Phil Hughes Rumors

Free Agent Faceoff: Scott Kazmir vs. Phil Hughes

For today's Free Agent Faceoff entry, we'll take a look at Scott Kazmir and Phil Hughes, two formerly heralded prospects who enter the free-agent market this offseason with big question marks.

Kazmir emerged from obscurity this season to put together a respectable 4.14-ERA, 152-inning campaign for the Indians. That ERA wasn't a fluke, as Kazmir also posted a K/9 of 8.9 and a BB/9 of 2.7. The second figure is particularly impressive, as it's easily the lowest of Kazmir's career. As a left-hander who misses bats, suppresses walks and averages 92.1 mph on his fastball, Kazmir would potentially be in line for a multi-year deal with annual eight-digit salaries if he had a stronger recent track record. However, around this time last year, Kazmir was pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters in independent ball. He also struggled with efficiency throughout the season, averaging less than six innings per start.

There was talk earlier in the year of a qualifying offer for Hughes, but that possibility has evaporated after another disappointing season for the 6' 5", 240-pound right-hander. In a final line that's perhaps representative of his checkered career, Hughes posted a 5.19 ERA in 145 2/3 innings despite a 2.88 K/BB ratio that places him in the same range as starters such as Derek Holland and James Shields. As has often been the case for Hughes, otherwise good results were dragged down by an inability to keep the ball in the park. Hughes posted a 1.48 HR/9 this year, ranking among the league leaders. Given his natural fly-ball tendencies (career 33.6 percent GB rate), a team with a more spacious ballpark than Yankee Stadium could target Hughes as a buy-low candidate.

The major knock on Kazmir is the bizarre trajectory his career has taken. There's just not many comparables for the 29-year-old, a former top young starter who appeared to be out of baseball but re-emerged this season to post a 3.36 K/BB ratio in 152 innings. Hughes, 27, has always inspired optimism, but he's never developed into the dominant starting pitcher that many projected based on his size and stuff.


Yankees Rumors: Hughes, Jeter, Cano, Sabathia

There was talk earlier this year of the Yankees giving Phil Hughes a qualifying offer at the end of the season in order to either retain him or secure a draft pick in the event that he signed elsewhere.  However, that ship has pretty much sailed at this point.  "They may make a qualifying offer. And I may run for president," a rival GM told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com last week.  Here's more out of the Bronx..

  • Many in baseball speculated that Derek Jeter would decline his $9.5MM option for 2014 and force the Yankees to give him a new deal, but a friend of the shortstop told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he thinks he'll exercise the option and return with a sense of purpose. Feinsand notes that Jeter probably wouldn't have the public on his side as he did three years ago and, more importantly, no one is clamoring to give a 39-year-old shortstop more than $9.5MM.
  • The Yankees want Robinson Cano back in pinstripes next season, but team president Randy Levine made it clear there's a limit as to how far they'll go.  “[Cano] is a great player,” Levine told Bloomberg Television, according to Feinsand. “We will sit down and talk to him. Hopefully he’s a Yankee. Nobody is a re-sign at all costs, but we want him back and we feel good about negotiating something with him. But nobody is a re-sign at any cost.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that the Yankees can ill-afford to see CC Sabathia's regression to No. 4 starter come when he has at least three years and $76MM on his contract. The Yankees anticipated such an occurence might happen toward the end of his New York tenure but thought they'd have capable replacements in Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, but none have panned out. Their dearth of pitching talent clouds their goal of staying under the $189MM luxury tax threshhold, Sherman adds.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


New York Notes: Backman, Hughes, Rodriguez

As we ease into the evening's slate of ballgames, here are a few quick notes on the two ballclubs that call New York home:

