Phil Hughes and his looming contract — Take 2

Yankees walk-off with win after Mo blows second straight save
Game 115: Business as Usual

Back in May, I took a shot at predicting Phil Hughes’s upcoming contract. Ultimately, at the time, I figured Phil’s next contract would wind up looking comparable to Edwin Jackson’s deal, or roughly four years and $52M (with guys like John Lackey or Anibal Sanchez representing the best-case scenario for Hughes if he was fantastic this season). Unfortunately for Phil, a lot more of the season has gone by since I first posted on this matter, and most have it has been negative, at least as it pertains to his contributions. So, have circumstances changed? Let’s take a look.

At this point, it seems very unlikely that New York will offer an extension to Phil for good reason. He’s been pretty terrible this season. At 4-10, Hughes has pitched to a 4.87 ERA (4.67 FIP) and has accumulated 0.8 fWAR — a mark well-below-average. That’s pretty lousy. In terms of peripherals, he’s striking out 7.38 batters per nine innings (good but not great), and walking 2.67 per nine (again, good but not great). His strikeout rate is about in line with where it normally is (1.57 HR/9), which is decidedly not great.

Phil’s looked especially feeble recently, having surrendered five runs in each of his last two starts while being driven out of each game before the fifth. I think the case could be made pretty convincingly that the last time Phil actually helped the team was July 2nd, when he limited the offensive juggernaut that is the Twins to one run over seven innings. Hughes isn’t quite as useless as Joba Chamberlain right now, but he’s close.

And so enters the qualifying offer into the discussion. Basically, the team has the option to offer Phil a one year agreement at roughly $14M for next season. There are some “pros” for choosing to this path. First, next year’s rotation is in shambles. CC Sabathia has to be considered a question mark. Who knows whether Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte will be back. That doesn’t leave much beyond unproven arms such as Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Hughes isn’t perfect by any means, but at least that’s one less question mark … well, sort of anyway.

Second, and for all you optimistic types, maybe Hughes puts up better numbers next season; they can’t be worse right? Aside from benefiting the team, a rebound raises Hughes’ personal value, which in turn could lead to a better return should the team try to trade him next season, or at the very least, make everyone a hell of a lot more confident about re-signing him again moving forward. Third, should Hughes decline the qualifying offer, it’d ensure the team gets a nice compensation pick in the first round. The con is pretty self-evident of course; the team could wind up paying $14M for more of what they’re getting right now, which is a perfectly legitimate concern.

After performing so poorly this season, I’d have to imagine Hughes would strongly consider the qualifying offer should New York pose it. That’s $14M in the bank right now, and he’d still be young enough to get a decent paycheck in 2015 if he could rebound a bit next season. Unfortunately, 2015 looks to have more competition on the free agent market, but you have to figure most of the big names (i.e. Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer) will be unavailable when the time comes as teams will look to lock up their young stars. If for some reason the qualifying offer doesn’t appeal to Hughes, he could test the free agent market after this season, which seems less competitive.  For what it’s worth, if Hughes tests free agency now, he’ll be one of the younger arms available which will probably work to his favor.

Maybe Phil is seeking a change of scenery. Everyone knows he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. Maybe a place like San Diego or Minnesota makes a lot of  sense for him going forward, and maybe he’s willing to take his chances elsewhere if circumstance allows. Unless Phil finishes the season very strong, I don’t see any team giving him the Edwin contract (though I’ve certainly be wrong before). Perhaps, a Wandy Rodriguez arrangement is plausible though in the open market – say, something in the vicinity of three years and $30M. After all pitchers are always in demand, and it only takes one team to jack up the price. I could see a team offering Hughes a two-year, $26M gig (similar to Ryan Dempster) too. What I don’t envision is any team offering a one-year rebound opportunity that looks more appealing than the Yankees qualifying offer. As far as the dollars, some of the examples listed may feel inflated considering his overall production. Unfortunately, supply and demand will create just such a dilemma.

What happens with Hughes after the season?

Yankees walk-off with win after Mo blows second straight save
Game 115: Business as Usual
  • Manny’s BanWagnon

    I don’t think he’ll accept a QO from the Yankees. He and his agent must realize pitching in YS3 is career suicide at this point.

