Hughes gives the Yanks the most options

Phil Hughes' Fifth Starter Case
Report: Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent

In the finale of his fifth starter series, Mike listed a number of good reasons why Phil Hughes should start the season in the rotation. He probably has a stronger case than both A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia if we consider only the role of fifth starter. This competition, though, is about more than just a single role on the starting staff. It’s about maximizing resources. The Yankees have three pitchers capable of handling that role. Their task is to figure out how to use all three to realize peak value.

In terms of flexibility, Hughes offers the Yankees more than both Garcia and Burnett. He has roughly 10 times the number of innings in relief than Garcia and Burnett combined, and he has fared extremely well in that role. Through 56.1 innings across 49 appearances, Hughes has produced the following numbers:

ERA: 1.44
H/9: 5.43
HR/9: 0.32
BB/9: 2.72
K/9: 11.2
K/BB: 4.12

Even if we regressed these numbers a bit, since Hughes hasn’t pitched the equivalent of a full season in the bullpen, he’d still come out looking like a setup man at worst. While he might produce the most overall value in a starting role, the Yankees as a team might better deploy their resources, at least in terms of 2012, by using Hughes in the bullpen and one of Burnett and Garcia as the fifth starter. Combined with Hughes’s spotty track record as a starter and the Yankees’ depth in terms of back of the rotation pitchers, they could certainly choose to move Hughes now.

Hughes could also provide value to the Yankees via trade. Considering his age and salary, they could certainly get more in return for Hughes than they could for Burnett or Garcia. If they’re looking for a player they could use as the primary DH in 2012, and perhaps as an outfielder or DH in the future, they could use Hughes as trade bait.

The issue here is that Hughes is at the nadir of his value. In the early years he retained top prospect status, even though his performance disappointed. Even after 2010, despite his rough finish, he had more value than he does now. While the Yankees might be able to obtain a worthwhile player in exchange for Hughes, it’s still not good business to sell low on a relatively young player.

Looking around the league, though, there don’t seem to be many players available who 1) could help the Yankees’ current situation, and 2) cost little more than Hughes and a mid-level prospect. Teams do place their own values on players, so perhaps there is a match somewhere out there. But taking what we know, any match appears rough. Perhaps a reclamation project could make sense, but it’s hard to see the Yankees getting a legitimate bat in exchange for Hughes by himself.

While Hughes does present a solid case to take over the fifth starter job, the Yankees as a team might benefit more by using him in another role. He has a far better bullpen track record than Burnett and Garcia, and has more value to other teams in a trade. This could lead the Yankees to use him in one of those two capacities, while trotting out Burnett or Garcia every five days. It might not be an ideal situation, but it’s the one they have right now. As we’ve said since the Pineda trade and the Kuroda signing, it’s the best of problems to have.

Phil Hughes' Fifth Starter Case
Report: Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent
  • Tomm


    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      Really ?

  • CMP

    I don’t think anyone should discount that fact that Burnett could be good in a bullpen role too. His velocity easily could tick up to 94-95 letting it fly for one inning and the fact that he only has 2 pitches shouldn’t be a problem in the pen either. Plus he only has to concentrate for 1 inning and might be able to avoid those total meltdowns that seem to plague him every game.

    Besides, even if Hughes should fail again as a starter, it shouldn’t affect his value as a reliever.

  • Dick

    Doesn’t Hughes have one more option left? It might make sense to start him at AAA. Then he would be ready to come up if a starter got hurt or if someone like AJ self-destructs again. It would allow Hughes to work on developing his secondary pitches which he would not do as a big league reliever. It would keep him stretched out and ready. Plus, it would delay by a year him hitting free agency from 2014 to the 2015 season. That would be especially important if the Yankees want to get below 189 M for 2014.

    • Peter R


    • I Live in My Mom’s Basement

      Agree completely.

    • Bean Tooth

      That would have ramifications for an already crowded AAA rotation. Not that any shake-up among the group wouldn’t be worth it, but there are already five ML-ready or near-ready arms among the starters.

