Sherman on the Yankees’ plans for Phil Hughes

The Yankees are said to be “aggressive pushingPhil Hughes on the trade market in hopes of landing a bat, but Joel Sherman says they aren’t just looking for a short-term fix. They want a position player they can control for multiple years. Sherman hears the team will make Hughes a qualifying offer after the season and either recoup a draft pick or get him back on a one-year deal (if he accepts), which they don’t mind. “(They) believe, at worst, he would be tradeable if that were the case,” he writes.

Hughes, 27, has a 4.57 ERA and 4.48 FIP in 102.1 innings spread across 18 starts this season. His strikeout (7.74 K/9 and 20.5 K%) and walk (2.29 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%) rates are better than the league average but not eye-popping, and, as usual, his bugaboo remains the long ball (1.58 HR/9 and 11.8% HR/FB). Hughes would almost certainly benefit from playing in a larger home park, which is why the Yankees don’t expect him to accept the qualifying offer after the season, Sherman says. Given his age and strong non-homer peripherals, other clubs are expected to offer multi-year pacts this winter. Either way, this next few weeks figure to be Phil’s last in pinstripes. It’s just a question of whether he’s traded or walk away on his own.

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Rosenthal: Rockies interested in Phil Hughes as a reliever

Via Ken Rosenthal (video link): The Rockies have interest in acquiring Phil Hughes, but they want him as a reliever and only if the price is right. The Yankees have been “aggressively pushing” the right-hander in recent weeks in hopes of landing a bat.

Hughes, 27, has a 4.57 ERA and 4.48 FIP in 18 starts this year, and he hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen regularly since 2009. Obviously his homerun issues would only be exacerbated in Coors Field, but that wouldn’t be the Yankees’ problem. The Rockies don’t have many realistically available bats to help New York outside of someone like Tyler Colvin (7 wRC+) and maybe infielder Jordan Pacheco (46 wRC+). Meh. The Yankees would be better off just sticking Hughes in the bullpen themselves in that case.

Rosenthal: Yankees are “aggressively pushing” Joba and Hughes

2:16pm: For what it’s worth, Rosenthal says the Phillies are not one of the teams pursuing Joba. The turntables have … turned.

12:49pm: Jon Heyman says the Yankees have been talking to teams about trading Hughes for a bat, and the Angels might have interest. “I think he could fetch quite a bit,” said a rival executive.

11:30am: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are “aggressively pushing” both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes on the trade market. He hears Joba could be moved to an NL club soon. Another source says that while the team is talking about both, nothing is imminent. The non-waiver trade deadline is exactly three weeks away.

The Giants, Braves, and Phillies are among the clubs who are said to have interest in Chamberlain. There have been rumblings of a salary dump trade involving Michael Young and/or Carlos Ruiz with the Phillies, but that’s one I’ll have to see to believe. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) says the Yankees are planning to make Hughes a qualifying offer after the season and therefore seek something worth more than a supplemental first round pick in a trade. Plans change of course, and what the team says and what they actually do are two different things. It’s all posturing.

Poll: Is it time to trade Phil Hughes?

A few days ago, I asked my Twitter followers if they had any requests for my next post topic. I considered a few of the responses but ultimately chose this one: “Make the case that the Yankees should trade Phil Hughes right now.” Well, I’m not sure I personally agree with this proposal, but for the sake of discussion, I’ll give it a shot.

Phil Hughes
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Hughes is out of here at the end of the season anyway! At this point, it seems inevitable that the Yankees will allow Phil Hughes to walk once the 2013 campaign ends. I discussed some potential contract outcomes for Hughes back in mid-May; he figures to have a decent payday coming his way even if he is mostly mediocre for the remainder of this season. You know some team will give him an Edwin Jackson-esque contract. If he finishes the season strong, who knows, maybe he gets even more. Despite the obvious question marks surrounding next year’s rotation, it seems like the presumed austerity budget will prevent the Yankees from re-signing him once he hits free agency. Although Buster Olney thinks a qualifying offer could happen, I wonder whether it actually will happen considering that the price tag would be pretty high if he actually accepted, which could strain the budget.

He’s a perennial underachiever! He was supposed to be a future Yankees ace. Instead he’s a middle-to-back of the rotation type of arm with the potential for the occasional hot streak. He owns a career 4.41 ERA (4.27 FIP) and has never been valued at more than a 2.5 fWAR. Is that useful? Sure. Is it that hard to replace? Questionable, especially if he’s being paid Edwin Jackson money. He also has shown the propensity for giving up the long ball. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher in a hitter’s ball park. His skillset just doesn’t make sense for New York and their stadium. Let the kid find a niche elsewhere. He’s 27 years old. Maybe he’ll figure things out in another season or two. Maybe he won’t. To make matters worse, he’s also had some obvious durability concerns over the years.

