Re-Sign or Let Him Walk: Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes was a first round pick by the New York Yankees in 2004. He was once rated the No. 4 prospect in the game by Baseball America, and now at 27-years-old, he’ll be hitting the free-agent market for the first time in his career.
Hughes was in a slow downward slide for the past few years, but it didn’t get really bad until this past season, when he posted a 5.19 ERA, the worst in his three seasons with at least 30 starts. He was injured to start the year and if you didn’t know any better you would have guess he was pitching hurt all year — he was that bad.
For a guy with so much promise and upside, Hughes failed to live up to expectations while on the mound for the Yankees in 2013. There were a few times this season though that he did show some promise and you may have thought to yourself, “If only he could pitch this well every time out, then we be good to go” but most other times Hughes left you wondering what had happened.
I’ll tell you what happened: Yankee Stadium happened.
In his career at home, Hughes’ ERA is almost an entire run higher — his road ERA is 4.10, while it stands at 4.96 in the Bronx. Even worse, as a fly-ball pitcher, Hughes has given up almost twice as many homeruns in the small Yankee Stadium compared to most of his starts on the road. His style of pitching does not fit at all in Yankee Stadium.
Decision: See ya later, Phil. No possible way that he will be coming back for 2014. Early in the season it appeared like the Yankees were going to offer him a qualifying-offer in hopes that he would either accept it to reset his value for one more year, or he would decline and the Yankees would receive a draft pick for him. But he pitched so poorly in 2013 that the Yankees don’t even want to take the risk in having him accept the offer, begin stuck with him for another terrible season.
It’s clear that Hughes doesn’t fit in a small ballpark and a lot of stadiums out on the west coast tend to be more spacious, which fit Hughes much better. He wants to be a starter but he’s excelled in the past as a reliever. I’m sure that there will be a few teams out there that are willing to take a chance in hopes that he can turn things around with a fresh start in a new place.
Anyway, I could probably go on for a while about Hughes and what he’s done wrong to get to this point in his career, but I’d rather make this goodbye as little heartfelt as possible. Usually in a situation like this, “Good Riddance” by Green Day pops into my mind. But, unlike the song, I didn’t have the time of my life when watching Hughes pitch.
Gavin Ewbank follows the Yankees for Baseball Hot Corner. Follow him on Twitter, @GavinEwbank2013.