      • jsbrendog

        so then betances or banuelos gets a couple starts in aa before someone gets hrut and hughes gets called up. or warren goes to the pen. whatevs/

  • Tomm

    How can anyone say that Hughes should start over Garcia based on what we know now and based on what we saw last year? This is a purely sentimental argument. Garcia is a legend, Hughes is a nice kid who still has a lot to learn.

    • Adam Parker

      A legend? Maybe in his own mind.

      • Tomm
        • Adam Parker

          I love numbers, and those don’t make him a “legend”.

          • Tomm

            Venezuela has 30 million people, and all of them love and worship Freddy as if he were a God. There is a giant statue of Freddy in Caracas with the phrase: “King of all Kings” on it. He is best friends with the President, who he calls “Huge Hugo.”

            • jsbrendog

              this means absolutely jack shit. other things that don’t matter:

              how good of a person he is (he seems like a great one)
              how smart he is
              how many oreos he can fit in his mouth
              what size pants he wears
              his personality profile (EFMP>!>!>!>!>!>!?!?!?!)
              or anything else to do with anything that isn’t regarding baseball, the pitches he throws, and the health of the body parts he needs to pitch

            • CJ

              And Sydney Ponson is a knight in Aruba.

      • Tomm

        Ask Felix Hernandez, every Yankee fan’s fantasy pitcher. Did you know that Felix signed with the Mariners because Freddy also played with the Mariners? In Venezuela, Freddy is certainly a legend.

        • gc

          That’s great. You know what Freddy Garcia is in the United States? The country that invented baseball and has a population of 300 million?? NOT a legend.

          • Havok9120

            Nor should he be.

            I mean, I love the guy, but he’s a smoke and mirrors junkballer. He’s a very very skilled junkballer, but still a junkballer.

            What’s more he getting old, which is generally considered to be A Bad Thing. Stop bringing up non-sequiters and defend him on actual baseball grounds. There’s a reason that he was on the trash heap before he rehab’d his image last season, just as there’s a reason no one else appeared willing to pay more than four mil for the guy THIS season.

            • gc

              Uhhh, I agree with you. Reply fail on your part.

            • Tomm

              And you love him? This is the way you treat people you love? You’re a horrible lover.

              Freddy was hurt, this is why he was on the trash heap. He has also developed new skills. This is also why he was so cheap, people didn’t realize he had such good breaking stuff.

              The problem I have with Hughes is, he just doesn’t seem to be developing the breaking stuff. Why hasn’t he?

    • Cris Pengiucci

      based on what we know now and based on what we saw last year?

      (*Past performance is no guarantee offuture results)

      • Tomm

        What should we go on, if not what we know or have seen? If the kid is so good, let him earn it during spring training with his dazzling repertoire.

        • Kevin Winters

          I agree he should have to earn his spot. I have no problem with ppl that want to see him compete for the last rotaion slot. My beef is with fans that say “Hughes has to be the fifth starter” WTF so they should once again just give him a rotation spot no matter what.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          I personnaly think Freddy should get the 5th starting job. However, there is a very high likelyhood he won’t perform as he did last year. The team may also facto rin AJ’s solid early season starts the past 2 years and consider hima better option, allowing them to show-case him and formulate a trade. Or, they could look at Phil as playing a more prominent role than either of those 2 and feel that’s the best way to go. My point is, there are probably much larger plans in play here. Because Freddy was best last year, doesn’t mean he’ll be best this year or, more importantly, best for the plans the Yankees have. They should look to maximize value from the 3 of them, not from one of them. How they determine that value lies more with their long term plans (I hope) than with what one player can do during the 2012 season.

    • Kevin Winters

      This is a purely sentimental argument


      Not completely but it plays a role.

    • Ted Nelson

      Phil Hughes is a legend.

