Hughes, who recently turned 32, was traded from the Twins to the Padres alongside a Competitive Balance draft pick in exchange for minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos earlier this season. As part of the trade, San Diego agreed to take on $7.25MM of Hughes’ $13.2MM salary for the 2019 season. In effect, the Padres were purchasing an extra draft pick (No. 74 overall) from the Twins, though San Diego did keep Hughes around to see if he could return to form in a new setting.
That, unfortunately for both team and player, did not prove to be the case. Hughes improved his strikeout and walk numbers substantially in his time with the Padres, but he remained alarmingly homer-prone and ultimately posted a 6.10 ERA in 20 2/3 innings there. It marked the continuation of a rapid, four-year decline for Hughes that is undoubtedly tied to significant injury issues.
Hughes originally signed a three-year, $24MM contract with Minnesota as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. He fell one third of an inning shy of reaching the final incentive threshold in his first season with the Twins and garnered quite a bit of attention when he declined to pitch in relief over the season’s final weekend as a means of crossing that 210-inning line. Hughes was rewarded for a terrific first season in Minnesota all the same — tearing up the remaining two years of his deal and inking a five-year, $58MM contract that offseason.
It was a significant show of faith from the Twins organization, though one could hardly argue with Hughes’ 2014 results. He pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 209 2/3 innings and set the all-time record for K/BB ratio that season (11.63) when he racked up 186 punchouts against a minuscule 16 walks. Hughes spent considerable time on the disabled list in each of the next two seasons, however, and he ultimately underwent surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016.
Hughes returned to the Twins in 2017 with the hope that the surgery would correct the numbness he’d been experiencing in his pitching hand — a common side effect of TOS — but his symptoms persisted, and he underwent a revision of his TOS surgery later that summer.
In all, Hughes has pitched to a 5.18 ERA in 300 2/3 innings over the past four seasons. He’s tried to reinvent himself along the way, throwing a changeup more heavily at times and, in 2018, attempting to rely more on cutters and two-seamers than his diminished four-seamer. The results haven’t been there for Hughes, though, and he’ll now presumably look to latch on with another organization in hope of overcoming the injury woes that have plagued him in recent seasons.