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Phil Hughes Rumors
Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to hammer out something for the long term. In December, Hughes agreed to a three-year extension that will pay him $42MM but also allow him to cash in again at the age of 32.
For both sides, the deal appeared to be a win-win. The Twins locked up Hughes following his best season to date and Hughes will get to hit the open market roughly at the same age as James Shields when he inked a four-year, $75MM deal with the Padres in February. In a pre-game scrum with the Twins’ beat writers on Monday, I asked GM Terry Ryan if the club ever pushed for a longer deal with the right-hander.
“I think that’s kind of where our comfort level was, he was signed for two and we tacked on more…In essence, I think that’s where we felt pretty comfortable in terms of his age and what he accomplished in his life and all that stuff,” Ryan said. “We were comfortable with it and so was he. At the end of the deal he’ll be  and that’s getting to an age when you start to have a bit of…concern at that point but then again, that’s how old Ervin Santana is and we signed him to a four-year deal. He’s a young guy, he’s been around for a long time. That’s what happens when you sign out of high school and move into the majors quickly.”
Meanwhile, this spring, Eduardo Escobar has presented the Twins with one of those good problems to have. Escobar’s production at the plate has made some wonder if he could force shortstop Danny Santana back to the outfield, unseating Aaron Hicks. I asked Ryan about that possibility and he seemed to downplay the chances of that happening.
“No, we’re still going with that path, there’s still competition but Santana is certainly playing well at short. Paul [Molitor] said he’d like him to be there if he plays well and to this point he has. Escobar has had a fine spring and I’ve stated this many times. It’s going to be tough to get him out of that position because he played well last year and he played well this spring,” Ryan said. “I don’t think I’m prepared right now to tell you who is going to play center and I’m not prepared to tell you who is going to play short, but Hicks is certainly in the mix and Santana is in the mix.”
Later, Escobar saw some time in the outfield in an effort to get him comfortable with playing multiple positions off the bench, as Ryan explained to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger and other reporters after the game.
Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.
More on the Twins and their division…
- Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
- The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
- Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
- At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).
Phil Hughes was two years away from free agency, but both he and the Twins realized that they wanted to work something out for the long-term. Earlier today, the Twins announced a three-year extension that will pay him an additional $42MM, giving the right-hander a pact that will take him through the 2019 season. The deal gives Hughes job security, a healthy payday in the here and now, and also allows him the opportunity to cash in again at the age of 32. As our own Steve Adams pointed out this afternoon, Hughes is on track to hit the open market again at roughly the same age as James Shields is this winter. On a conference call earlier today, I asked Hughes about the importance of getting a deal that could allow him to land another hefty multi-year contract down the line.
“That’s the benefit of coming into the league at the age of 20, I put some service time behind me so even after this contract, I’ll be 32, 33, but that’s something for another day,” Hughes said. “I haven’t even begun to think about my next deal, this is five years away and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. After that, we’ll see where we’re at.”
Hughes knows that he could have boosted his value even further by continuing on his previous deal, but he would have had “a little bit more of a struggle” in talking agent Nez Balelo into greenlighting an extension one year away from free agency. The 28-year-old is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and spoke glowingly of the team’s potential in the years to come. He was effusive in his praise of the roster, from promising youngsters like Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas to veterans like Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter.
“I didn’t want it to be where I came in for three years, kind of saw this team get back on the right track and then said, ‘Thanks for everything. Thanks for having faith in me, but see you later.’ I wanted to be part of this for years to come, and I believe in the process and the direction that this team is going,” said the hurler.
As GM Terry Ryan put it, the extension called for “some risk on both parties.” While Hughes passed up a chance to bet on himself and possibly earn more after the 2016 season, the Twins are making a sizable commitment to the right-hander and banking on the kind of pitching that he delivered in 2014. For his part, Hughes is confident that he will continue to excel while warming up to the idea of a veteran leadership role at such a young age.
The Twins have locked up a key rotation cog going forward, as the team today announced that they have restructured and extended the contract of Phil Hughes. Originally owed $16MM through 2016, Hughes receives an additional three years and $42MM under his new deal.
