(Photo Credit: REUTERS/KIM KLEMENT)
If you can believe it, Phil Hughes, was actually the first-round draft pick by the New York Yankees back in 2004.
He had promise in New York. Hughes was on the cusp of throwing no-hitters twice on the major league level. And yet, he could never seem to find that rhythm the Yankees were hoping for. He was the equivalent to a dry heave of talent that just never fully came up. He spent seven seasons in New York and, to his credit, gave it his all as both a starter and reliever despite dealing with several injuries, and it still never came together for the once-promising righty.
2010 was his only successful season in New York, and I say that because he won 18 games and got named to his first and only All-Star team though his ERA was still on the higher end at 4.19. But after that, it was all downhill once again.
The Twin Cities
Minnesota picked him up in 2014 following a forgettable 2013 season (4-14, 5.19 ERA), and Hughes would have another shot at a big league life. He seemed to have had a bit of a resurgence that season, posting a 3.52 ERA and believe it or not, finishing seventh in AL Cy Young Award voting. Because of that stellar season, Hughes ended up signing a three-year $42m dollar extension with the Twins, who I can now only imagine must have buyer’s remorse.
We’ve all done it before. We have all purchased something we thought was a perfect fit for us, only to take it home and realize it’s horrid and now we’ve wasted our money. Though at the very least, it’s still somewhat of a win for Hughes who is still owed $22.5m through next year. And if you think “horrid” is too strong over a word to use for him, opposing batters have a .968 OPS against Hughes this season, a number that has been steadily rising since 2010.
His four-seam fastball has only been topping out at about 90 miles per hour, which most likely explains all that damage batters have been doing against him at the plate. When you’re a fastball pitcher who could only hit 93 at most from the get-go, any loss of velocity there either means rely on your other pitches more or do whatever you can to get that velocity close to what it once was.
Hughes has been on such a steady decline that it’s hard to picture him in a major league rotation right now. I could see him getting picked up by a team that’s rebuilding and maybe assigned a minor league deal. Then again, Cincinnati seems to be shopping around for some former aces and Hughes could very well land him in a situation similar to that of Matt Harvey’s, an odd pairing since both are feeling the negative effects of Thoracic Outlet surgery (two in Hughes’ case). The Reds have become sort of an “upside-down” for DFA’d baseball players, as they are banished there to try to live out the rest of their careers in peace. Though if I’m being honest, my hope that Cincy will pick him up is mostly because I’d love to write an Odd Couple reboot for Hughes and Harvey.
Until then, however, Hughes will just have to wait for which team, if any, will give him another shot.
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