Published on December 22nd, 2014 | by Thompson0
Minnesota Twins Extend Affordable Ace Phil Hughes
Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins extended Phil Hughes through 2019, effectively making his contract a five-year, $58 million deal. He will earn $9.2 million in 2015 and 2016 before earning $13.2MM annually from 2017 to 2019. Considering his 2014 numbers, the $11.6 million per year average salary is more than reasonable.
If you consider the Twins’ recent signing of Ervin Santana, the extension looks even better. Ryan cut a check to Santana for four years and $55 million – a reasonable price to pay for a proven middle-of-the-rotation starter. But that’s roughly $2 million more per year for a guy whose numbers weren’t in Hughes’s ballpark. Santana’s FIP (3.39), xFIP (3.47), and SIERA (3.63) indicate he was better than his ERA (3.95), but not nearly as good as Hughes.
Hughes had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history last season at 11.63, allowing less than a walk per game. He gave up as many homers (16) as walks in 2014. His 3.52 ERA was inflated due to terrible outfield defense and below-average infield defense. In fact, Hughes’s analytics make him look like a god. FIP (2.65), xFIP (3.18) and SIERA (3.17) all show that Hughes was a lot better than his ERA. He finished seventh in the 2014 Cy Young voting, however, most wouldn’t consider him an ace, despite finishing tied for fourth among all pitchers with 6.1 Wins Above Replacement last season. The two guys he tied, David Price and Jon Lester, will both make more than Hughes next season. Price made $14 million in arbitration last year, and Lester signed a monstrous six-year deal worth nearly $26 million per year on average.
The extension includes a limited no-trade clause allowing Hughes to block trades to three teams each year, so if Hughes can repeat his ace-like 2014 season, Terry Ryan will have an excellent trade chip with a team-friendly contract. If Hughes gets hurt or takes a step back, the deal doesn’t look as good, but given his strategy of limiting free passes and forcing harmless fly balls in big Target Field, I don’t think it’s likely he regresses. He’s a new man in Minnesota.
I mostly like the deal except I would have waited until after the 2015 season to do it. Hughes was set to make just $8 million next year, but the difference between $8 million and $9.2 million or even $11.6 million is negligible. Also, Hughes could have performed even better in 2015 and priced himself out of Minnesota, so Terry Ryan hit it out of the park with this deal. Hughes and Santana look to be the veterans that will lead this young Twins squad into the future, and if they’re still around when Byron Buxton roams center field, their numbers will look even better. Let’s just hope Ryan doesn’t fail to trade Hughes or Santana when they’re most valuable.