Understanding the Twins’ side of the Hughes-Ellsbury debate

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While most Yankees and even most Red Sox fans would agree that Phil Hughes has a higher ceiling than Jacoby Ellsbury, the Twins haven’t been too quick to pull the trigger on any Johan Santana deals with Hughes as the centerpiece. In an excellent post, Twins blogger extraordinaire Aaron Gleeman analyzes why the Twins may prefer the Ellsbury package:

Ellsbury can’t compete with Hughes’ upside, but his downside might be more palatable and it’s probably safer to assume that he’ll at least have a good, long career.

Factor in the Twins’ outstanding organization-wide pitching depth and their gaping hole in center field, and it’s not difficult to see why they might value Hughes less and Ellsbury more than most other teams.

In the long run, Gleeman notes that Hughes is a much better trophy than Ellsbury, but the risk may be too much for the seemingly risk-averse Twins.

Hughes’ ceiling is that of a true ace who could literally replace Santana at the top of the rotation in time, but he’d add to what’s already an area of strength for the Twins and there’s more risk that he’ll flop completely whether because of injuries or performance…

They’d be smart to go after the one player who clearly gives them the best chance to come away from the Santana deal with a superstar. In other words, Phil Hughes.

Basically, Gleeman, an impartial observer to the Yanks’ and Red Sox’s shenanigans, would rather see Hughes in Minnesota, but he understands why the Twins seem drawn to an offer that we all believe is inferior to the one put forward by the Yanks. And that is just one of the many reasons why we would rather see Hughes stay in New York.

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  • B

    How about the Twins just prefer the Red Sox best offer because it’s the better package?

    Hughes over Ellsbury, sure, but Lowrie, Masterson, and a fourth prospect TBD more than outweigh Melky (whom we’ve consistently heard from the onset ’til now the Twins aren’t high on at all) and Marquez.

    There is far more involved here than just looking at the biggest name on each side like far too many people are doing.

    • steve (different one)

      not necessarily.

      when trading for prospects, i would (generally) prefer the package with the highest-ceiling player.

      in other words, i’d rather have a dollar and 3 dimes than 4 quarters.

      now, given the organizational needs of the Twins, i can understand why they’d want an Ellsbury-centered package. that makes sense.

      but in general, i don’t know if i would say the Sox package is “better” simply b/c the best player in either package is Phil Hughes. that means something.

      • B

        The overall quality of the best Sox package — especially if that fourth player is anything decent — is better than the Yankees’ overall quality. It has more depth, it has a higher level of cumulative talent. I’m not really sure it’s debateable either, unless we’re going to act like homers. Hughes is great, but he’s one player and his value as a pitcher, over Ellsbury, an everyday position player, just isn’t a great enough gap to make up for the Sox’s package’s depth.

        If you’re a team like the Yankees, you can afford to look at deals and just want the one big chip, even if there’s not a like they like coming with him. The Twins don’t have that luxury.

  • snoop dogg resident

    i gotta say that i was all for trading hughes fo santana but that article from the perspective of a non-yankee fan/third party so favorable to hughes has me thinking a lot.

  • Miles Roche

    Baseball America released it’s Top 10 Prospects list and complete Yankees farm breakdown. check it out!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Miles: We had BA’s Top Ten Prospects two weeks ago. Please try to keep comments on topic in the threads.

      • Miles Roche

        Dearest Ben,
        I’ve seen the Top 10 on this lovely site 2 weeks ago and all the thanks in the world to you guys, but i’m talking about the complete package, Best Tools, Projected 2011 Lineup, etc.
        So please apologize!… (just kidding)

  • A-Point

    If the Twins really prefered the Red Sox offer, why isn’t it a done deal yet?

    The other prospects that the Sox are offering are OK, but not great. They shorten the package when including Ellsbury who I bet will be more flop than pop, to three players. Lester isn’t going to be a great pitcher, which is why the Red Sox are willing to give him up and he has been talked about in every trade talk they bring up.

    I would not care if Santana goes to Boston for a package deal other than it will show BSmith to be an utter idiot if he accepts the Red Sox package as it is. Santana will see his numbers inflate in Fenway.

    The Red Sox package is weak, the Yankee package is closer to what the Twins seem to want, but they want to have insurance for the top pitching offer to include another top pitching prospect that has shown he can pitch.

    The Twins have just out priced what they think the value of Santana is. They failed to understand the sticking point of having to sign him to a long term deal as well as give up a lot of prospects. They are trying to fleece other teams, and their options are limited. BSmith isn’t going to last very long at that rate.