  • If the Mets retain manager Terry Collins next season, as is widely expected, the team could stand to lose Triple-A manager Wally Backmanwrites the New York Post's Mike Puma. Backman, who was a finalist for Collins's job, could look elsewhere to advance his career if he isn't given a seat in the New York dugout.
  • The notion of the Yankees giving struggling starter Phil Hughes a qualifying offer at year end has gone from plausible to laughable, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While GM Brian Cashman was reportedly telling other clubs at the trade deadline that a QO was a serious consideration, a competing GM now tells Heyman: "They may make a qualifying offer. And I may run for president."
  • A schedule has been set for hearing Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. If the Yankees fail to qualify for the postseason, the proceedings will begin on September 30th, the day after the regular season ends. If the Yanks sneak back in, a delay would be likely since Rodriguez is entitled to be personally present. At least 45 more days are expected to be needed for a decision. Of course, the longer it takes to resolve the situation, the longer the New York front office will remain in the dark on how much money it will save on the rest of A-Rod's deal. 


Quick Hits: Scully, Martinez, Twins, Phillies

The Dodgers' latest move is one we can all celebrate: the team announced yesterday that incomparable broadcaster Vin Scully will return to the Dodger booth next year for the 65th straight season. As usual, Scully dropped some wisdom on the occasion: "Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It's just too good." Indeed, it is. Elsewhere around the game …

  • With starting backstop Alex Avila still working back from a concussion after scuffling for most of the year, the division-leading Tigers might have found themselves scrambling to add catching depth. Instead, the club made a risky move that could pay long-term dividends, putting primary DH Victor Martinez back behind the dish for the first time since August of 2011. The initial returns were positive, and the club could suit Martinez up for interleague matchups down the stretch or in a hypothetical World Series.
  • Always productive on Saturday mornings, Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com offered a spirited defense of the Twins' decision not to bring in any high-priced starters last year. (All links to Twitter.) Rejecting the suggestion that Minnesota should have signed Anibal Sanchez and pointing to the Royals' acquisition of James Shields as an ill-advised, premature plunge, Mackey summed things up with a broader philosophy for a small-market team like the Twins: "Draft. Develop. Sell high. Supplement your core with smart spending. Lock players in before arbitration. Avoid stupid contracts." 
  • For next season, Mackey further tweets, Phil Hughes could be a nice target for Minnesota. The suggestion could make sense, given Hughes' youth, the potential to buy low, and Target Field's home run suppression.
  • The Phillies, needless to say, face a number of questions as they finish out a second-straight disappointing season with an aging core. Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer took an interesting look at one major forthcoming task for GM Ruben Amaro Jr.: "completely rebuilding one of baseball's worst bullpens." In his tenure as GM, Brookover notes, Amaro has signed seven free-agent set-up men or middle relievers for a combined $22.85MM (not including year two of the Mike Adams deal). They have combined for a 4.76 ERA. Neither has the organization been successful at developing its own bullpen arms, says Brookover, who does note that some current youngsters — in particular, Jake Diekman — offer hope. 
  • Looking ahead to 2014, Amaro seemed to imply that the Phils will likely be shopping for turnaround candidates in the free agent market. "Sometimes you have to be lucky to get those guys," Amaro said. "There are times when even a change of scenery can help someone. Those are the kinds of things we will look for."

Hughes Prefers To Stay In Starting Role

MONDAY: Hughes clarified to Martino that his strong preference and intention is to remain in a starting role for many years.

THURSDAY: Phil Hughes hasn't made a relief appearance since 2011, but the Yankees right-hander told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he will be open-minded about a relief role this offseason when he hits free agency, depending on the offers. Asked if a relief role was off the table, he replied:

“No. I mean, I feel like pitching at this level is a blessing in any way. So if teams value me as a starter, that’s great. If not, and that’s their opinion, we’ll see what happens. We will see how it shakes out.”

Hughes, 27, entered play today with a 4.99 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and just a 29.2 percent ground-ball rate. Many feel that his success as a starter during the team's 2009 World Series run means he should be transferred to a bullpen role full-time. For his career, Hughes has a 1.44 ERA as a reliever and a 4.73 ERA as a starter, though that relief sample size is just 56 1/3 innings.