      * At Foothill HS in Santa Ana, CA

  • Cris Pengiucci

    This competition, though, is about more than just a single role on the starting staff. It’s about maximizing resources. The Yankees have three pitchers capable of handling that role. Their task is to figure out how to use all three to realize peak value.

    Repeated for emphasis.

    • CMP

      The Yankees bullpen is loaded, especially once Joba comes back in May or June. Whoever doesn’t win the spot in the rotation is going to be placed in an insignificant role as long reliever/mop up man so it would pretty much be an injustice to Hughes to put him in that role.

      If you want to make a case for Hughes to start the year in AAA to build up arm strength and work on secondary pitches for a few months, I’ll buy it but to put Hughes in the pen because he’s proven he’s been good there before and Garcia/Burnett have not is a totally nonsensical argument.

      • RetroRob

        Probably July the earliest. Yankees won’t rush him, and then when he’s back they’ll go slowly. If the pen is performing well, he might spend a full 21-days on rehab in the minors and might now see the Bronx until August. I’m not expecting a real impact from Joba again until 2013, although it would be great if his fastball is back to 2008 level and he turns into a weapon down the stretch this year.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        to put Hughes in the pen because he’s proven he’s been good there before and Garcia/Burnett have not is a totally nonsensical argument.

        Not my argument. My take is that based on best overall value for the team (WAR, as an example), the best return may be to have him there, as each of the 3 will probably provide close enough value as a #5 starter. Then you need to look at how each plays in another available role.

        I like Phil as a starter. He just may not begin the year there. Hope he ends up in the rotation and performing well in teh future, whether that’s later in the season or in 2013.

  • Rich in NJ

    Hughes should be viewed as an asset that has a greater chance to provide a ROI than any of the other 5th starter candidates, which is something to consider in making rotation decisions if it is based on very similar data sets.

    • viridiana

      Hughes is indeed an asset. He certainly should not be traded for a DH. That would be outrageous, especially after we just let a potential elite DH go for pitching.
      RAB has been fair to Hughes but it constantly amazes me how many fans forget he was very much a key to Yanks’ reaching WS in 2009, and that has in stretches pitched well when healthy in the rotation. Catfish Hunter, to cite just one of many examples, didn’t even have a winning season until his sixth year as a starter.Give this 25 year old kid a chance to prove he’s healthy again. When teams get desperate for pitching at trade deadline — that may be the time to revisit question of trading Phil for proper value.

      • Twains Yankee

        This is the post I have been waiting for. I agree phil has been disappointing for long stretches but he is only 25 and I hate to see his career Joba’d when it could be salvaged.

  • steve s

    “Considering his age” is really the key when viewing Hughes IMO. He is exactly one year older than Betances and the same age as Nova and Phelps. At times he has been brilliant as a starter, reliever and in the post-season. It’s not an outrageous position to think that consistency, maturity and health is more likely to happen for this guy rather than a continued collapse or that his best performance days are behind him.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    All three players are loaded with the what ifs. If I had a crystal ball. I would view Phil Hughes as the fifth starter. He has learned his lessons of 2011 with injury and showing up to ST out of shape. He worked on his change-up.

    AJ Burnett does gives us innings and can muster a good game every now and again. But his value is the amount of money that the Yankees can save in a salary dump. These monies maybe used to secure a lefty DH who can play the OF or third/first base.

    Garcia is the 6th starter or fill-in for injuries. He’s steady Freddie.

  • Craig Maduro

    I would rather see Phil Hughes traded right now than see him wasted in a bullpen role.

    • Ted Nelson

      Depending on what you get in return he could have more value in the BP than in a trade.

      • CJ

        I would think another team in baseball value Hughes as more than a 6th inning reliever. Starter or 8th Inning guy as potential closer even.

      • Craig Maduro

        Part of it is definitely me being sick of the Yankees banishing their top staring pitching prospects to the bullpen. I just don’t see the value in having both Hughes AND Joba in the ‘pen. There are reasons (“reasons” in some cases), but it’s still fucking stupid! Forgive my animation there, but damn, how many former top SP prospects do you need in the bullpen?

