Ricky Nolasco (4 years, $49 million) and Phil Hughes (3 years, $24 million) represent the two richest free agent contracts ever given by the Twins to outside players.
Here are three thoughts on each pitcher:
1) This is no sure thing, of course. His best season in the majors was 2008. His next-best was 2013. In-between were four adequate years, but nothing that would light the world on fire. That said, his career rate of 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings looks much nicer when placed against the context of the Twins' pitch-to-contact staffs of recent years. Basically, by being adequate or better, he will be an upgrade.
2) The best thing about Nolasco aside from his decent strikeout totals is his durability. He's made at least 26 starts every season from 2008-13, and he'll be 31 when the season starts -- meaning we could reasonably expect him to make a lot of starts over the length of his contract.
3) At his best, he should be a more strikeout-capable version of the 2010-11 Carl Pavano who gave the Twins a lot of innings and was a reasonable option to start big games. At his worst, he will be an overpaid strikeout-capable version of Kevin Correia, more of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter eating innings. Either way, he's an upgrade.
1) We're actually more excited about this signing than the Nolasco deal because we think it has more value, Hughes potentially has more upside and as the second domino to fall in the rotation it gives the starting five a very viable feel. His career splits trend very nicely on the road. Whether it's the Yankees' ballpark or the pressure of pitching in New York, a change of scenery could be what Hughes needs to put it all together. Career at home: 4.96 ERA and opponents have a .807 OPS. On the road, those numbers dip to 4.10 and .690. Pitching at Target Field should be a very good thing for him.
2) That said, if it was the bright lights of Yankee Stadium that hurt Hughes, he could be one of those pitchers that crumbles in big games. The Twins don't figure to be in a pennant race immediately, but it's something to monitor. It could be the ballpark. It could be something else.
3) The biggest risk with Hughes is durability. He's made at least 29 starts in three of the past four years -- including seasons with 16 and 18 wins -- but he's never topped 191 innings. But he's still young (27) and averages 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The price the Twins paid felt neither cheap nor too much.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.