Feb
15

Phil Hughes and his waivers problem

By

One of the popular themes during this slow time of the offseason is trying to figure out what happens to the loser of the fifth starter competition. Since most assume that Joba Chamberlain is going to win the job, it means the Yankees must decide what to do with their other young righty, Phil Hughes. I would prefer to see him sent to the bullpen so he can continue to develop against big leaguers while improving the team’s relief corps, but others want him sent to the minors so he can work as a starter and build up his innings. Either way, there’s going to be a point during the season that sending Hughes down to Triple-A Scranton to work on things isn’t going to be as easy as it seems.

As best as I can tell, Hughes still has one of his three option years remaining. He didn’t use one in 2007 because he was on the Major League disabled list after popping his hammy in Texas, and the handful of rehab appearances he made before rejoining the team in August don’t count as an optional assignment. However, the Yanks did burn an option on Hughes in 2008 when they kept him in the minors for about a month after he came back from his rib injury, and they burned another last year when they sent him to Triple-A to start the season. That’s all well and good, but there comes a time in a player’s career when time in the Majors trumps option years.

Whether he has that one option left, or even two or three, at a point early in the 2010 season, the Yankees will be unable to send him to the minors without first passing him through waivers. From Keith Law’s guest post at Baseball Analysts

There is a rule rarely invoked in baseball that creates a situation where a player who has options remaining still has to clear waivers to be sent on an optional assignment. If the assignment is to begin at least three full calendar years from the date of the player’s first appearance on a 25-man roster, then the player can not be sent on an optional assignment without first clearing major league waivers.

Obviously, KLaw’s article is more than three years old, but I checked the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and the rule is unchanged. As for Hughes, he first appeared on the Yankees’ 25-man roster on April 26th, 2007, the day he made his first big league start against a current teammate at home. So according to this rule, if the Yanks wanted to send Hughes to minors at any point after April 26th of this year, he would first have to clear waivers.

The good news is that these waivers are revocable, so if a team were to claim Hughes, the Yanks could pull him back without a problem. However, Hughes wouldn’t be able to go to the minors since he didn’t clear waivers, and if the Yanks were to place him on waivers again, well those are irrevocable. It’s the same deal as trade waivers in August. First time a player is put on waivers, they’re revocable, but the second time, not so much. So if someone puts in a claim that first time through, the Yankees wouldn’t be able to send Hughes down to the minors the rest of the season because he would surely be plucked off irrevocable waivers, likely by the team with the highest waiver priority. No one in their right mind would risk losing a 23-year-old pitcher like that.

KLaw mentions in the article that players usually clear these revocable waivers without incident, which is good. However the same could be said about trade waivers in August, yet the Yankees went ahead and screwed with the Red Sox (and Mets) by claiming Chris Carter last year. That move forced the Sox to designate another player for assignment a week later, something they surely didn’t want to do. After that episode last year, perhaps the Red Sox brass would look to return the favor (so to speak) by claiming Hughes and ensuring that he’s stuck in the bigs the rest of the year.

The Yanks will face the same issue with Joba Chamberlain this year as well, except his target date is August 7th. In the end, this probably isn’t really a big deal, because chances are the Yanks won’t be sending Hughes or Joba down at any point during the season. But it’s something to keep in mind, because once these two reach their three-year anniversaries, sending them to the minors isn’t going to be as easy as everyone thinks. Like it or not, Phil Hughes is probably in the big leagues to stay after April 26th.

Photo Credit: Tony Dejak, AP

Categories : Pitching

64 Comments»

  1. “Since most assume that Joba Chamberlain is going to win the job, it means the Yankees must decide what to do with their other young righty, Phil Hughes.”

    Hate to play devils advocate here, but I’ve seen plenty of pieces saying it’s a toss up, or that Hughes has the edge. I only bring this up because RAB has been saying for weeks now that Joba is the favorite, but when you leave RAB and go to other sites like NoMass, LoHud, or any other blog or site, it seems to be a different story.

    • So anyway, I’m not trying to criticize or complain, just trying to point out something I saw. For example, the NoMaas poll had it split 57% to 43% for Hughes over Joba, but the poll here on Friday’s chat was leaning towards Joba heavily. Just an observation, don’t butcher me.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

        so Lincoln looks around at his Cabinet, and says “ok, Civil War. Let’s vote. Nays?”