        • Ted Nelson

          Hughes hasn’t been a prospect for years… He’s had ample opportunity to start.

    • tomaconda

      With that thinking you would’ve traded Mariano back in 95.

    • tomaconda

      With that thinking you would’ve traded Mariano back
      in 95.

      • Craig Maduro

        Not necessarily. Granted I was nine back in 1995, but there were plenty of factors that would have made it appropriate for the Yankees to move Mariano into the ‘pen. They didn’t have a HOF closer, they didn’t have two top-shelf set-up men (at least in name in Soriano’s case) nor did they have a former top prospect joining the crowd as well. And you can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I don’t recall Mo being on the same level as a starting pitching prospect as Hughes was.

  • RetroRob

    Hughes will be the 5th starter.

    AJ will go to the pen.

    Garcia will allow a trade and will be gone.

    • Freddy’s Mom

      Almost: Reverse the first part. Burnett gets the 5th slot, Hughes to the pen, and Freddy will indeed be traded. Maybe they will include him in a deal for Matsui or Damon, and the AARP would sponsor the media event.

      I can’t see the Yankees putting AJ in the bullpen just yet.

      • RetroRob

        Possibly. Most of the suggestions thrown about here all seem to focus on trading AJ to get rid of him, while a few others have suggested Hughes as part of a package to get a bat. While both are possible, I think it’s unlikely the Yankees will bundle enough money to move AJ, and Hughes’ value is at an all-time low, so it seems to me Garcia would be the easiest to move. His contract is low and it’s only one year and he’s had two solid years back to back, so I don’t anticipate any roadblocks to moving him. Garcia would have to allow the deal, but he probably would for the opportunity to start somewhere else.

        As for Hughes or AJ in the rotation, I could see it either way. I suspect the Yankees want to see what Hughes can do as a starter this year and feel he has more long-term value to them, and they might even be intrigued to see how AJ’s fastball and two-pitch combination would play out of the pen. It might actually increase his value.

  • TheHitMan

    I completely agree about Hughes being the 5th starter and appreciate the well thought out presentation defending it. I tip my hat to you!

  • Ted Nelson

    I think you’re making too much of bullpen experience. That Burnett or Garcia didn’t get put in the bullpen because he was a successful starter isn’t something I can see holding against him. That Hughes succeeded out of the pen with a different motion and different stuff doesn’t tell me he’ll succeed with this motion and this stuff. He looked better after his rehab or whatever… but still not good.

    I would say that the more important way Hughes offers flexibility is optioning him to AAA. Let the guy re-establish himself in AAA if he doesn’t earn the job in ST.

  • J. Scott

    Cashman was on with Mike Francessa in the 3:00 PM hour and said, among other things, that we shouldn’t expect to see Joba until “…after June.”

  • vin

    I’ve been hoping Phil gets the 5th starters job, with Freddy going to long relief/6th starter and AJ getting dealt far far away. But Joe raises good points.

    Joe, what do you want to see happen? I appreciate you guys discussing all the various issues and variables, but I’m curious what you think is the best course of action. I know you’re not one to appeal to authority, so I expect you to have an opinion on this rather than assuming the Yankees are the only ones who have an informed opinion.

  • Rockdog

    I think the complicating factor here is the win now vs. remain competitive in the future angle. On a one year basis, Garcia probably makes the most sense to start, at least to begin the season. However, Hughes is still young and has significant potential. I agree with those who have pointed out how disappointing he has been, but the truth is that this often happens with young pitchers. If the Yankees think that Hughes can grow into a 3/4 or better, if might well be worth giving him the fifth spot.

    This issue with the fifth spot is a high class problem to have.

