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July 10, 2006

Maybe They Should Trade Philip Hughes?

Newsday has some news on Hughes -

Phil Hughes isn't buying it.

Not yet, anyway.

Maybe he'll feel differently if July 31 passes and he still can wear a Yankees cap, as he did yesterday.

"You never know," the righthander said at PNC Park. "As much as they might say they want to hold on to you, a deal that comes up could be too good to refuse."

Officials around the game believe that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will not relent in his intent to keep Hughes. No matter that he is in demand by teams that call Cashman, and that the Yankees enter the All-Star break trailing in the races for both the American League East and wild card.

I was thinking about Hughes this morning. Assume that the Yankees will not call him up this year - which is the right thing to do, given his age and experience. When he does get called up sometime next year, or the year after, it will be around three years where we've heard him hyped to death. Because of this, the expectations on Hughes, as they are now, will continue to be, pardon the almost-pun, huge.

But, think about these facts. In his first season, Roger Clemens had an ERA of 4.32. In his first two seasons, Johan Santana had ERAs of 6.49 and 4.74. Greg Maddux, in his first full year, had an ERA of 5.61. The Big Unit, in his first full season, had an ERA of 4.82.

Not every star pitcher breaks into the game like a Doc Gooden or Pedro Martinez. So, what happens to Hughes, if, in his first season in the Bronx, he posts an ERA of 4.80 in 30 starts?

If you're Chien-Ming Wang or Andy Pettitte and you do this, you will live to see another day. The hype was not there for them. But, for Philip Hughes, they way the Yankees and the media (and now the fans) speak of him, he almost has to win the Cy Young Award in his first season. And, is that going to happen?

When I think of this, part of me wants to say - better to trade him now, while his value is so high, than to keep hyping him to the point where he's bound to fail at first due to the bar being set too high and then gets fried in New York by both the media and the fans in the process.

Either that, or, maybe the Yankees (and the media) should stop talking about the kid like he's the next Syd Finch - and give him a fighting chance of surviving New York when he does get here.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at July 10, 2006 10:10 AM


Thank you for bringing some sanity back to this talk about Hughes. Last week I got killed on this blog for even suggesting that we could trade Hughes for the starting leftfielder on the NL All-Star team.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 10:58 AM

I think that's more a reflection of Soriano than anything else. Been there, done that.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 11:10 AM

I agree that we should temper our enthusiasm just a bit since, after all, Hughes is still between 12 and 24 months away from joining the big club. That being said:

a) It is up to individuals to not participate in a feeding frenzy. If he comes up and pitches like Andy or Rivera in 1995, people should remember that he'll still be a kid and they shouldn't boo him or run him out of town the way Yankee fans seem to love doing. Expectations being what they are about him, I'm sure short-sighted people will boo him if/when he gets blasted in a start against Tampa or Kansas City. I have little faith in the intelligence of the average fan but I just hope that the right people protect this kid from the dopes that make up the New York media who demand that players be booed just because they're Yankees.

b) Joel, you are entitled to your opinion, of course! That being said, whether or not Soriano or anyone else is an All-Star is beside the point in this case. It is just that absence of long-view thinking that has cost the Yankees World Series rings in recent years (among other things). Some of the trades we've made have not hurt us in terms of what we've given up. But the larger point is that we finally, FINALLY, have a blue-chip pitching prospect that has the makeup and stuff to really succeed at the highest level of the game. Why risk what could be a special pitcher for a few months of renting a player that may or may not guarantee us a post-season berth, let alone a parade through lower Manhattan?

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 11:11 AM


Don't vacillate. If you think it's prudent to trade Hughes (or anyone) for the right deal what is a specific trade you would make that would be agreeable to both team?

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 12:27 PM

FWIW, right now, Hughes is as blue-chip a prospect as there is in baseball. Therefore, to me, if you do trade him, it's for a player that you need, and who will be with the team for the next three years or so.

You do not trade him for Craig Wilson or Paul Byrd.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 12:29 PM

The idea, first popularized by Buster Olney, that a lack of home-grown stars has cost the Yankees world championships in the past 5 years is ridiculous. Bad luck in short series crapshoots have cost the Yankees. Any of our 2002-2005 teams were good enough to win it all. The playoffs are a tournament, and the point is to get yourself in so you have a shot.

For example, Billy Beane has every reason in the world to trade Barry Zito. Zito will not be in Oakland next year. And Zito would command top-level prospects. But Beane wants to win this year. He wants to get in the tournament, because he knows once you get in anything can happen.