There's also a belief that Hughes — an extreme fly-ball pitcher — simply needs to escape the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium and move to a larger park. That's also understandable, as he's pitched to a 6.18 ERA with 16 homers in 62 2/3 home innings this season (2.3 HR/9) compared to a 3.67 ERA on the road with just six homers allowed on the road. Since moving back into the rotation full-time in 2010, Hughes has a 5.02 ERA and 5.10 FIP at Yankee Stadium. His road marks of 4.08 and 3.81 are much more respectable.


Yankees Getting Offers For Phil Hughes

2:41pm: The Braves talked to the Yankees about Hughes but it won't happen, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Sherman hears the Braves' interest was mild, anyway.

1:39pm: The Yankees are getting offers for righty Phil Hughes now, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  Hughes, 27, has a 4.58 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.61 HR/9, and 30.1% groundball rate in 112 innings for the Yankees this year and will be eligible for free agency after the season.  Hughes' home run problems have been much worse at Yankee Stadium, so a change of scenery leading up to free agency would be to his benefit.


AL East Notes: Lyon, Hughes, Yankees, Red Sox

As Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes, it's been 10 years since the strangest week of Brandon Lyon's life. In 2003, the then-23-year-old Lyon was dealt by the Red Sox to the Pirates as part of a pacakage for lefty Scott Sauerbeck. The Pirates decided they weren't comfortable with the state of Lyon's elbow and sent him back to the Red Sox in a trade centering around Freddy Sanchez and Jeff Suppan just nine days later. Now with the Red Sox once again, Lyon tells Britton that he hopes to be with the big league club in the near future. Here's more on the AL East…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that as of Sunday, the Yankees had yet to receive a single trade offer for struggling right-hander Phil Hughes. That's fairly surprising, given Hughes' solid production away from Yankee Stadium (3.02 ERA in 53 2/3 innings compared to 6.02 in 58 1/3 innings at home).
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that there may be more offense on its way to New York via the trade market before Wednesday's deadline, writes MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.
  • The Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Joe Nathan, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but they're still prioritizing right-handed relief help. The Red Sox remain in contact with the Phillies about Michael Young but find the asking price for Cliff Lee too high, according to Bradford. The same goes for Jake Peavy of the White Sox.
  • Alex Speier of WEEI.com takes a look at how the Red Sox stack up in terms of starting pitching, right-handed relief and third base options.

Bowden’s Latest: Garza, Rox, Rios, Morneau, Perkins

The trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio writes that the market will pick up rapidly beginning Friday. Here are some highlights from the highly informative article penned by the former GM of the Reds, Expos and Nationals (ESPN Insider required and recommended)…

  • Bowden hears there's an 80 percent chance that Matt Garza will be traded before his next scheduled start (Monday or Tuesday of next week). The Rangers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still involved, He describes the D-backs as "dark horses," adding that their odds in the Garza sweepstakes would increase if they were willing to part with left-hander David Holmberg.
  • The Rockies could also be interested in Garza, but they're not clear-cut buyers right now, and the prospective cost is prohibitive to them. If they were to sell, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could be had. Michael Cuddyer could be moved, but only if Colorado is "blown away."
  • The White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" with offers for Alex Rios thus far. Bowden feels that offers will improve as the deadline draws closer.
  • The Justin Morneau era in Minnesota is coming to an end, and the Twins are prepared to trade the former MVP, according to Bowden. The Rays, Pirates and Yankees are said by Bowden to be possible destinations for Morneau.
  • The Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers and Braves have all inquired on Twins closer Glen Perkins and been turned away. Those four teams are all monitoring the health of Jesse Crain as well.
  • The Yankees are trying to use Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and catching prospect J.R. Murphy to acquire a bat but have had no luck thus far. None of those players figure to interest the Twins in regards to Morneau, Bowden adds, given the impending free agency of Hughes and Chamberlain and the presence of Joe Mauer behind the plate for the Twins.