        …and 12 hands go up.

        He looks solemnly at his notes, crosses his hands, looks up and says “Democracy in action. 12-1. Looks like I win.”

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      I’m sure that NoMaas has a clever little photoshop picture to go with it, like God (Philthy’s face) casting Lucifer (Joba with a hat on) down into Hades (the bullpen).

      • Not at all, they had 3 posts on the topic. The first was an article explaining why Joba would be the better choice. The second explained why Hughes would be the better choice. The 3rd was the poll.

        It was as scientific (as possible for NoMass lol) as they could have done.

    • Zack says:

      Yet another reason RAB >>>>> NoMass, LoHud, etc

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      I’m willing to bet a lot of commenters from those blogs advocating for Phil have no patience and proclaimed Joba a bust.

      And they’re saying something about how Joba’s mentality can’t handle starting.

      Taking away stupidity like that it seems that Joba still has a slight advantage.

      • Well don’t you think that’s what most casual fans think to begin with? They read in the Daily News or here Mike Francesa claim Joba is bound for the pen and not set to be a starter and they don’t even give it more thought than that.

        It’s only the fans that frequent blogs and forums and put real thought in the pitchers that begin to see the differences for what they really are.

        With that, I still think it’s closer than many people think it is. But we’ll all see in a few weeks anyway.

        • DP says:

          Well don’t you think that’s what most casual fans think to begin with?

          Sure do. Fortunately, I don’t think Girardi, Cashman, Eiland, etc. etc. give a shit.

      • andrew says:

        Either way, whether or not the other people have altered senses of reality or invalid reasoning for their views, it still doesn’t change the issue at hand. The article didn’t say “most educated people believe…” it just said “most.”

    • todd says:

      i think the odds of hughes being the starter are at least 90%. it’s his job to lose because chamberlain is a bona fide reliever who hasn’t shown over any length of time his ability to go thru the order multiple time, retain his 95+mph fastball or develop his slider for strikes. Hughes will be a 5 starter and work out problems if they arise or lose the spot. no chance he’s in the bullpen after last year’s playoffs where he was afraid to let loose. he needs to much heart for the bp and he doesn’t have it yet.

      • joe says:

        Yeah Todd that really makes a whole lot of sense. Lets develop useless relievers to put in our bullpen like Joba Chamberlain to pitch 1 lousy inning so we can do the Red Sox a favor when they are developing starting pitchers like Lester and Bucholz. Let me ask you something where is the Jon Lester in the Yankees rotation? and don’t give me some kind of crap like C.C. Sabathia. I am talking about a young ace that the Red Sox have developed that we have not. As much as I love the Yankees I am tired of them buying starters. Have both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain start so long term we are not down 5-0 in a game where Lester is pitching against vazquez.

    • matt says:

      joba in the pen!!

  2. Sweet Lou says:

    I’m sure that this is a view not held by many, but I wish that the Yankees had left the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation for Joba and Hughes and either not resign Petitte or trade for Vazquez. I would take the risk of not making the playoffs this year and have both Hughes and Joba become entrenched starters for the long term benefit.

    • I felt that way until they traded for Vazquez. I want both Hughes and Joba to be starters long term but having Vazquez only adds depth and makes the staff better.

      And to get through the season with only 5 starters is next to impossible. (08 Rays, I know)

      Still, it would be nice to see Hughes and Joba both start, but it’s also risky.

    • LarryM, FL. says:

      Sweet Lou: Maybe another possibility is having Hughes as the long guy out of the bullpen achieving some 120 innings if possible. This assumes the pen has the ability to do without his 8th inning usage.

      I suggested a 120 innings just based on an increase of last years usage and being the 5th starter in’11. Who knows either one of the pair could bomb but I seriously doubt it. They pitched on the big stage and revaled their improving abilities.

      • LarryM, FL. says:

        The yanks were pretty healthy in the rotation last year. So Mr. Hughes may get more than expected if he’s odd man out but first to be called.

