Almost six years ago today, the New York Yankees‘ top pitching prospect and ace of the future was making his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. The sky was the limit for Phil Hughes when he stood on the mound that day and rightfully so, the guy was ranked the #4 prospect by Baseball America, giving his hype validity. He was the sort of prospect that is supposed to be a fixture in his team’s rotation for the next 10-15 years.
If you have watched Phil Hughes’s career develop over the past six seasons then you know that it has been far more of a roller coaster ride than it was supposed to be. If you take out his 2009 season where he was mainly a reliever, his best ERA was his 4.19 back in 2010. He followed that up with a 5.79 ERA in 2011 and then Hughes was able to get it back to a 4.23 last year. It is safe to say that Hughes doesn’t look like he will ever be the player he was supposed to be. Now Hughes’s Yankee future is in doubt due to his impending free agency, and the Yankees have to wonder if it is worth it to hold onto a guy who is most likely departing at the end of the season, especially when he is only filling a fourth starter’s spot.
It’s no stretch to assume that Hughes will feel he at least deserves a contract similar to the one Jeremy Guthrie got from the Kansas City Royals this off-season (three years/$25 million). Hughes will never be talented or reliable enough to justify a top of the rotation spot for the Yankees, so signing him to the type of contract he’ll be looking for must be avoided by the Bombers’ front office.
So what should the Yankees do with him? Well, the answer is very simple; the Yankees must trade Hughes this season to ensure they get something for him while they can. Packaging him to a team like the Houston Astros would seem to make sense as they would definitely welcome pitching help and Hughes’s youth would fit into their rebuilding process. The Yankees could net whatever prospects they can from the Astros and simply insert either David Phelps or Michael Pineda and receive a similar if not better performance than what Hughes would provide.