Perhaps a decent player in return is plausible! To follow up on the first argument, the team could potentially use Hughes to acquire a player who could help the team now and down the road since he probably won’t be back after the season. Some team will be looking for more starting pitching down the stretch and heading into the playoffs (whether that’s due to their own rotation’s ineffectiveness or injury), and if Hughes continues to put up quality starts he may draw some interest. While I’m not sure that Hughes could bring back a useful player by himself, maybe if he were packaged with one of the team’s better prospects, a quality trade could be possible. If the idea is to shed team salary, then trying to find a young MLB ready position player with a few years of team control would make a lot of sense – especially if the team has soured a bit on some of their own prospects. For what it’s worth, the team has already begun testing the market with him and Joba.

The rotation will be fine without him! With the exception of the last few starts, Hughes hasn’t been one of the team’s more consistent contributors this year. He could become one down the stretch, but who knows how that’ll play out or if it’ll ultimately even matter. The team could potentially piece together some decent starts in Hughes’ absence with Ivan Nova – not to mention Michael Pineda, who will be available soon as well. Frankly, given the offensive woes, it may not make one bit of a difference who pitches anyway unless they’re prepared to throw a shut out every start.

Would you look to trade Phil Hughes right now?

Mailbag: Hughes, Bullpen, A-Rod, Pena

Four questions in this draft-free mailbag. If you’re interested in the draft though, check out today’s open thread. Otherwise, think up some questions for next week’s mailbag and send them to use with the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Kenny asks: What are your thoughts on re-signing Phil Hughes next year to close? Granted, he’d have to want to close and it would take a few other things like Michael Pineda coming back strong, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps continuing to progress, but he could dominate there.

Barring injury or a complete performance collapse, there’s no chance Hughes will re-sign with the Yankees as a closer. Zero. None. Not unless they pay him like a starter. Some team(s) will offer him a nice contract and a rotation spot, and that’s where he’ll go. He has no reason to come back as a reliever.

I do think Hughes would be awesome in the bullpen though, and in fact we already know he would be. We’ve seen him do it in 2009 and remember, he was dynamite out of the bullpen late in 2011 and during the postseason. If for some unexpected reason the Yankees don’t need a starter next year, sure, bring him back a reliever. He wouldn’t be open to it, however. The money is in the rotation.

Nick asks: Why not have an eleven-man pitching staff? They have several guys in the pen who can throw multiple innings, and a long man in Adam Warren so I think they can handle it. The 12th guy on the staff seems to go weeks between games (at least for the last few years). The extra bench player could allow them to do more of a platoon with several of their veterans, who are old and have platoon splits.

The easy answer is that a seven-man bullpen is commonplace these days and teams always hesitate to go against the grain. It’s been a while since the Yankees used a six-man bullpen and I don’t see them going back anytime soon. Having the extra arm is always nice, really.

That said, I do think teams could get away with it as long as they have three or four relievers capable of throwing two innings at a time. It also means having no lefty specialist. The Yankees have more platoons than they know what to do with — seriously, pretty much the only positions they aren’t platooning in some way this year are catcher, first base, second base, and center field — so having that extra position player would be nice.

Considering how important the pitching staff is for this team, carrying the extra pitcher (Joba Chamberlain? Shawn Kelley? Preston Claiborne?) over the extra position player (Brennan Boesch?) isn’t the end of the world. I do think a six-man bullpen is more doable that most realize, however.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Biggie asks: If an Alex Rodriguez suspension comes is he suspended without pay? If so, does his entire salary count against the salary cap or is it adjusted? We are almost 60 games in and suspensions sound two weeks away. Add an appeal and this can possibly carry over into next year. What would that mean to the 2014 $189 budget if anything. Thanks!

Well, the suspensions are nowhere close to two weeks away. The appeals alone will probably take months, especially if they do indeed go after 20 or so players. If A-Rod gets suspended, it won’t happen anytime soon.  This labor war party is just getting started.

Anyway, yes the salary Alex forfeits during a suspension would not count against the luxury tax. Ken Davidoff was nice enough to spell it all out today, so I strong suggest reading that. We’re talking upwards of $15M in savings if he does get the 100-game ban MLB is seeking, so it’s a big chunk of change. That can fill a lot of roster holes.

Ariel asks: With our replacement shortstops playing abysmally, do you think the Yankees regret giving up on Ramiro Pena? Do you think he would be playing as well as he has with the Yanks?