  • TurnTwo

    Waswatching has some commentary on a recent Yankees Hot Stove report on YES, in which Dave Eiland believes that when looking at the Holy Trinity, IPK is actually best suited to succeed in pinstripes over Joba or Hughes for 2008. He went on to say that while IPK’s ceiling isnt as high as Hughes, he has full command of all 4 pitches he throws, whereas Hughes has control of only 2-2.5 pitches.

    There is a lot as fans that we dont know about these guys yet. We can take their small sample sizes and project value to statistics, but we arent privy to all of the information. If Eiland comes public with info like this, who’s to say that it may take Hughes another full season or two to develop complete command of pitches 3 and 4, at the earliest?

    There is a reason why Gene Michaels reportedly ok’d the Hughes inclusion in a Johan trade… we as fans are penciling 12-15 wins for Phil next season, but maybe, due to his ongoing development, Eiland, Michaels, and the organization doesnt see him there yet… and by the time he gets there, 1-2-3 years down the road, we can have Johan as the proven commodity, and have the organization develop the next ‘Phil Hughes’ without rushing the next prospect, like Brackman or Betances, like they needed to do last year with Phil…

    just kind of thinking out loud a bit… but i still think too many people are guaranteeing far too much from Hughes for next year without knowing all the facts.

    • Jen Hughes

      Nobody is guaranteeing anyting from Hughes. But if you look at things objectively, you’d see that he pitched very well at times and does have a high ceiling. IF you take that into account, along with the upcoming outfield needs of the Yankees after this year, and the risk in giving a pitcher, albeit a great pitcher, a 6 or 7 year contract for over 20 million a year – add all that up, and what you have is a combustible situation. There’s a lot that can go wrong there.

      If you don’t make the deal, you keep your prospects, get a better look at Hughes, and save all of that money to invest in pitching, outfielders, or both. No one is questioning how good Santana is, the question is can the Yankees afford to send off the gem of the system and a solid/young/ cheap outfield and other prospects AND pay Santana given the current state of the team. Reasonable yankee fans say no.

      • TurnTwo

        “the question is can the Yankees afford to send off the gem of the system and a solid/young/ cheap outfield and other prospects AND pay Santana given the current state of the team.”

        the actual answer is yes, of course they can afford it. they have other high-ceiling pitching prospects not named Hughes; they have better young, OF prospects with higher ceilings than Melky in Tabata and AJax; and they have the cash to pay Johan, this year and going forward.

        its just that for some reason, strangely obsessive Yankees fans have some sort of mental block against taking a very calculated risk watching the best pitcher in the league on their team for the next 5-7 years

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          I’m not going out on a limb when I say that in 5 years Johan Santana definitely won’t be the best pitcher in baseball.

          • Realist

            Thank youe for that VERY insightful statement. It is very true and I don’t believe Santana is the best pitcher in baseball now…let alone 5 years , $100 plus mil , Melky , Hughes and the rest of the aforementioned Yankees “best offer”

        • Jen Hughes

          The question is this:

          Would you rather have Johan Santana and the 7 years at 22 million plus the luxury tax hit (equivalent to 30 mil per year in total) minus Hughes/ Melky/ the other prospect(s)?


          Keep Hughes/ Melky/ others and keep the money to be able to make necessary moves within the year and past this year to improve the team.

          Scenario 1 is the Yankees of the 80’s chasing the big name. Scenario 2 is a new way of patience, taking a wait and see approach with their youngsters and maintaining the flexibility to make a move if need be. Getting Santana isn’t a guarantee to win. Hughes isn’t a guarantee to be great. The difference is if you get Santana and don’t win, you are a major disappointment. If you keep Hughes and he sucks, you can still make plenty of other moves with the money and the prospects.

          • TurnTwo

            it has become so cliche to just simply throw out “that is SO the old way the yankees did things” that i wonder how many people really even know what that means.

            this is just simply not the way the old yankees regime would take care of business. you’re not selling the farm to bring in old, fading stars. you’re trading a high ceiling prospect for a pitcher who currently is in his prime, and will be, as averages would tell us, for at least the next 4 years.

            is it chasing a big name? sure, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that its moreso because the yankees need the big name to draw fans and sell tickets, and less because they think they can improve their club for now, and for the near future, by adding a multiple cy young award-winning pitcher to the front of the rotation.

            you’ve got the means to pay the contract, and the farm system depth to be able to move the prospect. this isnt the ’80’s at all.