    I’d make the QO if I were the Yankees and I expect him to sign a 2/$22 or 3/$30 deal with some NL team with a big park.

    • Former ACE MannyGeee

      I would say that not accepting a 1 year deal at more than he’d potentially make in two would be financial suicide. Seems like a no-brainer: if the Yankees are foolish enough to offer a QO, don’t decline it out of spite. Take the money and run.

    • OldYanksFan

      Really? If you were Phil (age 27), you would take 2/$22 rather than 1/$14m???

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        2/$22 to likely go to a big NL ballpark where he more than likely will put up vastly superior stats and then cash in at age 29 vs. taking 1/$14 to get the shit kicked out of him again in Yankee stadium.

        • Cashman’s Mistress

          Wow, you really should put the keyboard down. You have no clue what you are talking about.

          1. No team gives him that because he ain’t worth it.

          2. No team gives him that and gives up a pick to do so.

          3. No player, who has made it to MLB, thinks they’ll suck. They always maximize for the most dollars because they think their performance is directly in their hand. They are competitive for a reason.

          4. No agent would ever recommend less money over more time. They understand opportunity costs.

          But keep making shit up!

          • Manny’s BanWagon

            Making shit up? You’re an idiot.

            Hughes career FIP at home is 4.84 and on the road is 3.78. He can easily be an average to above average starter if he gets away from YS3 and goes to a home park like Oakland, SF, LA, San Diego, Pittsburgh, etc where every fly ball isn’t a HR not to mention the fact that he’s still only 27 and still has upside.

          • Cliff

            Yeah, every single one of your points is dead wrong

    • NYYROC

      Completely agree. $14MM is great for 1 year, but he has to consider his entire career, not just 1 season. Another year at YS..the HRs..the boos..the possibility of losing job in rotation will just drive his value down.
      Take a deal in NL or big park..increase value for his next deal when he’s about 30.
      Staying at YS is a career killer.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        This x 10000

        • Cashman’s Mistress

          This out your ass.

  • Former ACE MannyGeee

    The Yankees will not make a QO, but they will make a below market offer, which Hughes may not accept unless he gets no other offers. Something like 2/18 or 3/27…

  • OldYanksFan

    I’m sorry… in a year where our money has to go a long way, you can’t spend $14m for what looks like 1.5 – 2.0 WAR. I rather spend it elsewhere.

    Let him go (NO QO), and you can offer 1/$10 if he wants to stay in NY and rebuild his value. I’d rather have a farmhand pitch, and spend that $14m on a bat.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      Yankees need young talent in the worst way. They need to try and get another high draft pick and IMO, giving Hughes a QO is a worthwhile gamble.
      This team isn’t contending next year no matter what they do so even if he accepts the deal, what’s the downside, a couple of games at worst?

  • Eddard

    After Phil Hughes gets rocked by the Tigers today, and he will get rocked by the Tigers today, his ERA will be over 5. They would be idiots to make him a QO, so I’m sure they will. I just worry they’ll be stuck with him for another year.

    He’s really not a starter. He’s a 2 pitch pitcher that can’t put hitters away and can only go 4 innings. He’d be much more effective in the pen where he can ramp it up for 1-2 innings.

    • Cashman’s Mistress


      Why anyone thinks this guy is a starter is beyond me. He’s perhaps the worst starter in MLB over the last three to four years. The Yankees should have moved him to the bullpen two or three years ago. Or they should have sent him down, something they *never* ever did.

      Then there are the fools who think he’ll get a multi-year deal from some unnamed team. Other teams aren’t stupid. It’s where the trade deadline showed that no one is interested in Hughes as a starting pitcher.

      Hughes ain’t stupid. The QO is the best he’ll get. He’ll take it and sicne the Yankees are so clueless, of course they’ll offer it. It will be another year of the the same. Hughes’ numbers haven’t changed in the last four years. He’s a well-below average pitcher. And yet many will think there’s “fantastic” season to be had – something he’s never done. Keep dreaming.

      • Cliff

        He’s been one of the worst starters, but stats show in a big park he would be above-average

    • Captain Turbo

      Agreed. He’d be better in the bullpen. Unfortunately he probably won’t sign for reliever money so let him go after this year. I don’t even see the point in making him a QO. Joba, too. Bye, fat boy.