You can file this under questions I never thought would be asked. New York has gotten a .216/.286/.289 (67 OPS+) from their shortstops this year while Rakin’ Ramiro has hit .318/.372/.506 (143 wRC+) in 95 plate appearances as utility infielder with the Braves. What the hell is that about?

Now, obviously Pena won’t maintain that pace. It’ll be a minor miracle if he does. A 50.0% ground ball rate and 16.7% HR/FB rate in that ballpark just don’t make sense considering the type of hitter he is, plus the .353 BABIP is a bit above what you’d expect even if he was a true-talent .320 BABIP guy. Pena could always pick it defensively, so that wasn’t the issue.

Considering who the Yankees have used at short and what they’ve gotten out of the position this year, I definitely think they want him back. Of course this kind of production was completely unforeseen, and I don’t think he’ll maintain this at all. He might hit better than he did in the Bronx, but Pena didn’t suddenly become Troy Tulowitzki.

Mailbag: Perez, Hughes, Catchers, Promotions

Six questions and five answers this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else at any time.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Nick asks: Could the Yankees target Chris Perez as a trade candidate? A deal similar to the Joel Hanrahan trade?

My first thought was no way, but my first thought is often wrong. Not only is Mariano Rivera retiring after this season, but Joba Chamberlain is likely to leave as a free agent too. David Robertson is awesome, but I think the Yankees should add some kind of Proven Veteran™ backup plan to the Shawn Kelleys and Preston Claibornes of the world. My preferred choice as of today is impending free agent Grant Balfour, but that is subject to change.

Perez, 27, owns a 2.25 ERA and 5.72 FIP in 16 innings this year. He’s run into some serious homer problems of late, serving up three to the last eight batters he’s faced. Since getting the closer’s job outright in 2010, Perez has pitched to a 2.80 ERA (3.88 FIP) with a strong strikeout (8.11 K/9 and 21.6 K%) rate but mediocre walk (3.53 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%) and ground ball (34.7%) numbers. He managed to cut his walk rate to 2.50 BB/9 (6.6 BB%) last year, but that hasn’t stuck so far. I think we can say Perez is what he is at this point.

The Hanrahan comparison is perfect. Perez will be a free agent after the 2014 season, so acquiring him this winter means you’d be getting one year of a two-time All-Star, Capital-C Closer like the Red Sox got with Hanrahan. Would the Indians take a package of four spare parts like the Pirates did? Who knows. The Yankees could slap together a package of Dellin Betances, Zoilo Almonte, Eduardo Nunez … guys like that if the Indians will take quantity over quality. Perez has had some run-ins with the Indians brass over the years and could be available, but I want to see how he performs the rest of the season before going all-in.

Johnny asks: How would you handicap the chances of Yankees trading Phil Hughes before deadline?

I think they’re very, very small. This team lives and dies with its pitching as presently constructed, so I don’t see them giving up a rotation arm even if Hughes will be a free agent (and likely leaving) after the season. Maybe if Michael Pineda comes back strong, Ivan Nova figures things out in Triple-A, Vidal Nuno continues to impress in the show … maybe. I’d want a bat in return, preferably at shortstop or catcher. Someone who can help the team today, not prospects. Prospects suck.

Alex asks: Do you think that the Yankees’ preference for bat-first catchers has hindered the development of their minor league pitchers? The Yanks have seemed to be notoriously poor at bringing pitchers up to reach their ceiling for the past decade-plus.

It could be a factor, but I don’t think it’s a big one. Most minor league catchers stink at defense, and it’s not like Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy — the teams’ two most notable bat-first catchers — are atrocious defenders. Reports over the last 18 months or so have been very positive about their defensive improvement. Jesus Montero was a miserable defender though, and he did work with most of the team’s top young arms over the years.

I suppose having no confidence in the catcher blocking a breaking ball in the dirt or throwing out base-stealers could alter pitch selection, but pitchers are usually given a set number of pitches to throw per game. A team will tell their guy he needs to throw 25 curveballs or whatever per start as part of his development. Maybe bad defensive catchers have contributed to the team’s lack of success with starting pitching prospects, but I feel like it would be just a small part of the problem.

(David Schofield/Lakewood Blue Claws)
(David Schofield/Lakewood Blue Claws)

Mike asks: Is it time for some promotions in the minor league system? I know Dietrich Enns is 22 already, but he is blowing away the competition in A-ball (along with Rafael DePaula). These guys, along with Murphy and Sanchez, need to go up a level. Right?

Shep asks: Given his early success in Low-A and his “age,” how quickly do you think DePaula will climb the ladder? What is your prediction for his MLB debut?