    • Pasqua says:

      I’ve always thought that it would be a dream come true to see ONE of these guys (Joba or Hughes) meet their potential and become good-to-great MLB starting pitchers. The notion that both of them would succeed seems like a pipe dream (since so few prospects actually materialize). Therefore, I’m actually glad that there’s only one spot open in the rotation. A lot would have to go right to see both of them blossom as starters, let alone at the same time.

  3. Chris says:

    I assume that if Hughes is sent down at the start of the year, he could remain in the minors past the April 26th date? Assuming that’s the case, then I don’t think it really plays into what happens coming out of Spring Training. If Hughes (or Joba) goes to AAA, then this may change the way they are handled if there is a short term opening in the rotation, since the Yankees likely wouldn’t want to bring them up for 1 or 2 starts and then risk a waiver claim to send them back down.

    Also, are the waiver lists the same? In other words, if the Yankees tried to send Hughes down to AAA and he was claimed on waivers, would the Yankees then be unable to put him on waivers during the August trading period because if would be irrevocable?

    Finally, my thoughts on what should happen with the loser of the 5th starter race. I am a strong believer that whoever loses that competition should go to AAA as a starter. The Yankees are likely (nearly guaranteed) to need a 6th starter at some point in the season, and I like the idea of that 6th starter being Hughes or Joba instead of Gaudin or Mitre. Considering how hesitant the Yankees seem to be about moving a pitcher from the pen to the rotation in midseason, you’d basically be consigning the loser to the pen for the entire season. If all 5 starters are healthy and pitching well come June, then you consider calling him up to fill out the pen, but I don’t think that decision should be made in March.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Yes, if they send him down before April 26th, he can stay down. I’m not sure about the whole trade waivers thing though. I’m willing to bet they’re different though, trade waivers vs. option waivers (or whatever they’re called).

    • Of all the reasons to keep the loser of the 5th starter competition in AAA, I find the utility of having either Hughes or Joba in AAA ready to step into MLB as a replacement starter to be the least persuasive.

      There are two situations in which the Yanks might/will probably need a replacement starter – short-term or long-term.

      If the Yanks need a short-term replacement starter, then the relative utility of keeping Hughes/Joba in AAA for that situation is next to nothing. It would be much more valuable to have Hughes/Joba on the MLB team, even if one of them is pitching out of the bullpen, than it would be to keep one of them in AAA to come up and be a short-term fill-in. Letting Mitre or Gaudin or Aceves be the short-term fill-in, instead of recalling Hughes, for example, from AAA for a few starts, isn’t going to change things much – and in all likelihood it isn’t going to come close to changing things enough that it’s less valuable to the Yanks than having Hughes in the MLB ‘pen.

      If the Yanks need a long-term replacement starter, then I totally disagree with your blanket assumption that since the Yanks are hesitant to move a pitcher from the bullpen to the rotation, that Hughes/Joba would not be stretched out to fill that role. If they are the best/only option to fill that role and the Yanks are (Mo forbid) facing a situation in which they need a starter for a few months, I think it’s unreasonable to think the Yanks wouldn’t then start stretching out the bullpen pitcher, even if it takes 2-3 weeks to accomplish, in order to get that guy safely transitioned into the rotation.

      Now, this isn’t to say there is no utility in sending the odd-man-out down to AAA – I’ve long been a proponent of the AAA idea (although, as I’ve admitted recently, I’m much less sure of my position than I was a few months ago) – but I think that utility is almost wholly found in getting the odd-man-out his innings so that his development isn’t stunted and he is able to step into the MLB rotation, when needed, and pitch without innings-limits, I don’t think that utility is found in this replacement starter idea.

      • “… and in all likelihood it isn’t going to come close to changing things enough that it’s less valuable it’ll offset/outweigh the value to the Yanks than of having Hughes in the MLB ‘pen.”

        (Fixed, I think… That was written terribly.)

      • Chris says:

        If they are the best/only option to fill that role and the Yanks are (Mo forbid) facing a situation in which they need a starter for a few months, I think it’s unreasonable to think the Yanks wouldn’t then start stretching out the bullpen pitcher, even if it takes 2-3 weeks to accomplish, in order to get that guy safely transitioned into the rotation.

