With what they’ve gone through this season, it’s safe to say the Minnesota Twins will add a starting pitcher or two this offseason in an effort to effectively rebuild their starting rotation. In theory, there will be many options available via the free agent market or via trade depending on how much the Twins are willing to spend and what they would be willing to give up in a trade.
One such option that may be available is Phil Hughes of the New York Yankees, who even though it feels like has been around forever is still just 26 years old. He is 11-10 with a 4.44 ERA in 23 starts this season (135.2 innings) along with 116 strikeouts and 32 walks but has been very inconsistent, going six or more innings with three or less earned runs allowed in 12 of his starts and going less than five innings six times.
Hughes’ set career-highs in multiple categories in 2010 when he went 18-10 with a 4.19 ERA over 176.2 innings in 31 appearances (29 starts). He was something of a stalwart for the Yankees in 2009 pitching primarily out of the bullpen, with a 3.03 ERA and 10.0 K/9 rate in 51 total appearances (seven starts). Injuries to his arm early and his back late in 2011 limited him to just 17 major league appearances (14 starts) as he posted a 5-5 record and a 5.79 ERA in what can largely be considered a lost season.
Hughes as much as anything may just need a change of scenery in order to get away from the pressure (real or perceived) of pitching in New York. One case in point from this season is A.J. Burnett, who the Yankees traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates last winter and is 14-4 with a 3.32 ERA in 21 starts (138.1 innings) as he has enjoyed a career resurgence during a resurgent season for the Pirates.
2013 will be Hughes’ final year of arbitration eligibility, after which he can become a free agent. It’s fair to assume the Yankees will not overpay to keep him, barring a Cy Young-caliber season from him next year, and they may be willing to dangle him in trade talks this offseason and right on into next season. The Twins, and multiple other teams really, should have some level of interest and acquiring him would be a fairly low-risk, high upside move right now.