The Diamondbacks announced Thursday that they’ve signed left-hander Brandon Hughes to a minor league contract. The former Cubs reliever will be in camp with the D-backs as a non-roster invitee this spring.
Hughes, 28, was a key reliever for Chicago in 2022 but missed the majority of the 2023 season owing to a left knee injury that required a debridement procedure back in June. He pitched just 13 2/3 innings this past season and was non-tendered in November.
While Hughes was tagged for a 7.24 ERA in his tiny sample of 2023 work, his 2022 season was excellent. He pitched 57 2/3 frames for the Cubs, working to a 3.12 earned run average with a sharp 28.5% strikeout rate against a respectable 8.8% walk rate. The Cubs put him in the ninth inning late in the season, and he recorded eight saves in that tole. Home runs were an issue for the southpaw (1.72 HR/9), but he also saw a disproportionate number of his fly-balls (17.8%) turn into long balls; the league average that season was 11.4%.
Beyond his strong work in the 2022 season, Hughes has a terrific minor league track record. His Triple-A numbers are a bit skewed by this year’s performance, most of which came as he made his way back from the aforementioned knee surgery. But even with the 11 runs he yielded in 11 frames this season, Hughes has a career 4.64 ERA in Triple-A and a 2.72 mark across all minor league levels. Prior to making his debut in 2022, he pitched 16 2/3 shutout innings with 22 strikeouts and three walks between Double-A and Triple-A.
The Diamondbacks have lefties Andrew Saalfrank and Joe Mantiply likely ticketed for spots in the big league bullpen, and Kyle Nelson is also on the 40-man roster as an option. A healthy Hughes could challenge any of that trio for a spot, however, and there’s enough uncertainty regarding the final spot in Torey Lovullo’s relief corps that carrying three southpaws is a possibility. As it stands, the Snakes will have Paul Sewald, Kevin Ginkel, Miguel Castro, Ryan Thompson, Scott McGough, Saalfrank and Mantiply likely penciled into spots. Out-of-options righty Luis Frias and righty Peter Strzelecki could both compete for that final spot, but spring injuries and performances could open up additional opportunities for Hughes and other non-roster invitees.
If Hughes is eventually added to the roster, he’ll offer the D-backs plenty of flexibility and long-term control. He has all three minor league option years remaining, and with just a one-plus year of MLB service, he can be controlled all the way through 2028 season.