Phil Hughes finds a home in the Twin cities

Phil Hughes - Image: Jamie Squire/Getty
Phil Hughes – Image: Jamie Squire/Getty

It took Phil Hughes awhile, however, it appears he’s found his comfort zone. Hughes and the Minnesota Twins reached an agreement on a three-year, $42 million guaranteed contract extension. The former New York Yankee hasn’t just found a comfort zone in Minnesota, he’s found a home.

When Hughes signed with the Twins before the 2014 season, it was a calculated risk for both sides. Minnesota may have needed an arm for their starting rotation, however, the argument can be made that Hughes needed a change of scenery.

The last four seasons for Hughes with the Yankees were about as up and down as they come. An All-Star in 2010 with an 18-8 record, he struggled in 2011 with a 5.79 ERA, however bounced back with a strong 2012 that produced a 16-win season. However, his final year in New York, 2013, was a disaster. Hughes would go 4-14 with a 5.63 ERA. After ten years in the organization, his time with the Yankees had run its course, the final numbers indicating it was time for both sides to part ways.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News makes reference to the hype that surrounded Hughes in 2007, his first Spring Training. It’s true, if there was any billing about Hughes becoming the next Roger Clemens, it never happened.

Phil Hughes w/ the New York Yankees - Image: Mike Stobe/Getty
Phil Hughes w/ the New York Yankees – Image: Mike Stobe/Getty

I’ve been big on the potential in Hughes as a successful starting pitcher, he has a big-time arm and throws strikes. However, it’s the latter part of that which may have contributed to his downfall with the Yankees. In his final two seasons in the Bronx, he gave up 35 and 24 home runs respectively. The case can be made that the dimensions of Yankee Stadium, specifically the short porch in right field, were not beneficial for Hughes going forward there.

In comes the Minnesota Twins, with a job opening, a bigger ballpark to pitch in, and an opportunity to start over. They signed Hughes to a three-year, $24 million deal last winter. Hughes capitalized, pitching to a 16-10 record in 2014, with a 3.52 ERA. He struck out 186 batters, walking only 16. It was enough to convince the Twins he was worth the gamble, enough to the point of gambling again by making sure he doesn’t leave for a bigger payday anytime soon.

Hughes, having just pitched the best year of his career, could have gone ahead and finished out the rest of his contract (Sweetspot, Dec. 22). If he has that kind of season again, his value on the market would sky-rocket when he becomes a free agent. The Twins are betting that, for Hughes, 2014 wasn’t a fluke. They went ahead and showed him the money, as broken down by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

“Hughes will make $9.2 million in 2015 and 2016 and earn base salaries of $13.2 million from 2017 to 2019. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause and a chance to make $1 million in performance bonuses over the life of the contract. The extension overwrites the final two years and $16 million remaining on his current contract. Hughes’ new deal includes an annual salary increase of $1.2 million over the $8 million he had previously been owed in 2015 and ’16. The overall value of $58 million over five years makes his new contract the largest for a pitcher in Twins franchise history.”

I believe they’re two key points to take away from this for Hughes. Money aside, by the end of this deal he’ll only be 33 years old, this means he’ll potentially be in position to cash-in on at least one more big contract. The other point is Hughes has a chance to evolve into a veteran leader for a team with promising youngsters on the rise.

Hughes has found stability. It’s not just financial stability, he has peace of mind, he’s found his comfort zone. From all indications, he wants to be with the Twins for the long-term. Phil Hughes, the former New York Yankee some believed was the next Roger Clemens, has found a home in Minnesota.

Anthony Rushing

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