With the recent announcement by GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees are “open for business” on the trade front, it’s worth taking a look at some potential trade candidates. As we head closer to the deadline and the .500 mark creeps ever closer, there are a couple of Yankees that could very well be on the move to a new location at the deadline. One of the top candidates to go: Phil Hughes.
Hughes has been frustrating for Yankees fans; he has top-line stuff, but can’t seem to keep the ball in the park. He can throw 92 mph consistently, but he can’t seem to locate. He gives up homers in a bandbox of a ballpark. He has had some health issues nearly every year in the majors. And, last but not least, there is the never-ending debate about him being a starter or reliever. While we thought some of these questions may have finally been answered, as Hughes produced another successful season in 2012, here we are again looking an some bad numbers out of the righty: 3-6, ERA above 5.00, .288 BAA, and 13 homers surrendered (on the whole 2012 season, he gave up over 30). Hughes was once promised as the future of the Yankee rotation, so much so that the team refused to trade him to the Twins for Johan Santana in 2007. But now that we know who Phil is- sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes very good, sometimes horrid- perhaps his biggest asset to the team moving forward will be as trade bait. With Michael Pineda on the mend, Ivan Nova and Vidal Nuno both sitting at Triple-A, and plenty of bullpen options- Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, in addition to the Robertsons/Riveras/Logans- Hughes’ presence becomes even more expendable.
Hughes is still relatively young, and given his age, he will command a high salary when he hits the open market in free agency this coming winter. For instance, Hughes is relatively comparable to Anibal Sanchez, who just signed with Detroit for $88 million/5 years this past offseason. Sanchez turned 29 in February, 2013, while Hughes will turn just 27 years old next week. To this point, Hughes has appeared in 166 games with a career ~4.47 ERA, while Sanchez has appeared in just over 145 starts with a career 3.75 ERA at the time of his signing. Additionally, over the course of his career, Hughes is 55-42, with 603 Ks to 225 BBs, with a WHIP of 1.31; Sanchez clocks in with a record of 48-51, 733 Ks and 320 BBs, and a WHIP of 1.346. (Note: All of these numbers reflect Sanchez’s numbers at the time of his signing.) Regardless of the $189 million dollar plan, the Yankees probably aren’t too willing to invest a lot of money who has a career 4.66 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .264 BAA and an astounding 61 homers in his own home park (new Yankee Stadium).
Hughes isn’t pitching well at the moment, so his stock isn’t all that high. However, if he moved to a large, fly-ball friendly park (ex: O.co, PetCo, Comerica), and added a weaker lineup, it might be that Hughes would find success- the type of “WHY DID WE TRADE HIM?!” success that so often impacts Yankees fans. perhaps it is possible that the Yankees look into making a deal with the Padres. The ballpark is friendly and would probably help Hughes, and the NL West lineups (the bad Dodgers, the okay Diamondbacks, the mediocre Rockies and the always contending Giants) might help.
The Padres have gotten on a bit of a hot streak of late. Perhaps adding a pitcher like Hughes would help, perhaps getting a bat in return. While the Padres have not looked to deal Chase Headley, maybe they will change thier minds. He fits the bill, despite having a bit of a down year, and it gives the Yankees flexibility. He may be the answer at third should Alex Rodriguez not return to New York (really, who knows?) or if Kevin Youkilis doesn’t play another game in pinstripes. With Nunez dealing with a nagging obluqie injury, Jayson Nix would really be the only option to back-up at short stop, and there are questions about Derek Jeter’s durability after he suffered a re-fracture and setback coming back from a broken ankle. Again, Hughes’ stock is low, so there will not be much back for him, and Headley provides and interesting option.
Given that the Yankees probably will not get anything back for him come December, something is better than nothing, particularly as it comes to offense– the lineup on June 20, 2013 looked a little something like this: .280; .260; .278; .221; .224; .270; .242; .263; .098. Um, nope. I don’t care how awful Hughes may pitch, there is NOBODY who is going to win a lot with a lineup like that. Bats are needed, especially with Mark Teixeria being placed on the DL (again); Kevin Youkilis out (probably for the season) with back surgery; questions about Derek Jeter’s durability in his return; and questions surrounding whether or not Alex Rodriguez will return to the Yankees in light of the recent Biogenesis allegations.
Phil Hughes may never find the consistency or promised that he was touted to have once upon a time, and if traded, he may very well become the star pitcher that he was once predicted to be. The bottom line is that the Yankees will not be able to afford to keep him after the conclusion of this season. As low as his value may be, it is still worth it to try and shop him, to get something back to help the team this year, and boost a 2014 bench that will still have the remnants of Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells sitting on it, as well as a continually slumping Tex and aging ARod. Verdict: Hughes is a likely candidate to be wearing another jersey before the end of the season.