        This assertion goes against the Yankee’s recent history. When Wang went down last year, it was known pretty quickly that he was down for the year. Instead of taking the time to transition Hughes back to the rotation, they left him in the pen for the remainder of the season. If they weren’t willing to do it last season, why would it be any different this season.

        The other thing that I didn’t make completely clear is that having Hughes (or Joba) in the pen the entire season would only give him 70 or so innings on the year. If he’s going to be a starter long term, then he needs to start increasing his inning total. Spending half the season starting in AAA and the remainder of the season in the pen would give him about 130-140 innings, which would be an excellent foundation for being a starter full time in 2011.

        • “The other thing that I didn’t make completely clear is that having Hughes (or Joba) in the pen the entire season would only give him 70 or so innings on the year. If he’s going to be a starter long term, then he needs to start increasing his inning total. Spending half the season starting in AAA and the remainder of the season in the pen would give him about 130-140 innings, which would be an excellent foundation for being a starter full time in 2011.”

          This part I agree with, as I said above. I think the innings-pitched argument is pretty persuasive, but that’s different than the replacement-starter concept.

          “This assertion goes against the Yankee’s recent history. When Wang went down last year, it was known pretty quickly that he was down for the year. Instead of taking the time to transition Hughes back to the rotation, they left him in the pen for the remainder of the season. If they weren’t willing to do it last season, why would it be any different this season.”

          I don’t know, maybe you’re right. I wouldn’t totally rely on what happened in 2009, though. The situation’s different this year, since these guys are all a year older. The older they get, the more the Yanks are going to want to get them into the MLB rotation if/when they can.

          Again, though… All I was discussing was my opinion about the importance of the replacement-starter concept. I wasn’t arguing, as I said above, that the odd-man-out should definitely be in the MLB bullpen to start 2010. I also never said that there’s no utility in having one of those guys in AAA as a possible replacement starter… My point is that the replacement starter concept, in my mind, is the weakest of the arguments regarding this issue. We have to keep in mind that there is a good deal of utility in having those guys on the MLB roster – it’s valuable both to the Yankees because they get the use of their best pitchers and to the pitcher since he gets to work against MLB hitters. In that context, when comparing all of the competing interests, I think the replacement starter concept pretty clearly looks like one of the less persuasive arguments.

          • camilo Gerardo says:

            “This part I agree with, as I said above. I think the innings-pitched argument is pretty persuasive, but that’s different than the replacement-starter concept.”

            It’s different, Moreover ’tis complimentary argumentative.

            Additionally, secondary pitches can be worked on while facing professional batters 3 or more times an outing in the S-WB situation. They both could currently have show Change ups, but this way, who’s to stop them from experimenting with the palm or hybrid circle? eh? cabron?

            • Yes, secondary pitches can be worked on in SWB. I happen to think it would be much more beneficial to work in MLB than to blow away hitters in AAA, but yeah, they can work on secondary pitches down in AAA. I never implied any of the arguments on this issue are conclusive – I never said there’s no value to having them work on their pitches in AAA.

  4. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    How much chocolately goodness would it be if Meattray or Gaudin surprises everyone coming out of ST and really shines–and becomes the defacto “next starter” out of the pen? THCM points out fairly well the marginal utility of Hughes over those two (those two as remembered last year) and in comparison to Phil’s ‘pen role, I think there is a much larger delta…does that fly in the face of the utility as starter vs reliever role? Mmmm…maybe, but not quite as much as a career long argument would be–think counting stat vs rate stat (a la WAR).

    Plus who knows what non-ring knocker is going to show up opening day shocking all of us at the new hero unknown reliever? :)

  5. ledavidisrael says:

    Don’t Beat Me.
    But I think this makes Hughes in the minors all season a better look for the team.
    If he was on the team for this next post season. Would that make him have no options next year?

  6. Mr.Jigginz says:

    Before the articles were posted,the NoMaas writers(not sure it was all of them,but it seemed the concensus)were Pro-Hughes to get the 5th….I agree that the articles they posted were fair and balanced,however their original opinions may have swayed some voters…I’m just sayin’.

    • andrew says:

      yea. i know what you’re saying, but it works both ways. Maybe the readers already liked Hughes, which explains why they like NoMaas. Could be either one.

