After signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal on the day before Thanksgiving, the Minnesota Twins have reportedly agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with starting pitcher Phil Hughes on Saturday night. La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune expanded on his initial report of the signing by suggesting Hughes could be in Minnesota before the end of the weekend, which signals a formal announcement of the deal could be coming very soon.
Hughes is coming off a dismal 2013 season, when he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA over 145.2 innings (30 appearances-29 starts) for the New York Yankees. Hughes has pitched his entire career to this point with the Yankees, and he has a 56-50 career record with a 4.54 ERA over seven seasons (182 appearances-132 starts).
The long ball has been an issue for Hughes, as he has allowed 59 home runs over the last two seasons with at least 24 home runs allowed in all three seasons in which he has made at least 29 starts. Pitching his home games at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium has surely been a factor in that, and Hughes has a 4.82 career ERA in that venue while hitting rock bottom there last year (1-10, 6.32 ERA in 17 appearances-16 starts).
Simply moving to the much more pitcher-friendly Target Field should do wonders for Hughes, and not making the majority of his starts against the powerful lineups of the American League East can only benefit him as well. He has made 19 career starts in American League Central parks, including three starts at Target Field (2-1 with a 2.53 ERA).
Hughes had an excellent season in 2012, setting career-highs in innings pitched (191.1) and starts made (32) along with a 7.8 K/9 rate and a career-best 2.2 BB/9 rate. He earned the first, and to this point only, All-Star selection of his career in 2010 when he finished 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA over 176.1 innings (31 games-29 starts) before a back issue limited him to 74.2 innings in 2011. The Twins would surely be happy with 190 or more innings and 30-plus starts from Hughes in each of the next three seasons, though without the type of run support the Yankees offered a big win total looks unrealistic for at least 2014.
Hughes should not be classified as a young pitcher, since he has close to 200 major league games under his belt, but he is still just 27 years old and his best days could be coming over the duration of the deal he will sign with Minnesota. I don’t recall being able to say that about many Twins’ starting pitchers since Johan Santana was traded after the 2007 season at age 28, and Hughes’ mix of experience and potentially untapped potential makes him an excellent fit.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.