Phil Hughes Rumors
For those of you still up watching the epic Giants-Dodgers game unfold tonight, here are a few final notes from today:
- Assessing the Phillies' front office performance this past offseason, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer leaves litle doubt as to his stance. He writes (via the Miami Herald) that the Phillies built their 2013 team "on the precarious hope that their aging veteran starters would pitch well and that their aging everyday players would regain their productivity. Around that central theme, the front office sprinkled journeymen and prospects who might be good enough if everything else went right." While the Philadelphia sits only three games under .500, that record has been built on a 9-3 mark against the Mets and Marlins. Unfortunately, opines Ford, there is little that the team can do at this point, especially as the team lacks impact minor league talent ready to help the big league club. With a turnaround always at least possible given the team's starting pitching corps, and with trade value difficult to maximize at this point in the year, Ford says that all the Phillies can do is continue down the path they have chosen and continue to hope for the best.
- In yesterday's matchup between likely first-round pitchers Mark Appel of Stanford and Trevor Williams of Arizona State, it was Appel that came up out on top, writes Keith Law of ESPN (on Insider). Law came away impressed with all of Appel's three primary pitches, along with his athleticism and mechanics. He noted that the Astros and Cubs scouts in attendance likely felt the same. Those two clubs, of course, possess the first two picks in the upcoming amateur draft.
- The prospective class of 2014 free agent starters is beginning to look deeper, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman points to recent solid starts from Dan Haren, Jason Vargas, and Phil Hughes. While Heyman also notes that Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum have settled down since their less-than-promising beginnings to the season, both were roughed up again in their latest outings. With more question marks than sure things among the best rotation options in the 2014 market, pitchers like Haren, Vargas, and Hughes have a lot of room to improve their market positioning over the course of this season. Haren, a 32-year-old one-time ace, has battled through an abysmal early-going to register two consecutive starts that were more reminiscent of his former dominance. The 30-year-old Vargas has buttressed his case as a solid innings-eater, going deep into his last three games and maintaining a 3.72 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. And Hughes, still just 26, has steadily improved all year since returning from injury, most recently tossing an eight-inning, four-hit, nine-strikeout, no-run gem against the Athletics.
David Ortiz says the timing of his likely return to the Red Sox's lineup Friday is unrelated to the structure of his contract, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports. Under his current two-year, $26MM contract, Ortiz is guaranteed $11MM in 2014, but that number would rise to $13MM if he spends 21 to 40 days on the disabled list due to his Achilles injury in 2013. It would further increase to $15MM if he spends 20 or fewer days. Thursday was Ortiz's 19th day on the DL this season. If he is not activated before Saturday, he will lose $2MM in 2014. "I just found out about [the contract clause] a couple of days ago," says Ortiz. "If I would be limping or hurting still, it is what it is. But I’m going back now because I feel ready and I want to be playing for my ball club." Here's more from the AL East.
- At age 40, Ramon Ortiz is back in the big leagues, Steph Rogers and Evan Peaslee of MLB.com note. Ortiz's appearance with the Blue Jays on Wednesday was his first Major League outing since September 2011, when he was with the Cubs. "I know guys who are coaches and managers in the big leagues [or] the Minor Leagues. When they see me, they say 'Ramon, you're still playing?'" Ortiz says. Ortiz made 27 starts for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in 2012, then signed a minor-league deal with the Jays in December.
- Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes could get $70MM as a free agent next winter, the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand argues (on Twitter). Feinsand compares Hughes to Anibal Sanchez, who got five years and $80MM from the Tigers in December. Sanchez, though, had xFIPs of 3.25 and 3.60 in his last two seasons before free agency; Hughes' xFIPs in the last two years were 4.90 and 4.35. Peripheral numbers might not matter much in an arbitration hearing, but they matter in free agency. Feinsand is correct to note that the two players have pitched in very different park and league contexts, but the numbers still strongly suggest that Sanchez is the far better pitcher. Of course, much will depend on the way Hughes pitches in 2013. Hughes does not crack Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
As the Yankees and Phil Hughes negotiated their one-year, $7.15MM deal for 2013, the topic of an extension hardly came up, writes Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger. As a pitcher, Hughes says that he never expected a long-term deal out of the Yankees before reaching free agency. At the same time, it sounds as though he'd like to stay in the Bronx for the long-term. “The Yankees are the ones who drafted me; they’re like a second family. For me to say I’d be neutral [about leaving New York] would be dishonest," said Hughes. Here's more out of the AL and NL East..
- Jordan Zimmermann would be open to listening on a multi-year extension, but so far nothing has happened on that front, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The Nationals and the right-hander avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.35MM deal yesterday.
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (on Twitter) believes that Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman would be a great big league manager, but he has a feeling that it will happen elsewhere and not with the Mets. If the Mets don't bring back Terry Collins next year, Martino expects the club to go with a younger skipper.