  7. Johnny says:

    He won’t be sent down at all. He will pitch from the bullpen.

  8. Johan Iz My Brohan says:

    I like Vazquez in the rotation a lot, but I wish the Yankees would have gone into the season with Joba and Hughes pitching in the 4th and 5th spots. I just hate seeing a talent like Hughes being wasted for a year, hopefully he’ll get like 5 starts though.

    • scooter says:

      I know exactly what you’re saying – but someone here brought up the big reason I love acquiring Javy: the workload of our 3 playoff starters. There’s always a chance for a hangover – and acquiring a guy who will give you 200 innings like Javy is really smart.

      If the guy who loses the Phil/Joba battle becomes Mariano’s setup guy in 2010, it’s really hard for me to imagine the Yankees giving that guy a start – unless one of the big 4 is out early in the season, and the Yankees can acquire a guy to set up Mo.

  9. Rose says:

    Girardi and company are still saying the other guys (Aceves, Gaudin, Mitre) are in the competition as well. Now I buy that one of them is going to win the spot…it might just be good to say that for motivation for the other guys…but what I get from that is…we still have 3 decent spot starters. Therefore, if Joba/Phil goes to the bullpen…we still have a spot starter or fill in just in case somebody goes down with an injury. Will one of those 3 be a better or more impactful replacement than Joba or Hughes? No. But it will still seemingly do the trick. And the Yankees are waiting until the end of the year with Jeter, Mariano, etc. They might want to have one of these guys in the bullpen just in case the worst case scenario happens and Mariano Rivera isn’t re-signed. They at least have a 1-2 punch combination in the 8th and 9th innings in 2011. Although, I don’t know how accurate that may be…just a thought perhaps.

    • Rose says:

      Now I don’t buy that one of them is going to win the spot…it might just be good to say that for motivation for the other guys…but what I get from that is…we still have 3 decent spot starters.

      Missed that one there…

    • Steve H says:

      If Mariano isn’t resigned, I wouldn’t consider Joba or Hughes to be the replacement. I’d still want to see them as starters and go out and get a closer in a trade or free agency. Or even, depending on 2010, someone within the system, D-Rob, Melancon, etc.

      • Pasqua says:

        I’m trying to imagine a scenario in which Mariano ISN’T resigned. It’s a dark, dark place. I don’t want to go there anymore.

  10. Hughesus Christo says:

    This looks like more reason to put one of them in AAA out of spring training. Any stretching out in case of emergency is going to be a clustermitre.

  11. Chip says:

    OK, so let’s say Pettitte goes down for a month in June and Hughes is in AAA. Could they call Hughes up for that month and send him back afterwards? I’m gathering from reading this article that it’s a no but they’ve already used an option so I’m not sure?

  12. Kenny F says:

    Assuming all goes well in spring training and all six starters are good to go, why not a rotation within the rotation between Andy, Joba, & Phil? Keep Andy fresh, hold the innings down for the young guys, and if any one of the six goes down for a time, no worries.

  13. themgmt says:

    That last line is a little misleading. Hughes is here to stay when he finally gets the call after April 26th. That could come at any point in the season, doesn’t have to be ‘here to stay’ on April 26th. It could be May 17th or August 8th.

    I’m sure most people understood it that way anyway, just saying.

  14. Mike W says:

    I don’t see what the confusion is about Joba or Hughes. Given the success both have had in the bull pen it seems obvious that whom ever fails to win a starting job, will go to the pen. I undestand the desire to get these guys innings because of their potential as starters, however at sometime the team needs to do what is best for the team. At this point I don’t see an heir apparent to Mariano and I believe either Joba or Hughes could fill that position. Hughes was fantastic last year until the end where he was average. I think he learned alot from that experience and will be better this year. Joba needs to show some progress this year. He pitched ok last year as a starter but he needs to learn how to last longer into games and finish off hitters.

    • Steve H says:

      They could be the heir apparent to Mo, but that would be a (potential) waste of a starting pitcher. CC could easily fill that position, but you don’t move him there if you lose Mo. You can find a closer, no point in making a starter into a closer just to fill a void.

    • camilo Gerardo says:

      I think it is premature to say that at this stage. You never know what the relievers will flash in ST like Melancon, R.Sanchez, Duffman et. al.