Yankees Notes: Granderson, Hughes

Mariano Rivera took home MVP honors in last night's All-Star Game victory after tossing a perfect eighth inning. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, that he wanted to ensure Rivera got into the game. If the NL took the lead in the bottom of the eighth against a different pitcher, there might not have been a bottom of the ninth to pitch. Leyland also joked, "I wanted to make sure I got out of here alive." Rivera's moment was an instant classic; his teammates allowed him to take the field all alone to "Enter Sandman" as he received a standing ovation from the fans and both dugouts (video link courtesy of MLB.com). Here's more on the Yankees…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with a prominent agent and two front office executives that said Curtis Granderson's injuries make him more likely to remain with the Yankees beyond 2013. Each said Granderson wouldn't top his $15MM annual salary on the open market, and he could accept a one-year qualifying offer (roughly $13.8MM) to re-establish value. It could also give the Yanks a shot to sign him to a four-year deal similar to Nick Swisher deal with Cleveland this offseason.
  • The Yankees haven't been able to find an acceptable return in trade discussions for Phil Hughes, who will become a free agent after this season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes. The Dodgers were a potential fit for Hughes, but they're no longer on the hunt for a mid-rotation starter after acquiring Ricky Nolasco. The Giants and Padres probably shouldn't be considered active buyers at this point because of recent poor play, Heyman says.
  • Heyman adds that the Angels have long been interested in Hughes, nearly drafting him in 2004 before owner Arte Moreno insisted the team select Jered Weaver. However, given the Halos' current record, they don't appear to be buyers.

Aaron Steen contributed to this post.


Rosenthal On Garza, Cardinals, Ibanez, Rockies

In a video report, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal passes on some updates on developing trade situations around the league. Here are the main takeaways:

  • The Cubs have had relatively detailed talks on an extension with free-agent-to-be Matt Garza — including years and dollars — but Rosenthal says it remains much more likely that the starter will be dealt. There is a solid chance that a deal could be made before Garza's scheduled July 22 outing, says Rosenthal, with Chicago seemingly willing to accept less in return if a team is willing to eat more of the remainder of Garza's $10.25MM deal. 
  • Echoing previous reports, Rosenthal lists the Dodgers, Nationals, Red Sox, and Rangers as the teams most prominently in on Garza. He does note that there may be a few other teams who could make such a move. We've recently heard of interest from the Indians as well, though cold water has already been thrown on that idea. 
  • Rosenthal adds via Twitter that the Rangers have two scouts watching Garza pitch tonight, with the Tigers, Orioles, Pirates, and Blue Jays also scouting the game. Of course, as Rosenthal further tweets, the other clubs are more likely interested in Chicago's relievers and position players.
  • While Rosenthal says that the Cardinals would be a nice fit for a starter like Garza, he says that it remains extremely unlikely that GM John Mozeliak would part with any elite talent to make such a deal. Rosenthal says that Cards could be on the starter market, but only if the club feels it cannot rely on internal options like Chris Carpenter.
  • Meanwhile, Rosenthal says St. Louis does not feel any urgency to make a move at shortstop. While Pete Kozma is far from perfect, it would be hard to upgrade the position substantially at a non-prohibitive price.
  • One obvious trade candidate, Raul Ibanez of the Mariners, is somewhat unlikely to be dealt in spite of his cheap, expiring contract and solid performance this season. As we've heard elsewhere recently, Rosenthal says that GM Jack Zduriencik would be hesitant to deal the once-and-current Mariner without consulting with him. According to Rosenthal, Seattle is more likely to trade other veterans like reliever Oliver Perez and starter Joe Saunders.
  • The Rockies could be interested in making a deal for the YankeesPhil Hughes, but Rosenthal says that they would be looking at him as a bullpen piece rather than a starter. If the Yanks are in fact looking for a significant return for Hughes, of course, the Rockies would seem hard-pressed to get an overly attractive price on the pending free agent.
  • One other player the Rockies are looking at is starter Vance Worley of the Twins, who is currently working out his issues (with some success) at Triple-A. According to Rosenthal, Minnesota is loathe to ship off Worley at a discount because they view him as a rebound candidate and maintain team control through 2017. Worley's extended minor league stay could make him even cheaper, as he may lose his expected Super Two status and figures to earn less whenever he does reach arbitration.