Free Agent The Mariners Should Avoid: Phil Hughes

Sep 6, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Phil Hughes (65) pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Right around the trade deadline this past season, some speculated that the Mariners might make a move for New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes. The M’s didn’t, and in doing so dodged a bullet.

But now, with the M’s presumably in the hunt for another starting pitcher to anchor the wide-open back end of the rotation, speculation could conceivably wander back to Hughes as a potential free agent acquisition.  Once again, Jack Zduriencik should get his dodging shoes on. Here’s why.

A couple of years ago Phil Hughes was one of the hotter commodities in the Yankees farm system and in all of baseball. But since making his debut in 2007, the 27 year-old righty has been a model of inconsistency.

In seven seasons at the show, Hughes has only come close to pitching 200 innings once — with 191 in 2012 — and has only kept his ERA under 4.00 once, in 2009. His cumulative numbers look like this: a win/loss line of 56-50, an ERA of 4.54, a WHIP of 1.32, and 112 homers given up in 780.2 innings pitched.

Those numbers, while not awful (see the combo of Aaron Harang, Joe Saunders, and Jeremy Bonderman for comparison), don’t merit the money and hype that surrounded him.

Last season the Yankees paid Hughes over $7 million to be a bum. Granted, last season the M’s paid Joe Saunders $6.5 million to be consistently pedestrian, but Hughes is probably inexplicably going to command a contract in the five to seven million range per season again — though he probably won’t demand more than a two-to-three year deal.

There are several free agent pitchers out there in the same price range who will provide more consistent and positive production for their price tag ( see Jason Vargas).

Some of Hughes’ numbers, specifically homers, have been sorely inflated by pitching in Yankee Stadium, which might as well be Cape Canaveral for home run specialists, but he also has benefited by playing for a team that has given him great run support during his tenure, which has probably devalued his win/loss record.

His home/road splits show a stark contrast in his numbers, with him having a relatively serviceable ERA of 4.10 on the road (.86 points lower than at home), but he still has underwhelmed in almost every respect throughout his career.

Hughes himself has asserted that injuries have changed his mechanics — and others have noted a drop in velocity. It’s not a stretch to say after seven years that Hughes will never live up to his potential.

It’s possible a change of scenery will do him well, and could even turn his career around, but the M’s shouldn’t be the ones to put the money down. Safeco Field would be an ideal location for Hughes, as he’s generally described as fly-ball pitcher, but regardless, the M’s should still avoid him. Hughes is too risky a bet right now.

The M’s have money to spend and there are far wiser ways to spend money than on a former first round pick who is still expected to receive a lot of guaranteed cash for on-field production that was theorized to come but never did.

I could be completely misjudging Hughes’ potential,  but right now the combination of his poor overall performance, injury history, and price tag should raise major red flags. The M’s don’t need red flags right now, they need to sign free agents who actually deserve the money they’re given.

Topics: Phil Hughes, Seattle Mariners

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  • maqman

    I doubt he will get a multi-year contract or even want one. A season spent in a pitcher’s park could possibly revive his career. However, the last season of Saunders and Harang (not to mention Maurer, who is currently not looking good in the AFL) showed us what a two man rotation can produce. I’m hoping they will sign one decent arm and a buy-low chance. Given what some pitchers are reputedly looking for this off-season the buy-low types are going to be riskier.