            • Jen Hughes

              Look forget about new way and old way. The bottom line is throwing a 7 year deal for almost $30 mil per (including lux tax) is risky enough in and of itself. How many of those 7 year deals have worked? Forgetting about the players they’d have to give up right now, and that deal alone is a major albatross that could sink the team for years. That contract will preclude them from signing a MArk Texiera or outfielders. Yes, they do have contracts coming off the books next year. They are also paying Mariano 15mil per year and posada is getting a boatload. They are now paying arod approximately 12 million more per year. The fact is they will be paying an extra 40% on every contract now for luxury tax. Signing Santana just pumps that figure even higher, and a 6 or 7 year deal gives them too much risk.

              Now add in the fact you are giving away the gem of the organization for the right to over-pay Santana and bear that risk and that contract, and it becomes too much. Hughes isn’t a guy in AA or even AAA that looks good. He’s a guy who pitched in the majors last year and looked very good at times. At times he looked bad, but remember he was coming back from leg injuries. His velocity increased as the season went on, which stands to reason his leg injuries inhibited his ability to push off the rubber and get velocity. Once he got his velocity back, his location came back – and he pitched outstandingly.

              So why trade away a guy like this who has shown he can pitch very well at the MAjor League level (and is cheap for another 5 years) for a guy who is the best, but also 29 and wants a 7 year deal for 20+ mil?

              The answer is for 2008 – and you, TurningTwo, only seem to care about 2008. Yes Santana makes them better in 2008, but what about after than when the outfield and infield gets old and can’t run or cover ground? OH that’s right, we have Alberto Gonzalez lol I’m very happy you, TurningTwo, are not the GM of the Yankees. With your line of thinking it sounds like you should run the MUTS, you’d fit right in.

              • TurnTwo

                this is where you are just wrong… this contract wouldnt preclude them from signing anyone, including Texiera next year or an OF, should they feel the need to.

                they’ve got Abreu coming off the books, along with Giambi after 2008… if they need to upgrade, they can reallocate Abreu’s $16 mill and Giambi’s $22 million accordingly going forward, but then thats only if Tabata and AJax, Duncan and Miranda dont develop as many in the organization believe they can… and dont forget, Jorge will be spending time at 1B and DH toward the end of his contract, so it is unlikely they are all of a sudden going to throw a long term deal to a 1B after this upcoming season if he proves to be too expensive.

                and as the OF becomes older and less athletic, those contracts of Damon and Matsui are off the books after 2009, clearing even more payroll, again if your prospects dont pan out… and with Damon and Matsui signed, they are in LF through 2009 whether they can still track down baseballs or not.

                and they are only paying a percentage of luxury tax on the payroll should it exceed a certain established limit, which is increasing itself a substantial amount each of the next couple years. with the infusion of prospects in the staff, bullpen, and eventually around the field, its no guarantee they’ll even have to pay the luxury tax anymore.

                and this insistence that Johan only makes us better in 2008 is absurd. he’s been a top 5 pitcher each of the last 4 years… he’s in the prime of his career, and has shown no serious signs of physical breakdown.

                will he be the same at 34 as he is at 29? perhaps not… but would you say that Andy Pettitte is as good at 35 as he was at 28? the numbers, and your eyes from watching the games, would say that he’s pretty darn close, and he had documented structural issues in his pitching elbow.

                but to say that Johan is guaranteed to breakdown or anticipate that he will all of a sudden become Colter Bean because he turned 34 or 35 years old is as unwarranted as it is to say that Phil Hughes is guaranteed to produce as well in 4 years that what Johan can give your club. we have no clue of knowing that.

                and in the meantime, the organization will continue its draft strategies that have made the past couple seasons such a success, as well as look to Japan, Latin America, and abroad for the best talent that is on the foreign market to develop the next line of positional and pitching prospects for the future of the organization.

                thats why all of this is a calculated risk, and one the yankees have no problem making. why Yankees fans continue to insist on whining about the Yankees payroll is beyond me. you want to worry about the payroll, go root for the Rays or the Marlins.

                • Realist

                  Lol , no foresight at all! What a pity!

  • http://yankeesetc.blogspot.com/ Travis G.

    well, if the commenters on that site are any indication of Twins fans, they would much rather have Hughes than Ellsbury. they know who the better player/package is. but i still hope Santana ends the year in Minny.