Gonna lump these two together. We’re starting to approach promotion season, which usually takes place from mid-June through July, when the draft provides some new players to fill roster spots. Enns has been awesome — lefty with a 0.71 ERA (1.34 FIP) and 43/11 K/BB in 25.1 innings for Low-A Charleston — and I expect him to get bumped up to High-A Tampa at midseason. Murphy and Sanchez are repeating levels and have performed plenty well enough to earn midseason promotions. Some other obvious promotion candidates include (stats don’t include last night’s games):

  • C Peter O’Brien: His defense is awful, but he’s hitting .328/.392/.586 (165 wRC+) with five homers for Low-A Charleston.
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: Hitting .335/.440/.451 (~158 wRC+) and has already been promoted once. Bumping him up to Double-A Trenton allows Angelo Gumbs to play second everyday with High-A Tampa as well.
  • RHP Tommy Kahnle: 1.77 ERA (3.50 FIP) with 23 strikeouts and 13 walks in 20.1 innings. Another few weeks of that and he should be ready for Triple-A Scranton.
  • RHP Shane Greene: Repeating High-A Tampa with a 3.07 ERA (2.36 FIP) and a 53/8 K/BB in 55.2 innings. Get this man to Double-A Trenton.

DePaula is another animal entirely. The numbers — 2.38 ERA (1.96 FIP) with a 74/19 K/BB in 45.1 innings — are outstanding for Low-A Charleston, but he’s also short on pitching experience because of his various layoffs (suspension, visa) despite being 22 years old. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman told Chad Jennings a promotion isn’t imminent because he’s “got to develop secondary pitches. He hasn’t pitched that much competitively.”

I do think DePaula will get moved up to High-A Tampa at midseason, but he might spend another four or six weeks with the River Dogs first. Let’s see what happens when the league gets a second and third look at him, how he holds up physically under the workload, stuff like that. DePaula is on a weird development schedule and I’m generally not a fan of promoting starters after 50 or so dominant innings. As for his big league debut … second half of 2015 at the absolute earliest? DePaula will get promoted eventually, there’s no rush.

Travis asks: With the upcoming roster crunch (when DL players start coming back), is there going to come a point where is may make sense to bring Manny Banuelos up from the Triple-A DL to put him on the 60-day DL for MLB? I know they didn’t want to lose a year of control, but at the halfway point, would it be a lost year?

The Super Two date is sometime in early-June, so yeah, there’s a definitely a point where calling him up to clear a roster spot makes sense. Banuelos’ free agency has already been pushed back and they’re only two or three weeks from avoiding Super Two. They might actually be passed that date already since he’s not going to be in the big leagues on Opening Day next year.

There’s still some dead weight on the 40-man roster that can be trimmed — Ben Francisco, Reid Brignac, Melky Mesa, Francisco Rondon, etc. — but the Yankees have six guys expected to come off the 60-day DL in the next two months. Letting Banuelos accrue just a few weeks of service time would be no big deal under the circumstances.

Phil Hughes and his looming contract

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

We’re not even half way through the 2013 season — seems like a perfect opportunity to discuss Phil Hughes‘ looming contract situation! The once-heralded prospect from California reached The Show back in 2007. Six-hundred and seventy-five innings (and several injuries) later, he’s amassed a career 4.40 ERA (4.25 FIP), which equates to a cumulative 10.1 WAR according to FanGraphs. In terms of peripheral stats over the course of his career, he’s struck out 7.62 per nine, walked 2.82 per nine, and surrendered 1.27 homeruns per nine. With that said, he’s only 26 year’s old and seems to be heading in the right direction (though his last start wasn’t wonderful). This season, he’s pitched to a 4.43 ERA which is actually just a touch over his 4.15 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates have been better than his career norms so far, and with any luck, his HR/9 rate will end up closer to his career norm than the inflated rate we witnessed all last season.

So here’s the rub. The Yankees have the option of proposing a qualifying offer to him after this season. Should they go that route, Hughes would remain in pinstripes for another season at a salary in the neighborhood of roughly $13-15M.  This would delay his free agency for another year should he accept the offer (and would presumably qualify the Yankees for a supplemental first round draft pick if he chooses to take services elsewhere).  Subsequently, if Hughes reached free agency in 2015, he’d be potentially competing for another contract against guys like Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Masterson, or Max Scherzer among  others — obviously, the list of potential free agents can and probably will change rather drastically as teams attempt to retain their players between now and then (complete 2015 list here).