  • OldYanksFan

    I’ll ask again. Didn’t Phil have a killer 12-6 CB in the Minors? I thought he did, but the Yankees nixed it. Look at what a good CB has done for Nova. Am I wrong…. or in trying to save Phil’s arm, did they take away the pitch that made him a good pitcher?

    • Bo Knows

      He had a slider when drafted, yankees had him switch to the curveball which was great for him, then he learned the spike curve from Moose which was just as effective, then he had that major leg injury during his Texas no hit bid, and he hadn’t been the same since.

      You can blame the Yankees for a lot, but that isn’t one of them

      • Now Batting

        Hasn’t been the same? Wasn’t that his first start ever in MLB? Then he went on to have a good year as a reliever and a solid first half in 2010. The hamstring narrative is easy but I’m not sure it’s accurate.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      Yeah, his torn hamstring is what nixed his curveball.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        You would think a 22 or 23 year old would be able to come back 100% from a torn hamstring though.

        There’s lots of pitcher however who have a serious decline in there stuff at a very young age for various reasons. I recently read Keith Law write about Trevor Bauer on the Indians for example and his stuff has been much diminished from where it was a year or 2 ago.

        • Bo Knows

          It depends though, Hughes’ fastball has more velocity than when he first broke out, but if you compare video from 2007-08 prior to his injury to what it’s like now, you can see a noticeable stiffness, and lack of fluidity now, that wasn’t around in his younger days.

  • RobA

    No way he rejects a QO. No way in hell.

    Remember too that the signing team has to give up their first round pick. NOBODY is giving up a first round pick to sign Phil Hughes for anything close to the value of a QO.

    For a team to be willing to give up their pick for Hughes, hed have to sign for something so low as to not make any sense, like 2/$10 million or something.

    Hed take the QO and be ecstatic to get it.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      That’s what they said about Kyle Lohse and he signed.

      • Cashman’s Mistress

        Lohse is a far better pitcher than Hughes has ever been. Lohse was worth 6.5 bWAR in the two years prior to his contract. Hughes will have been worth not even 2 bWAR in the two years prior to his free agency.

        Why do people here think teams are stupid? Lohse was easily worth $12M AAV. Hughes ain’t even worth the $7M AAV he’s making this year. He’s replacement level.

        • Manny’s BanWagon

          Lohse was 0.3 bWAR and 1.9 bWAR at age 27 and 28 until Dave Duncan turned him around at age 29.

          No reason Phil can’t go someplace else and do the same thing.

          • Now Batting

            Lohse’s bWAR 6 and 7 years ago has literally nothing to do with this conversation.

  • Theonewhoknocks

    Please let Hughes go. I’m so sick of watching this guy “pitch” I honestly can’t stomach it any longer. Not even a QO, he wouldn’t be worth getting stuck with at that cost.

    As for next years rotation, brining back Kuroda is the #1 priority.

    Kuroda, CC, Nova, Pineda, Phelps with guys like Nuno, Warren waiting in the wings
    Take a flier on a guy like Haren or Halladay or Lincecum(not necessarily these guys, but any pitcher with some upside who is looking for a pillow deal)

    We definitely will have a need for SP next season, but I don’t think Hughes is in any way the answer.

  • billbybob

    Phil Hughes must be praying for the Yanks not to offer the QO. What team is going to give up a draft pick to sign this guy?

  • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

    Hughes would have to finish very strongly to be worth the risk of a QO.
    The next time Hughes finishes a full season as a starter very strongly will be the first time.
    If he repeated last year’s numbers this year, it might have been worth the risk. Unfortunately he hasn’t done that, and isn’t likely to finish strongly enough to get there.
    At this point, they may as well leave him in the rotation and hope he finishes well though, just to try to salvage some value.

  • nycsportzfan

    Outta Hughes, Joba, Kennedy, Brackman, Dellin, and Banuelos, i think i expected most outta Hughes. Early on when he was a prospect, looking at his size, heater, curve,and dominatin of the minors, had me convinced. I can’t believe hes been this inconsistent.

  • OldYanksFan

    As a Starter, Phil has a 4.71 ERA (96- ERA+) and a 1.338 WHIP.
    Over 6+ years, he has averaged about a 1.1 bWAR.