- Jair Jurrjens' contract with the Orioles is now a minor league deal rather than a guaranteed pact, but the pitcher says he's not overly concerned about it, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The two sides first agreed to a $1.5MM contract with incentives potentially pushing the figure to $4MM, but red flags on his physical led to the O's insisting on a reworked deal.
It was 100 years ago today that legendary announcer Mel Allen was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Allen is best remembered as the voice of the Yankees from 1939 to 1964, though his long career also included Indians play-by-play, NFL and college football games and hosting This Week In Baseball from 1977 until his death in 1996.
Here are a few Yankee-related items that may make you say "How a-BOUT that?!"...
- Robinson Cano and the Yankees aren't making much progress in their initial contract talks, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. There is "a significant difference in either talent assessment or valuation" between the two sides. The Yankees see Cano as a top-10 or top-15 player in the game, while agent Scott Boras sees his client as a top-five talent -- a small gap on paper, but one worth tens of millions in negotiations. If Cano does hit the open market, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes cites the second baseman as "the clear number one choice" as the best free agent of the 2013-14 offseason.
- When Phil Hughes worked out his one-year deal with the Yankees for 2013, "the topic of an extension was hardly mentioned," Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger writes. Hughes is eligible for free agency after the season but he doesn't expect New York to try and lock him up early. “Coming up with this organization as a pitcher, you know you’re not going to be signed long-term before (free agency),” Hughes said. “Nobody tells you. You just know. No pitcher is getting a long-term deal before free agency.”
- The Yankees' best prospects are in the lower levels of their farm system, which an executive tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince is due in part to the club lack of success at finding quality waiver claim pickups or minor league free agents, but also because New York is always successful and thus drafting near the end of the first round. "Depth is an issue in the very short run, but the talent they have coming up in the system is actually surprisingly good," the executive said. "It's impossible to draft a lot of talent with later and limited picks."
5:08pm: Hughes' contract is worth $7.15MM, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
4:39pm: The Yankees and Phil Hughes have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract, Chad Jennings of the Journal News reports. Terms of the deal between the Yankees and the CAA client were not announced.
Hughes had a projected salary of $5.7MM following a season in which he posted a 4.23 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 191 1/3 regular season innings. The right-hander was arbitration eligible for the third and final time after earning $3.2MM in 2012.
Links out of the AL East..
- The Yankees are still listening to offers on Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). Team executives have acknowledged that Granderson and Hughes have come up in trade talks but say that it would be tough to replace both in the short-term.
- Right-hander Claudio Vargas has agreed to a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, according to Metis Sports Management (via Twitter). Vargas retired in summer 2011 before inking a minor league deal with the Brewers this past spring.
- The Rays aren't going to be shaking things up right away but there could be some trades on the horizon, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "At the very least we have more clarity. I wouldn't say anything is imminent. But we just have more clarity on how we might be able to complete this offseason looking out over the next six-to-eight weeks," said executive VP Andrew Friedman.
- It seems that almost everyone in Nashville this week was poised to spend big bucks except for the Yankees, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Scott Boras and two other agents who have discussed clients with the Yankees in recent days said their perception was a clamp had been placed on spending with the team’s payroll already at $168MM for 2013. Meanwhile, the Yanks still have major needs in right field, the left side of the infield, and at catcher.
With Day Two of the Winter Meetings underway, let's round up a few notable links related to AL East clubs....
- As they continue to search for a big bat, one name on the Orioles' shopping list is Mike Morse, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who tweets that the O's have interest in the Nationals slugger. We heard yesterday that Baltimore's interest in Morse was "lukewarm" and that GM Mike Rizzo hadn't been in contact with the Orioles yet in Nashville, though that could change.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com examines the possibility of the Red Sox trading a catcher in the wake of the Mike Napoli signing, noting that the Mariners, Mets, Yankees, White Sox, and Dodgers are among the teams looking to add a backstop.
- While Joel Sherman of the New York Post acknowledges that the Yankees would listen to offers on Curtis Granderson and Phil Hughes, he notes that team executives say the goal is still to win in 2013, and that replacing Granderson's and Hughes' production in the short-term would be tricky (Twitter links).
Before the season, we identified 11 players who were entering "make or break" years. These guys had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for nice paydays in the future. Now that we're into August, let's take a second to check in each player (all links go to MLBTR posts)...
- Scott Baker, Twins -- Baker, 30, had elbow surgery in April and will miss the entire season. Minnesota will likely decline his $9.25MM option for 2013 (no buyout).
- Phil Hughes, Yankees -- The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 4.10 ERA in 131 2/3 innings this year, including a 3.40 ERA since mid-May. He's a safe bet to be tendered a contract for 2014, his final year as a arbitration-eligible player.