Hughes, a client of CAA’s Nez Balelo, had been scheduled to earn $8MM in each of the next two seasons. He’ll now earn $9.2MM in 2015 and in 2016 before earning $13.2MM annually from 2017-19. In essence Hughes’ contract is now a five-year, $58MM contract. He’ll have limited no-trade protection, allowing him to block deals to three clubs each season. Additionally, Hughes will earn $200K each season for reaching 200 innings pitched.
The 28-year-old Hughes enjoyed an excellent season with Minnesota in 2014 — the first of a three-year, $24MM pact he signed as a free agent last offseason. Twins GM Terry Ryan and his staff took a gamble by offering Hughes three guaranteed years based largely on his age and upside rather than his results, and it paid off nicely. Hughes set a single-season record for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio ever (11.63) and posted a 3.52 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 0.7 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 209 2/3 innings. That innings total fell one out shy of earning him an additional $500K in performance incentives, and though the club offered him a chance to pitch out of the bullpen on the final weekend of the year to reach the milestone, Hughes declined the opportunity.
ERA estimators such as FIP (2.65), xFIP (3.18) and SIERA (3.17) all feel that Hughes was significantly better than his ERA actually indicated, and Fangraphs pegged his 6.1 wins above replacement in a tie for fourth-best among Major League pitchers (tying him with both David Price and Jon Lester).
Prior to signing with the Twins, Hughes’ problems at Yankee Stadium were pronounced. A fly-ball pitcher by nature, Hughes posted a career ERA of 4.77 at the new Yankee Stadium and a 5.92 mark at the old facility, due largely to problems keeping the ball in the yard. Moving to the more spacious Target Field helped his cause, although Hughes still showed a somewhat curious home/road split, yielding a 4.25 ERA in Minneapolis as opposed to a sparkling 2.78 mark on the road.
All told, Hughes is set to earn $66MM from his age-27 season through his age-32 season (that figure includes last year’s salary). His next crack at free agency is now slated to come at roughly the same juncture of his career at which James Shields currently finds himself, giving him at least one more chance at another substantial multi-year deal.
For the Twins, Hughes is now unquestionably viewed as a fixture in their rotation for the long haul in what has been a lengthy rebuild. He’ll be joined by the recently signed Ervin Santana through at least 2018 and a hopefully resurgent Ricky Nolasco through at least 2017, with young starter Kyle Gibson having earned a spot in the starting five as well. That grouping will be joined by one of Alex Meyer, Trevor May or Tommy Milone in 2015, any of whom could emerge as the team’s long-term fifth starter. Beyond that, pitching prospects Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart are both on the horizon, though each is a ways from reaching the Majors (Stewart in particular).
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the agreement and terms of the contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi. The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.” Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.” The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
- Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer. “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
- Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
- The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
- The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter). Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January. The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter. Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are in no immediate danger of losing their jobs, but that could change if team president Paul Beeston leaves his post, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Beeston is in the last year of his contract, and there is speculation around the game about whether he’ll stay. Beeston backed Red Sox chairman Tom Werner over Rob Manfred for commissioner, which Rosenthal implies might suggest Beeston was looking for a job in the commissioner’s office. Also, Rogers Communications, which owns the Jays, hired a new CEO in January. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Phil Hughes is open to a contract extension with the Twins, writes Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Hughes quietly had one of the top seasons among starting pitchers, with 6.1 fWAR and 4.3 rWAR. He walked just 16 batters in 209 1/3 innings. Combined with a solid 8 K/9, Hughes set a major league record for K/BB ratio at 11.63 while pitching to a 3.52 ERA. Hughes is entering his age-29 season and has two years and $16MM remaining on his contract.
- Earlier this weekend, the Orioles designated reliever Preston Guilmet for assignment. For Guilmet, that move concluded a season spent in a transaction vortex, CSN Baltimore’s Rich Dubroff writes. Since Guilmet arrived in a minor trade with the Indians in April, he’s been involved (by MLBTR’s count) in 14 transactions, mostly a function of the fact that he had options. None of those transactions were earth-shaking, but they had to have been trying for Guilmet personally.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at nine managers and GMs to watch. The Braves search for a new GM features prominently on the list. While Royals owner David Glass won’t prevent GM Dayton Moore from pursuing the opening in Atlanta, the matter of compensation could still complicate a move. When the Red Sox traded Theo Epstein to the Cubs, they only acquired an unaccomplished reliever in Chris Carpenter. The Royals would want more in return for Moore.