  15. camilo Gerardo says:

    anyone have any Pettitte predictions for the year? with his age, whip and sich, he may be our 5th/6th best starter this year. I know it’s unlikely, but at what point would the yanks take the ball from Andy? does time catch up to him sans injury, is what I’m asking

    • Zack says:

      Well it depends what they do with the loser of the 5th spot. If they put Joba/Phil in the bullpen as a set up guy then who are going to replace Andy with- Gaudin or Mitre?? Andy would probably need a brutual stretch of starts with like no velocity or not cut or something more than just bad numbers, not just a bad month either.

      • ralph says:

        “They could be the heir apparent to Mo, but that would be a (potential) waste of a starting pitcher. CC could easily fill that position, but you don’t move him there if you lose Mo. You can find a closer, no point in making a starter into a closer just to fill a void.”

        The biggest reason I agree is because neither of them is going to be Mo anyway. NO ONE will. It’s better to have them become (hopefully) 2 or 3 type starters than to put them in the bullpen and expect them to approximate Mo. Sign someone or hopefully one of the other minor leaguers develops into a good closer. I mean how many championships did Mo win them from 01 – 08. It’s starting pitching that wins playoff series the great majority of the time. They had great starting pitching until ’03 (or the last time they went to the WS, whichever you prefer). Is it coincidence that 09 was the first year they sniffed the ALCS since 04, let alone the WS?

        This is NOT to disparage Mariano AT ALL but he was there from 04 to 08 and we did nothing. Why? Because the starters gave up the game or were simply outpitched (mostly the former). Why we could not get the ball to Mo enough times in most cases had little to do with the set up men.

        THAT’s why you give Hughes and Joba at least a year each with no innings limits into starters (and if we weren’t in impatient NY at least 2 like every other team does). Take the kid gloves off 24yo Joba this year. Do it with 23yo Hughes next year or the following year.

  16. [...] At MLB Trade Rumors, Tim runs down his list of players who are out of options. My only issue is that it covers players not on the 40-man roster. The only way option status affects those players is if they make the team out of spring training, and then the team later wants to option the player. Since we’re not thinking quite that far ahead yet, we can just look at the 40-man and determine who has options and who does not. Remember, too, that a player who was added to the 25-man roster three years ago must clear waivers before being sent on an optional assignment. [...]

  17. Lanny says:

    You don’t send one of your best pitchers to the minor leagues because you want to get him innings. Especially when he showed he doesnt belong there. He has nothing left to prove in the minors. He has dominated minor league comp.

  18. Jerseys_Finest_85 says:

    I dont see what the problem is. Even though I like Hughes as a stater in the long run. He’s never pitched 100 innings he cant just jump into the 5th spot. Let him be the long-reliver and get his innings up this year. He dosent have to setup, thats Robertsons job. Joba very well might end up being the closer one day but he can pitch 200 innings this year, so turn him loose and see what he has. Hes only the fith starter so he dosent need to win 20 fucking games, id be happy with 12. If he dosent do the job well enought to be a 1, 2, or 3 put him in the bullpen next year and hughes will be stretched out enough by 2011 to be the 4th or 5th starter. Im more the ready to go to war with C.C, A.J, Vazquez and Andy. Having Joba Or Phil as a #5 is just a bonus….

  19. Joey says:

    I personally think this whole competition is a show and that Joba will “win” hands down. They didn’t go through all the Joba Rules and messing with his starts at the end of the last season to put him in the pen now. The reins are off now for Joba and they are going to give him a chance to start this year. Now if Joba fails this year and goes to the pen he goes there for good.
    That said, I want Hughes to start the year in AAA so he can work on his innings and if Joba can’t hack it as a starter or someone gets hurt he can step right in for a few starts even if it is just short term. If he is starting short term then he can go in the pen afterward cause he would already have a bunch of innings from starting in the majors and AAA.

  20. [...] Phil Hughes as well as his waivers complaint | River Avenue Blues [...]

  21. [...] does have at least one minor league option left as best I can tell, and the optional waivers thing isn’t really a problem. Apparently there’s a league-wide gentleman’s agreement in [...]

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