    1) He’s young
    2) His ERA away from YS is 0.8 less than at YS
    3) If he could develop a 3rd GOOD pitch, he could improve a lot
    4) Out of the AL East, he might be average or slightly better

    Bottom line is he has little value to the Yankees unless he is paid like a #4/#5…. maybe $8m/yr.

    To an NL team, or out of the AL East, he might be worth $10m/yr, assuming he might be a #3/#4.

    However, ‘decent’ FAs usually get overpaid, so someone that needs what he offers might bite. I don’t know why anyone would go 3 years, unless they got a solid deal…. say 3/$27.

    I like Phil, and it’s too bad he didn’t turn out better.
    If we had a $220m payroll, we might accept an overpay, just to have depth, and a gamble that he could get better.

    But with next years payroll, especially if we resign Cano, it would be INSANE to risk having to pay $14m for him.

    Maybe the Pirates will bite.

  • Matt DiBari

    If the Yankees waste 14 million dollars of an austerity budget because they refuse to give up the ghost on Phil Hughes that might finally be a bridge too far.

  • mt

    Assuming $189 million plan is still the plan, I was originally comfortable before this year with giving Phil a QO IF he pitched decently this year.

    It is too much risk to give it to him now – he very well may take it and be too high a proportion of the $189 million payroll vis a vis his projected (lack of) contribution. It is too risky to offer it now without the $189 million plan being scrapped.

  • Rizi Walnutz

    Bye-bye, Phil.

  • A.D.

    Depends if arod is definitely suspended for the year/his money doesn’t count

    Probably worth the gamble if have some money to play with, but overall not sure he’s going to be much better than an Adam warren

    • Matt DiBari

      If Phil Hughes was “Jim Smith” and put up the same lousy numbers for the Royals all these years would we be saying he was worth a 14 million dollar “gamble?”

  • Ross

    Is there any merit to signing him for 3 years and (let’s say) $30MM and then trying to trade him to a team who would have done the same if there hadn’t been draft pick compensation attached to him?

  • Dick M

    Let. Him. Go.

  • Hardy

    I can’t see Hughes declining a QO.
    He was shopped around at the trade deadline and no team made a significant offer for his 7m/year contract. In the offseason he has to expect that a team offers something like 3/30 and give up a draft pick.

  • Samuel

    ANY thoughts of bringing Phil Hughes back for 2014 should be met with immediate firings.

    Phil Hughes sucks.

    CC (cause of money), Nova (lock), Phelps (have to give him full seson soon, right?), and Pineda are top four.

    Try and get Kuroda for another year, but doubtful he comes back to New York. If not Kuroda, then another decent vet for one year deal. If nothing available, go with Warren or Nuno as #5.

    This team HAS to find out if these kids can be good over next couple years. Need to let them pitch.

    With NO viable top end pitching available, they need to start developing their own.

    • nic

      Also, fire Rothschild. I’m not sure what his merits supposedly are as a pitching coach, but teaching does not seem to be among them.

      • AndrewYF

        What is he supposed to teach to a 27 year old guy who never put it together in the first place?

        Looks to me like he’s doing a pretty damn good job, with Nova and Phelps taking major steps forward, and even guys like Adam Warren providing value. Rothschild is safe.

  • nic

    Personally, I’d like the Yanks to wipe the slate clean as much as possible after this nightmare of a season is over. Not making a QO to Hughes would be a big step in that direction.

  • Sean

    Hughes should in no way get a qualifying offer, just on the premises that he just might take it. No team is going to give up a draft pick or spend big money for a pitcher who’s ERA is around 5, and no pitcher with an ERA of 5 is worth 13 million dollars. If I’m a GM and I’m trying to bring in a pitcher for the back end of the rotation, I would much rather have a guy like Chris Capuano or Jason Hammel, who will probably give me the same type of production for a fraction of the cost and won’t cost me a draft pick. Only way a team these days is giving up a pick is if the guy is at least a frontline starter or an impact bat. Bottom line is, if you offer Hughes a qualifying offer, he better take it, because no team is going to give him top dollar and/or give up their first round pick.

  • Mike

    We should give him the qualifying offer. Worse case scenario we lose a good pitcher and gain a draft pick.