- Jair Jurrjens, Braves -- Jurrjens, 26, pitched so poorly earlier in the season that he had to be sent to the minors. He's since resurfaced and owns 6.89 ERA in 48 1/3 innings, cementing his status as a non-tender candidate.
- Adam Lind, Blue Jays -- Lind has battled back problems and also been demoted to Triple-A this season, and he's hit .227/.298/.394 while with the big league team. The 29-year-old continues to disappoint since signing his four-year, $18MM extension prior to 2010.
- Francisco Liriano, White Sox -- It's been another up and down season for the 28-year-old southpaw, who owns a 5.03 ERA in 111 innings. The Twins traded Liriano to the ChiSox at the deadline.
- James Loney, Dodgers -- Loney, now 28, hasn't helped himself at all this season, hitting just .251/.301/.330 in 327 plate appearances. He might have to settle for a minor league contract this coming offseason.
- Kendrys Morales, Angels -- The 29-year-old is hitting .282/.327/.455 with 14 homers on the year, well below the level he established prior to his leg injury in 2010. Morales figures to be both a trade and non-tender candidate after the season.
- Mike Pelfrey, Mets -- Pelfrey pitched to a 2.29 ERA in three starts before needing Tommy John surgery. The Mets are expected to non-tender the 28-year-old after the season.
- Geovany Soto, Rangers -- The 29-year-old backstop has continued to deal with injuries in 2012 and is hitting just .201/.289/.356. Soto is an obvious non-tender candidate.
- Kevin Youkilis, White Sox -- Youkilis lost his starting job with the Red Sox and was traded to the White Sox, who are likely to decline his $13MM option after the season. The 33-year-old has dealt with nagging injuries and is hitting .238/.339/.427 overall.
- Delmon Young, Tigers -- Young, 26, has had a below-average season at the plate (.266/.298/.402) and has dealt with some off-field problems. He hasn't helped his free agent stock any.
The Cardinals are defending their World Series title without Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan, but they’re off to an 11-7 start nonetheless. One general manager recently went out of his way to note that “the Cardinals are a good organization” in a conversation with Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Here’s more from Sherman, starting in St. Louis:
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says successful organizations can’t rely on one particular person. “To have sustained success, it is about being deep in all areas,” Mozeliak told Sherman. “So you are not reliant on any one person or one area of strength.”
- Sherman wonders if the Mets might be able to spend on a long-term extension for David Wright since they didn’t re-sign Jose Reyes and the contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay will expire following the 2013 season (the Mets hold club options for 2014). The Mets have ignored overall organizational depth for too long, Sherman writes.
- When asked about Phil Hughes’ slow start, Yankees GM Brian Cashman pointed out that pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester have also struggled early on. “Based on the list, [Hughes] is in pretty good company,” Cashman said. “I think his stuff has been better than the results.” Cashman doesn’t sound interested in demoting the right-hander to the minors or moving him to the bullpen.
Phil Hughes is still only 25 years old, but the Yankees' right-hander has ridden the career roller coaster since making his debut in 2007. He knows what it's like to be a highly touted prospect, to deal with injury, to be a dominant setup man, a quality starter, an All-Star, a World Champion, and a disappointment. The 2012 season figures to be the most important season of his career.
After helping the Yankees to the 2009 World Series as Mariano Rivera's setup man, Hughes moved into the team's rotation in 2010 and rewarded them with an 18-8 record. That record had more to do with all the terrific run support he received, though the advanced metrics indicate that his performance was almost exactly league average. His 4.19 ERA was backed up by a 4.25 FIP. League average isn't too shabby for a 23-year-old in the AL East.
Because he had worked primarily as a reliever in 2009, Hughes threw 80 1/3 more innings in 2010 than he had the year before. He also showed up to camp overweight in 2011. The combination of being out of shape and having a big workload increase led to shoulder issues. Hughes missed the majority of last season and wasn't particularly effective when he was on the mound, pitching to a 5.79 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 74 2/3 innings. His fastball velocity was gone and his breaking ball had no bite.
After making $2.7MM as a first-time arbitration-eligible player last year, Hughes got a very slight raise to $3.2MM this year. He rededicated himself to conditioning this offseason and came to camp in much better shape, showing renewed life on his fastball and break on his curveball. He came back like the 2010 version of himself, and the Yankees rewarded him with a rotation spot thanks in part to Michael Pineda's sore shoulder.
That said, no one will care how Hughes looked in Spring Training during his first start of the season this weekend. He has to show that he's back to being an effective starter, because another disaster season like 2011 could very end with him being non-tendered in December. Hughes is scheduled to become a free agent after next season, when he'll still be just 27. An effective season this year and next could lead to a significant payday, so Hughes stands to gain or lose quite a bit in 2012.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.