  • bkight

    If it comes down to Ellsbury is the best they can get, the Twins shouldn’t do the trade. I think speedy Cfers are pretty easy to find and if by some chance the Twins start off hot, Santana at the top of the rotation is pretty nice. Trading Santana at the deadline if they are out of it would probably bring more.

  • marc

    i’m all for keeping Phil “where did my velocity go, mustve beent hat jason gimabi ‘parasite'” hughes

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Haven’t heard that one before. Clever :)

  • Bo

    The Twins want Ellsbury and Lester/Bucholz.

    They are not making Ellsbury the center of any deal without one of the pitchers. He’s not a cant miss 5 tool prospect.

    • TurnTwo

      right… the comparable, and prob better, package to Hughes/Melky is not Coco/Lester, but Ellsbury/Bucholtz. anything short of including Bucholtz, and whatever package includes Hughes is the best one.

  • nick blasioli

    of course the twins want hughes over ellsbury….hughes replaces santana in the rotation…melky can play a decent cf..and the twins are still in contention…i hope the yanks make the deal some how….it is the first time ever in all my years as a yankee fan that they were afraid of dealing because of the money…there is something wrong with this picture…

    • Jen Hughes

      Wrong Nick, it’s not that they are afraid of money. It’s the combination of the length of the contract, and $ amount of the contract, and the players they are giving up for him. Have you not watched baseball the last 7 years? Young, cheap pitching is what builds winners, not expensive aces with lots of innings on their arms. I’m not saying Santana won’t be great, but the risk of getting him and getting burned on the deal is greater than the risk of not getting him, because even if Hughes and the other prospects they’d give up stink, they still have that money to throw around. And they will need that money with the way their outfield looks.

  • Rob_in_CT

    If the Twins can get Elsbury + Lowrie + something else good, that’s not a bad idea for them. They do need position players more than they need pitching.

    If you ignore the Twins strengths and weaknesses as an organization, you can object and say Hughes is the best chip on the table. Sure. But there are reasons to go for the Sox package.

    Ugh. I just want this to be over.

  • snoop dogg resident

    Wait a second – last time i checked the yankees still had plenty of young cheap pitchers. the fact that 3/5 of their rotation maybe even 4/5 behind santana in 2009 will be making low money (wang will hit arbitration i believe but will not get huge money)

    having young inexpensive pitching on its way helps afford johan. even if he gets 20 million – your entire starting staff fo 2009 could be a total salary of under 30 million depending on whether they sign a free agent to take up a spot

    as much as i love hughe, the yankees are absolutly set up to make this trade between the prospects to trade, the prospects left, and all the money falling off the payroll next season

    for the life of me though, i just cant agree with the argument as to why the twins may prefer the Sox offer. If smith is going to make a deal trying to minimize his chance of failure rather than take a chance on a potential Ace than he is a horrible GM

  • snoop dogg resident

    trading a star player in baseball is like dafting. you take the most talent available – you dont look to fill needs – that is what leads to bad trades

  • nick blasioli

    hey jan…have you ever heard of j. beckett…the winning pitcher in the ws for boston..who used to pitch for the fish…just one example and i am sure there are alot more..santana is the answer…the yankees have not done one thing to improve their team from last year…thats why they need to make the deal and improve…..

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      And what exactly have the Red Sox done to improve?


  • snoop dogg resident

    Go bak even further nick

    first there was pedro that brought the sox back to respectability

    than schillling who helped them win WS number 1

    and then beckett

  • Lanny

    I think the Yanks are just waiting the Sox out. And the Sox by bluffing have now hurt their chances to trade Crisp and get some value for him.

    They do not want to go into the yr with Crisp fighting Ellsbury for the CF job.

  • Lanny

    I’d like Santana too but is one free yr of him and 7 yrs and 20 mill worth 7 free yrs each of Hughes and Melky?

    Our starting CF and a legit ace type SP who has proven playoff success in NY?

  • Rich

    If it means keeping Phil Hughes, I would be thrilled to see the Twins trade Santana to the Sox.

  • TurnTwo

    considering they just won the World Series with the roster that they have, and then take into consideration what the market actually had to offer this offseason, what did they have to gain by adding someone from the FA market, or trading for a new stud pitcher or position player?

    its not ‘exactly’ at all.

    they didnt have the roster turnover like they did after 2004 because their team is essentially locked in for 2008 already, so for them, its minor tweaking in the bullpen, maybe adding depth to the bench.