- If Atlanta’s interim GM John Hart decides to pass on the permanent position, he’ll be heavily involved in picking his successor. Hart helped groom several future GMs like Ben Cherington, Neal Huntington, and Mark Shapiro. Assistant GM John Coppolella could be next on the list.
- It’s surprising Giants bench coach Ron Wotus isn’t connected to more managerial searches. Wotus is Bruce Bochy’s right-hand man and a former PCL manager of the year. My personal observation: the trend of hiring recently retired players has hurt the visibility of Wotus.
- A poll of 12 GMs found in favor of paying Phil Hughes the $500,000 bonus for reaching 210 innings. He fell one-third of an inning short due to a rain delay. He also had another start affected by rain earlier in September. Eight GMs were in favor of paying Hughes with four opposed. Those against the idea cited contractual reasons. As we learned earlier this week, the CBA prevents the Twins from simply paying the bonus to Hughes without restructuring his contract.
The Brewers fell to the Reds today by a score of 5-3, thereby officially eliminating the club from the postseason despite having spent 150 days in first place in the NL Central this season. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy notes, Milwaukee’s collapse makes the Brewers the first team since divisional play began in 1969 to spend that much time in first place but miss the postseason (Twitter link).
Here are some notes from Milwaukee and elsewhere in the game’s central divisions …
- Ryan Braun could at least theoretically be moved from the outfield to plug the Brewers‘ hole at first base, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Manager Ron Roenicke said that the team had discussed that possibility, but indicated that it was a hypothetical discussion that did not seem likely to go anywhere. If Braun stays in the outfield, the team will both need to find a new first bagger (both Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay are free agents) and will face a more difficult decision whether to tender a contract to Gerardo Parra. As McCalvy notes, there are currently three possibilities already on the club’s 40-man roster in Matt Clark, Hunter Morris, and Jason Rogers. Otherwise, Milwaukee could turn to a free agent market that does appear to have a decent number of lumbering slugger types available.
- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez will soon meet with his agent, Paul Kinzer, to discuss his strategic options, writes McCalvy. Ramirez says that he has yet to seriously consider his future, though generally would like to stay with Milwaukee and is not sure he is interested in committing to multiple years. If he does decide to test the open market, Ramirez would need to turn down a $14MM mutual option (if it is offered in lieu of a $4MM buyout). Though his production is down somewhat this year, the 36-year-old remains a solid regular and would draw plenty of attention on the open market.
- After a rain delay put a premature end to the last start of the season for Phil Hughes of the Twins, the club offered him a chance to make a relief appearance this weekend to notch the last out needed to trigger a $500K contract bonus, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (links to Twitter). Even more remarkable than that offer, perhaps, is the fact that Hughes declined, saying that he “owe[s] too much to the organization over the next two years to risk getting hurt.” (GM Terry Ryan said that it was not possible simply to give Hughes the cash, since the CBA would require a completely restructured contract, though Hughes also shot down that idea as setting a “bad precedent.”) Needless to say, this interesting tale puts a shine on an already gleaming turnaround year for Hughes.
- The emergence of Hector Rondon as the Cubs‘ closer this year makes him an easy choice to keep the role next year, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Rondon, 26, took a big step forward in 2014, striking out nearly nine batters per nine (against 2.2 BB/9) while registering a 2.49 ERA. If he continues to rack up the saves — he sits at 27 on the year — Rondon will set himself up for a nice payday when he reaches arbitration eligibility after next season. His continued presence at the back of the pen — bolstered by Pedro Strop and Neil Ramirez, both of whom have had strong campaigns — could keep the Cubs out of the free agent market for late-inning arms.