The Yankees could forgo the qualifying offer altogether after this season and let Phil simply test the free agent market — which would probably be in Phil’s best interest financially.  2014 brings a mediocre group of free agents that includes notable names such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Jon Lester (who has a $13M club option), Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum, and Josh Johnson. Lincecum and Halladay seem to have lost a lot of their star power (due to declining ability and injuries), and I’d be surprised to see Lester’s option does not get picked up. I’d also be surprised to not see Johnson, Garza, and maybe even Shields get traded (and extended) before then, which would all of a sudden makes that list a lot less interesting.  Depending who else is available on the market will heavily influence Hughes’ perceived value.

Or, the Yankees could take an alternate and perhaps more desirable path, and buy out Hughes’ 2014 season in addition to a few more with an extension.  Technically, the Yankees could also try to trade Phil before this decision has to be made, but seeing as though they’ll likely not be sellers by the deadline, I just don’t see this happening, nor do I think they would get a ton in return anyway.  On the one hand, the Yankees face a perilous rotation situation next season.  Pretending Michael Pineda is healthy and effective (and that alone may prove to be an excercise in absurdity), that leaves the Yankees with … well, it leaves them with CC Sabathia and Pineda.  After that, it’s some combination of David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and not much else.  I’d love to believe Manny Banuelos could be in the mix, but that’s probably waaay to optimistic given his rehab timetable and overall progress.  Maybe Hopefully Andy Pettitte and/or Hiroki Kuroda are coaxed into another year in pinstripes, but that is not a garauntee by any means given their age and vocalized interest in retirement.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

On one hand, having Hughes in the mix would certainly make the rotation a bit more digestable on paper, plus it’s comforting to know what weaknesses you have in a player rather than finding out down the road what baggage someone else brings.  On the other hand, there are the talks about an austerity budget which poses a definite financial dilemma, and might be the biggest contributing factor as to why the Yankees may pass on Hughes (along with others) altogether.  To be absolutely clear, I hope the Yankees elect to bring Hughes back — not because he has become the wunderkind that was advertised throughout the minors, but because I think he’s a younger alternative to many of the options out there, and honestly just about as effective at this point.  To Hughes’ credit, he has also shown occasional capacity to be more than just a back-of-the-rotation type of arm.  Also, I don’t necessarily envision the Yankees acquiring another headline-caliber pitcher — the Sabathias of the world are hard to come by after all, but who knows.

So let’s say for a moment that the Yankees roll the dice on Phil and offer him an extension.  What might that contract look like?  When asked this very question during Thursday’s RAB Live Chat, I whimsically answered five years, $50M.  In retrospect, that price seems a bit conservative – though the number of years seems realistic enough.  Really, that’s the price I would want the Yankees to pay, although I would definitely not complain with a four year, $52M agreement similar to Edwin Jackson’s.  In actuality, I’d be surprised if it didn’t cost more though.  Perhaps five years, $60M seems more plausible.  At that rate, Hughes would still have some legitimate wealth, and wouldn’t completely break the bank for the Yankees (not to mention the contract would still include his peak years).  For what it’s worth, we’ve also seen guys like Jered Weaver sacrifice a few dollars to stick around with a team he’s comfortable with, and maybe Hughes would do the same for the Yankees (though that’s not necessarily the norm nor would I expect it).

Interestingly enough, Baseball-Reference’s comparitive list of pitchers’ performance most similar by age includes Kyle Kendrick and John Lackey.  Kendrick isn’t really useful for contract comparisons as he’s basically going through the same process himself.  Lackey could make for an interesting discussion though.  If Hughes performs very well for the remainder of the season (especially if the pitchers market becomes increasingly scarce), an inflated contract could become more likely.  In his final year with the Angels, Lackey was making $10M.  Boston rewarded him with a five-year, $82M salary.  This is also similar to the deal that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers (though his included a club option).  Both of these contracts are probably “best case” scenarios for Phil — but they are still within the realm of plausible.  After all, how many times have we seen a team overpay a guy for whatever reason.  Also, other organizations may not worry as much about his fly ball tendancies if their stadium is more pitcher friendly.

Conversely, if Hughes has a really disappointing season from here on out, he could end up with an offer closer to Rickey Nolasco, say, a three-year, $36M pact — or, a few years to re-prove himself at a standard rate.  Given the premium placed on pitching, the fact that teams have money to spend and Hughes’ favorable age, I’d bet he lands a contract closer to Lackey before I’d bet on one similar to Nolasco — though my guess is he’ll fall somewhere in between, ultimately ending up slightly above Edwin’s arrangement.  In any event, the Yankees have some tough decisions to make.  Whatever they ultimately do, I’m sure it’ll be scrutinized heavily.  In the meantime, what would you do?

Which contract should the Yankees offer Phil Hughes?
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