Again, I'm not saying dump out the farm system. But I would not sacrifice a chance to make the post-season this year for a prospect who may or may not make it.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 01:08 PM

Yes, the hype around Phil Hughes is huge. But I think many of the "hype-rs" wouldn't care if, at age 23 in his first big league season, Hughes posts a 4.80 ERA.

The hype is because by the time he's 25 Hughes he has a very, very good chance of being one of the 5 best pitchers in all of MLB - and of being in that discussion for the following decade. Its not the 2007 version of Hughes that makes me drool - its the 2009-2019 versions.

I honestly don't care if the Yanks make the post season this year or not. I want to see the Yanks re-tool on the fly, a la the early/mid 50s, and set up the next run. If done right, it should focus the 'core' vets, the 30-32 year olds - basically A-Rod, Jeter, and Matsui - and surrounding them with young younger talent, eg, Cano, Melky and Wang, and in the future, Hughes, Gardner, eventually Tabata, etc.

By 2009 the Yanks are going to look very different. The question is, will they be (1) a team with a couple of stars that are surrounded by an over-the-hill gang of 'proven' but almost useless veterans and no home-grown pitching talent (1987/88) - OR will they be (2) a team with a couple stars that are surrounded by a young, talented supporting cast primed to grow and supplemented by some key, useful vets (94/95)?

I want (2), please - and I'll gladly trade postseason appearances in 2006, 2007 and 2008 for it.

Posted by: Shaun P. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 01:48 PM

Another way of looking at this is to remember history.

IIRC, in the mid-80s, every year the Yanks were always just 'a couple pieces away' from making the playoffs. And every year they'd go out and get those pieces - by trading away talented but not MLB-proven players like Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksburry, Fred McGriff, Jay Buhner, etc.

What did it get the Yanks? Nothing. Worse, it gutted the farm system and led to the barren years of 1989-1993. Which the team pulled out of by minding the farm system again.

Now I'm glossing over some details - it was harder to make the playoffs back then, among other things. But I guess I've seen the Yanks take the short-term view of team building, and I've seen the team take the long-term view of team building. And, like MJ, I prefer the long-term view. I think it produces better results.

Posted by: Shaun P. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 01:59 PM

Shaun and MJ, that is precisely the crux of the matter: do we risk a playoff berth in 2006 (or even 2007) for a possible quick-fix that might end up just as badly as the last 5 post-seasons...no parade. It's what's tearing my guts out in almost every disappointing game we play (like yesterday's masterpiece). Both Torre and Cashman's opinions notwithstanding, this team is not just 1 piece away from a championship. We could jump the shark and trade Hughes, Tabata, et al. for an Andruw Jones, Bobby Abreu, or Barry Zito. The point is we can only get one of these guys. Then our farm system is "barren" again. One of these guys will not give us a WS trophy. Not to say we can't compete in the post-season...but there's not even a hint of dominance here. I'd rather not rely on luck in order to win a one-off WS (like some people we could name)but build for a sustained period of brilliance. Hughes, and some others in A and AA ball now, are the building blocks for that. I survived the '80s as a Yankees fan. I think I can handle a year or two of not being in everyone's sights. That way we can sneak up on the rascals, quiet-like.

Posted by: JohnnyC [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 02:21 PM

Joel, you don't get it. Trading Hughes for a LF, who will be a FA, is not gonna be a difference maker. You win with pitching and defense. If you could get a Dontrelle Willis then you are talking. But DW isn't going anywhere without destroying the farm system.

Posted by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 02:29 PM

"I think I can handle a year or two of not being in everyone's sights. That way we can sneak up on the rascals, quiet-like."


Sounds like a great plan to me, JohnnyC! It might also quiet down the endless, and oftentime mindless, media coverage, which would be a welcome respite.

Posted by: Shaun P. [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 02:29 PM

With the Yankees' resources, the so-called "long-term view" goes out the window because the wildcard changes everything. The 80's would have been much different if there was a wildcard. We were a game or two out of the wildcard in '83 and '84, and we would have been the wildcard in '85 and '86, as well as '93. Plus there were other years where we were four or five games away and who knows what George would have done to give us a shot.