    • jjyank

      I agree completely. I want to see Hughes win the 5th spot for our future’s sake, but Garcia is probably the best bet for 2012. Who knows, Hughes could be the best bet for both, which is why I think Hughes should have the spot. I’m not sure what to do with Garcia in that case. He’d probably bring back more than AJ would in a trade, but he would have to allow a trade. I think AJ should either be in the bullpen or traded…the only real argument for AJ in the 5th spot is his salary, which is a poort argument. I want to see Hughes. People have talked about sending Hughes to AAA, where it would be a lesser pressure environment (and I agree) but the 5th rotation spot might also be a similar assignment in terms of pressure, as opposed to asking him to be a mid-rotation starter the last few years. I think the Pineda trade and Kuroda signing helps Hughes more than anyone else.

  • Women’s Lib is Ms.Guided

    Last spring Colon looked dominant and Garcia got the ‘results don’t matter, getting stretched out’ defense, so I can’t see a true spring training battle happening.

    Hughes needs to win the job through how his stuff and body look in February/March. If he’s in shape and has his velocity back he should get the nod. If he’s getting spring results with lesser stuff I think Garcia gets the benefit of the doubt.

    • CJ

      This is a great point. If Hughes stuff looks good, give it to him. If he’s 93-95 the command will follow. Don’t look at Hughes results in ST, it’s all about stuff.

      • RetroRob

        True. He was at 88 last spring, which is when the Yankees suspected their was a problem. If he’s at 88 again this spring, then Houston we’ve got a problem.

  • Vegetable Lasagna

    The question isn’t whether he should be a starter or a reliver, it’s whether he should be a reliever or traded. Hughes is not Andy Pettitte, he’s not a starting pitcher. We tried that in 2010 and he tired after the ASB. He then proceeded to blow the 2010 ALCS for a very good Yankee ballclub looking to repeat. When he was a reliver he was dominant and we won the WS. It’s either bullpen or trade for Hughes.

  • Jacque

    If we are talking about maximizing resources (which is often overlooked in analyzing issues like this, so cudos to Joe), then let’s not blindly look to just 2012, particularly since it is a year in which the Yankees have a loaded pen, such that another good reliever doesn’t add that much. Looking forward AJ has two more years tops, Freddie is likely one a done, and Phil is 25 and could easily have another 10 productive years in him. We would truly maximize our resources by developing Hughes into a starting pitcher. Given the small difference you would see by “maximizing resources in 2012,” I think the Yankees are better off foregoing that minimal gain, to give one more try at potentially getting themselves a legit starter for the next 10 years.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I agree the Yankees should take a long-term view when looking to maximize resources and that they should give Hughes a shot at becoming a starter based on the potential for long term return, even if it’s as a #4 type starter. Hoever, if he doesn’t begin the season in the rotation, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on him. Hope they find a way to make him a starter again at some point.

  • Bobby two knives

    This is the same conversation as last season’s pre-playoff pitching discussion. I still see it the same way: Freddy starts; AJ and Phil in the bullpen for 1+ innings of all-out fireballing. BTW I’m not at all considering the available spots – just about the role of these 3 pitchers. Then as the season progresses, adjustments can be made with these 3, and/or other options such as trades, injuries, return of Joba, etc etc.

  • CJ

    I think (hope) there’s a possibilty Betances or Banuelos is dominant in spring training. If Betances looks dominant throwing strikes I’d be tempted to let him ride it out as #5. Banuelos a little young. Point is AJ or Freddy will not be dominant and logjam clogs the way if yanks see something special.

    • Kevin Winters

      Cashman already shot it down on Mike’s show

      • CJ

        Especially with Betances if he was dominant firing strikes, I’d want to give him a shot. Keep the momentum going and major league coaching/support staff, catcher and defense. CC Pineda Betances is a big intimidating group of power arms. Only if he was dominant with control.

        • Kevin Winters

          I understand where you’re coming from but Cash wants these kids to get all the seasoning they can.

    • nsalem

      How many games did Hughes did Hughes win in 2010? I forgot.

