With Ervin Santana‘s future with the Kansas City Royals still unknown, many fans wonder where the pitching will come from in 2014. There are many available options for replacing Santana, but who could come in and give KC the kind of steady success Santana brought to the starting five in 2013?
Among the most intriguing candidates is New York Yankees pitcher Phillip Hughes, who will soon be entering arbitration talks with New York. Could Hughes have what it takes to keep the Royals’ starting rotation in top form, and would KC be willing to pay enough to bring him here?
Wherever he winds up playing, Hughes, now 27 years old, will hope to bounce back from an awful 2013 season. Hughes recorded a 5.16 ERA in 29 starts with the Yankees last year – his highest ERA of any season in which he started more than 14 games. His career ERA over seven seasons is 4.54, but scouts think that could drastically improve with better command over his pitches.
Hughes is facing arbitration, with a qualifying offer of a whopping $14.1 million. He will surely accept a deal if the Yankees offer it, in hopes that he can rebuild after a tough year in the Big Apple. If the Yankees refuse to give Hughes a qualifying offer, it’s up to the rest of the MLB to decide his overall value. Would the Royals be one of those teams to take a chance on this aging, struggling righty?
Most likely not, but there is a chance if the team can’t re-sign Santana. It may look like the Royals are overpaying by offering Hughes anything close to the arbitration qualifying offer, but to sign pitchers in free agency, overpaying could be the team’s only choice. During 2010 and 2011, Hughes ate a lot of innings and recorded a WAR of two and 1.9, respectively. He’s a former first-round draft pick, and his best moment came under the coaching of current Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, who oversaw his development in the Yankees’ farm system.
Bringing in Hughes to fill the void that Santana leaves when/if he signs elsewhere wouldn’t excite fans in the least. However, bringing him in to compete for a No. 4 or 5 spot in the rotation could make for some intriguing competition in 2014. If the Royals can snag Hughes for a reasonable price, they absolutely should. If he’s still asking for a contract in the $14 million range, KC will have to pass. There are too many alternative options for rounding out the rotation, both in-house and out, for the Royals to pen a huge contract with an unproven, 27-year-old pitcher.