When you consider how well wildcard teams have done in the post-season, the "win for today" 80's might have been very different indeed.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 02:32 PM

Don, The FA will be resigned to a long-term deal. He wants to be here. And, he would have made an immediate difference in a game like yeaterday's, especially against a so-so left-hander like Casey Fossum.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 02:51 PM

Trading Hughes is not a great idea in my opinion, and I've written about it extensively here and here. But like the Red Sox trade of Nomar, sometimes the right offer comes along. I don't, Joel, think that Alfonso Soriano is the right offer. Basically, we would trade a very promising pitcher for two months of an outfielder who doesn't get on base and is just alright in the field. Remember: Hideki Matsui wants to be back by mid-August and Sheffield wants to be back by Sept. 1. If both of these players meet that deadline, where do you see Alfonso Soriano fitting in to the Yankees plans? I would much rather see a pitcher arrive in the Bronx, and the Yanks might be able to find a good pitcher by, well, promoting Philip Hughes instead of trading him.

Posted by: Benjamin Kabak [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 03:44 PM

First of all, the odds of both players meeting those deadlines are slim in my opinion. Soriano will play left and Matsui (a versatile outfielder) will move to right. Sheffield will DH. Giambi plays first with Phillips as the late inning backup. Melky is the 4th outfielder/late inning backup and Bernie finally gets to be Ruben Sierra.

In this lineup, your number 9 hits .320. You can't pitch around anybody. This lineup could average 6.5 runs per game. Are we the '82 Cardinals defensively? No. But I'll take my chances.

Sheffield's option is not exercised for 2007.

You want young pitching? Offer 28 year-old Barry Zito $55 million for 4 years. Tell him its 399' to left center and #75 has not been retired yet.

Posted by: Joel [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 04:22 PM

i understand what joel is saying, but i want to add zito in the offseason, so as to keep hughes. as long as there's a wildcard, you gotta go for it. and it has helped before: justice in 00, big daddy in 96. and there's no guarantee of prospects making it: domingo jean, maas, brien taylor, drew henson.

but then think about what worked right: keeping jeter, posada, rivera, pettitte, bernie, etc. and it wasnt the huge trade that put them over the tope, it was mostly just solid players, not superstars like soriano, e.g. oneill, brosius, key, wetteland, knoblauch, tino, wells.

but then look at the big splashes: giambi, arod, mussina, johnson, & clemens (the only one that really worked).

i guess my point is that i feel champions/dynasties are built through the farm system. and although not all prospects come to fruition, giving up on a guy like Hughes is too big a risk when his ceiling is as high as it is. plus he just turned 20!

i watched him closely yesterday and was disappointed to see him struggle. his biggest problems were location, the changeup (which he threw once but way high), and pitching inside (which he didnt do). despite this, i saw the tremendous potential: 92-96 FB, devastating curve (pedro-esque), and (largely) good control.

Posted by: 98Yanks [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 05:15 PM

Joel, as for Soriano being a difference in Sunday's game, that is impossible to say. You have no idea nor does anyone else.

This team is what it is. Old, injured and in need of youth and pitching.

I do not want Barry Zito.

Posted by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 06:34 PM

This is a high quality debate and I've enjoyed it.

The problem though is that many here have talked about abstractions like "building through the farm system" when the debate should really be about two specific questions:
1. How much of a sure thing is Hughes?
2. What could the Yankees get for him?

I wouldn't trade Hughes for Abreu, Zito, Soriano, or Wilson, but I would trade him in a package for Miguel Cabrera or, possibly, straight up for Dontrelle Willis. No one should be untradeable because of abstract principles. I might trade Tabata for Abreu, Zito, or Soriano.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 10, 2006 10:56 PM

No one is untradable, the question is what you get from it.

Phillies will obviously dump something by the end of the dead line, though I'm more incline to believe they will keep useful players like Abreu... their payroll isn't exactly huge for their market, and they have several useless and/or over the hill FA contracts comming to a end this season anyway.

It's more likely we can pry something like Lieber + Delluci for some of the 3A pitchers + cash.

Posted by: Yu Hsing Chen [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2006 01:27 AM

If they could get Willis even up for Hughes it's a done deal. But that ain't happening. Willis is worth far more.

Posted by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2006 01:54 AM

"Joel, as for Soriano being a difference in Sunday's game, that is impossible to say. You have no idea nor does anyone else."

good point, Don. one would have thought arod would make the difference in a game like this, but instead he went 0-4, GIDP, and a K with 2 on.

Posted by: 98Yanks [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2006 04:45 PM