Phil Hughes‘ excellent season with the Twins has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for Minnesota, and his final start on Wednesday had plenty of significance. Hughes whiffed five hitters and walked none, giving him an 11.63-to-1 K/BB ratio on the season — a new Major League record. However, it rained in Minneapolis for a little over an hour after the eighth inning, causing Hughes’ start to end even though he had thrown just 96 pitches. That caused Hughes to fall an unthinkable one out shy of a $500K bonus — an incentive he would have triggered upon reaching 210 innings. As Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com tweeted after the game, manager Ron Gardenhire said Hughes will not pitch in relief this weekend in order to reach the $500K bonus — meaning that poor weather (Hughes also had a Sept. 13 start rained out) will likely cost him half a million dollars. Hughes told Bollinger that he was very aware of what he needed to do Wednesday in order to secure his final contractual incentive but took the terrible luck in stride, saying, “Some things aren’t meant to be.” Hughes did earn $250K worth of bonuses for reaching both 180 and 195 innings, bringing his 2014 salary to $8.5MM.
More from the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that the Tigers had scouts on hand to see Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic this past Sunday, but he wouldn’t tip his hand as to whether or not his club was scheduling a private workout with the slugger. The Rangers and Phillies have both had private workouts with Tomas, who was the subject of MLBTR’s first Free Agent Profile of the upcoming offseason. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Tomas for seven years and $105MM — a contract that would be a record-setter in terms of total guarantee and average annual value for a Cuban player.
- While the White Sox figure to add to their bullpen this offseason, Jake Petricka has carved out a role as future member of the group, writes Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. The 26-year-old Petricka has seen time in the closer’s role this season, converting 14 of 18 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings. While he doesn’t have an elite strikeout rate (6.9 K/9), his 63.9 percent ground-ball rate ranks fifth among qualified relievers. Fellow right-hander Zach Putnam — he of a 1.98 ERA in 54 2/3 innings — also figures to be a bullpen cog for the South Siders going forward, Kane notes.
- Though he was only drafted three and a half months ago, Brandon Finnegan has emerged as a bullpen weapon for the Royals, and assistant GM J.J. Picollo tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that the team won’t rule out Finnegan breaking camp with the team in 2015. The team’s ultimate vision is to use Finnegan as a starter, so it’s more likely that he begins next year at Double-A or Triple-A, McCullough notes. Still, the team plans to replace James Shields internally, writes McCullough, and Picollo refused to put any hard limitations on Finnegan’s trajectory: “I don’t think it’s out of the question that he would start (the season) in the major leagues. … I’m not saying it’s what we’re going to do. But he’ll be given an opportunity to win a job on the team.”
Phil Hughes of the Twins has capped off one of the game’s best turnarounds by topping 200 innings on the year after today’s outing. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, Hughes picked up a $250K bonus after passing the 195 IP threshold. Needless to say, Minnesota is thrilled that it not only landed Hughes, who just turned 28, but that it did so on a three-year deal that promises him just $24MM in total. As Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register observes (Twitter link), Hughes has struck out 181 batters while issuing a mere 16 walks this year, meaning that he owns an absurd 11.3 K/BB ratio. That is a historically significant mark, and one that would surely have made the righty one of the offseason’s most interesting free agents had he elected to take a one-year pillow contract last year.
- You can count the Yankees among the teams taking a hard look at Yasmani Tomas, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. Of course, they will be far from the only team doing so. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez provides an interesting look at the much-hyped young slugger, who is preparing for an important showcase on Sunday. “It was really difficult to leave Cuba,” said Tomas (translation from Spanish via Sanchez). “It is for all of us who do it. But it’s difficult there with the way the security is and how they control the players. I made an important decision to fulfill my dream and see if I was at the level of major league players. Here I am, and now I go forward.”
- Rangers hurler Colby Lewis says that he was told “maybe” when he asked club GM Jon Daniels about the possibility of a return next year, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star -Telegram reports on Twitter. The 35-year-old righty has only a 5.12 ERA over 158 1/3 innings this year, but then again he had been out since July of 2012 with various injury issues. Lewis owns a 4.33 FIP and has notched 7.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 on the season, making him a potentially appealing option for teams looking for a solid innings-eater.
- Twins closer Glen Perkins will be shut down for the rest of the year but ultimately received good news on his left arm, GM Terry Ryan told reporters including Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Perkins will use a strength and conditioning program to deal with a forearm strain and nerve irritation, and is expected to be at full strength for the spring.
- The Orioles are nearing finalization of a deal with Cuban hurler Lazaro Leyva, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Leyva has reportedly agreed to terms on a $725K deal to join the Baltimore organization.