  • jsbrendog

    hughes should go to aaa aj to the pen freddy to number 5. if that happens i guarantee hughes will be needed by mid may at the latest and it will work itself out. freddy is happy and giving above average value for a 5th starter, aj comes in in the 6th and blows people away before pieing someone in the face later, and hughes perfects an “out pitch” in aaa.

    if they’re put inot these roles and it doesn’t happy FREE INTERNET ICE CREAM SUNDAES FOR EVERYONE. well, not everyone, not for the people I don’t like, you have to pay for your fake ice cream.

  • nsalem

    People who suggest that Hughes or Garcia should be traded if they not awarded the 5th spot in the rotation are extremely short sighted as the odds that htis team can possibly go through a season with 5 starters is astronomical. This is a great situation and a luxury that few other teams may have.I don’t think Garcia can be traded until June anyway and the odds of getting equal or better value for Phil is doubtful. Trading either would be about as bright as giving your money away because you have no use for it today.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Mostly agree if they can work out what they feel are appropriate roles for them when the season begins. However, if they make a trade, I’d prefer to see:

      1) AJ go
      2) Freddy go (AJ to the ‘pen) – Freddy can agree to a trade prior to June 15.

      Neither one brings much in return, but that’s OK (for different reasons). Hughes still adds value, even if he’s relagated to a BP role (I’d prefer not).

      For them to let Freddy go, they have to feel they’ve got enough from AJ & Hughes to survive the season (plus what they’ve got in AAA).

      • nsalem

        Personally i would rather see Freddy start. I understand that Hughes probably represents the greater upside, but he is far from a sure thing and has also had at 2 or 3 long DL trips in his 5 years with the Yankees. Garcia is 5 years out from his shoulder surgery and is adept in turning in good but not great quality starts. He has more quality starts than any Yankee over the last 2 years except for CC. I don’t even consider him a middle of the rotation guy, but he is great at keeping his team in games which is a great match for our excellent offense and bullpen. He is a great luxury and probably adds more value to the Yankees than most teams in baseball. Banuelos is most likely at least a year away and should not be rushed. The rest of our Scranton SP’s are question marks and I’d feel better having Freddy around rather than having to rely on the kids we have. Most years we lose at least one starter sometimes you lose two. If the Red Sox had a guy like Garcia around last year there season may have had a different ending. He’s cheap enough, why not keep him?

        • Cris Pengiucci

          He’s cheap enough, why not keep him?

          If there’s enough spots, even if they get creative by starting Hughes in AAA, yeah that’s probably the best way to go. However, I’m afraid that might not be the case prior to June 15. I’m hoping they find a way to get rid of AJ, but that’s a long shot.

          Maybe they have AJ start the season as the #5 with Freddy as the long man and Hughes as the 6th inning guy and ride AJ till they can trade him or he just craps out and they have to replace him, then move Freddy or Phil to the rotation. Who knows? So much can happen between now and then (as we’ve seen).

        • CJ

          The thing is cashman was too quick to sign Freddy. If the Pineda Kuroda deals were sooner, I doubt he would’ve signed him

    • RetroRob

      I think they’re suggesting trading one of the three, not two of the three. They should have five starters, one guy to the pen, and one guy traded. They also have depth in AAA, so they can afford to move one of Garcia, AJ and Hughes.

    • Ted Nelson

      Besides AJ, the Yankees have Phelps, Warren, Betances, Banuelos, and Mitchell in AAA as 6th starters.

  • OldYanksFan

    Part of the formula is if the Yanks still have faith that Phil can start, or if they like him in a Mariano-less BP in 2013.

    If they think he still has a future as a SP, then I think he has to be the 5th starter this year…. in that they can’t keep fucking with him.

    However, I think our best team THIS year has Freddie starting and Phil in the BP. If Freddie shits the bed, then Phil or AJ can come in.

    There is no such thing as ‘too good’ of a BP. The better it is, the ‘shorter’ the games become, and the faster Joe can yank a SP who is in trouble. And we should not be counting on Joba in the BP this year.