he started the 2013 season on the DL with a back issue but he only missed four games.
Hughes throws a fastball that touches 92 or so to go along with a curveball, a change-up and a slider that he has started to throw while giving up on his cutter. Hughes is not exactly an innings eater having peaked at 191.1 innings and has only surpassed 145 innings in a season three times although all three of those took place during his last four seasons. As a Yankee, Hughes had a 7.6 SO/9 ratio but the bad news is that he has averaged less than 5 innings per start. The last thing the Twins need is more non quality starts.
Considering all the plusses and minuses I think that Phil Hughes will help the Twins and hopefully help to solidify the rotation. Who knows what getting out of the Bronx zoo and that ballpark will do for Hughes.
So now that the Twins have agreed to sign two additional starting pitchers it appears that it will add about $20 million to their 2014 payroll but in reality that is not the case. Keep in mind that the Twins reduced their payroll from last season by $23.5 million by not having to pay Justin Morneau $14 million, Nick Blackburn $5.5 million and Mike Pelfrey $4 million that they paid them last season. So at this point the Twins are still below their 2013 payroll. If they sign someone like catcher A.J. Pierzynski it is likely that Ryan Doumit may be traded and there is no assurance that Josh Willingham will be with Minnesota once they get to the trading deadline next year. I applaud the Twins for spending money on some starting pitching but don’t think that the Twins are spending money by the wheelbarrow here because they are not. Unless the Twins do something totally dramatic and unexpected, their 2014 payroll won’t be much different then it was in 2013. The Twins are not being big spenders, they are just reassigning their resources in a way that will help the team in the short run. In spite of that, the Twins are improving their team and making it a bit more watchable. It simply shows how over paid Justin Morneau was for the numbers he put up and how much the move of Joe Mauer to first base will help this team.
UPDATE December 5 – The Minnesota Twins announced that they have signed free agent right-handed pitcher Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract. It has been reported that just like Ricky Nolasco, Hughes also has a very limited (three teams he can say no to) no trade contract. The Minnesota Twins also announced that they have designated right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks for release or assignment to free up space on the 40 man roster for Hughes. Hendriks was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007.