The Twins agreed to sign Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24MM deal on Saturday, which would have been the largest free agent expenditure in their history had they not committed $49MM to Ricky Nolasco a few days prior. I don't think anyone would argue that the Twins needed to add a pitcher or two like Hughes, who has shown promise in his career and has yet to turn 28. We know Hughes will be better away from Yankee Stadium, but it's hard to say how much better, as he's an extreme flyball pitcher no matter where he goes.
Hughes had a serious bout of shoulder inflammation in a lost 2011 season, but he's otherwise shown good health even if he's not an innings guy. Left alone to take his turn every fifth day in a smaller market, with the security of the first multiyear deal of his career, it's feasible that Hughes could put up 180 innings of 4.25 ball. That would be good value for $8MM a season in today's market. I found Hughes' decision to go for a three-year deal coming off a bad season to be an interesting one. Prior to free agency, we've seen more and more young players choose multiyear security over maximizing their dollars going year to year. I'm guessing Hughes would have signed one of those types of arbitration-year extensions after 2010 had he been with a more willing team. Some pitchers will bet on their talent with a straight one-year deal and get right back out on the market, accepting the added pressure of having free agency looming again. Others, like Francisco Liriano last offseason, hedge their bets with a two-year deal. Hughes went for the comfort of three years, made possible in part by his youth compared to the typical free agent.
Scott Kazmir is an example of a pitcher who hedged his bet, by signing a two-year, $22MM deal with the Athletics. It seems likely that one year at $12-13MM was available to him. But as someone who hadn't had big league success since 2008 prior to 2013, it would have been very difficult for Kazmir to eschew multiple years in an attempt to maximize his career earnings. As it stands, Kazmir did much better than the two-year, $16MM contract I guessed in September. As a relatively young southpaw who returned to throwing hard and missing bats this year, Kazmir was a free agent you could dream on. And teams love to dream in free agency, where in a limited market certain players start looking better and better. Only in free agency can a team wipe out three or four years of data suggesting Kazmir was no longer an MLB-caliber pitcher, pointing only to his last 158 innings to project what he'll do in the next few seasons. Kazmir still seems like a wild card for 2014-15, but $22MM is not a huge commitment for an MLB team these days.