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We will refrain from making the "desperation at bar closing" analogy here because it is rather base in nature, but let it be said that the Twins might wind up looking smart -- or at least relatively smart compared to other teams -- by making two of their major free agency acquisitions early in the game.
Ricky Nolasco for $12 million a year (four years) and Phil Hughes for $8 million a year (three years) might not sound like bargains, but did you see that Scott Feldman got 3 years and $30 million from Houston.
He doesn't strike out a lot of batters. He has two decent years to his credit. He is 30 years old.
This is the market right now. Never mind that Robinson Cano got $240 million for 10 years from the Mariners. That kind of thing is going to happen when a team wants to make a splash.
It's the Feldmans of the world that could make the Twins look smart.
He's only 27, but he's won 16 and 18 games in separate seasons. That said, he's also battled some health issues and has never thrown more than 192 innings in a season.
Those are the stats that are sitting there in plain sight. But what if we go just a little deeper to find out exactly what kind of pitcher he is?
*Pitch type: Hughes has a good fastball, topping out around 95 and sitting between 92 and 93. He has thrown fastballs for about 63 percent of his career pitches. Some sort of breaking ball (cutter, slider, curve ball) has made up about 31 percent, while changeups have accounted for the other 6 percent. So in terms of how he attacks hitters, think about someone like Scott Baker, who has very similar pitch type numbers, though Baker has a little less velocity on his fastball.
*Type of pitcher: Sounds the same as the last category, but here we're looking at what batters tend to do when he's on the mound. Plain and simple, Hughes is a fly ball pitcher. Of MLB pitchers last season with at least 140 innings pitched, he had the fourth-highest fly ball percentage (46.5) in the majors. That's consistent with his career average (46.0). But his home runs per fly ball percentage wasn't bad (11.1, ranking 41st). His strikeout percentage last season during a down year (18.9 percent) ranked 61st among pitchers with 140 innings or more. That doesn't sound so great, but consider no Twins starter who threw at least 100 innings last season had a K percentage higher than 15. So it's an improvement.
*Ballpark effect: In roughly the same amount of innings home and away in his career, Hughes allowed 76 homers in Yankee Stadium and 36 on the road. He also has an ERA of 4.10 on the road compared to almost 5 at home. We're not sure if his old hitter-friendly home ballpark can be blamed for all of that disparity, but clearly he has been more comfortable away from Yankee Stadium and that should only be a boon for the Twins.
So the biggest questions for Hughes on this 3-year deal are these: 1) Can he bounceback from a subpar 2013 season (4-14 record, 5-plus ERA)? 2) How much will the more spacious Target Field help keep some of those fly balls in the ballpark? 3) Can he prove to be enough of a combination of durable and effective that he performs more as a No. 2 or 3 starter than someone lower down?
Well, the most interesting story of the day award goes to T.J. Quinn, a former New York Daily News reporter who is now with ESPN.
It was 10 years ago today when Quinn, then at the Daily News, broke the story of Bonds' grand jury testimony in the BALCO scandal. He was never supposed to hear the testimony, of course, but he did nonetheless.
How did he do it?
Well, a little luck ... a little quick thinking ... and the rest is history.
He revealed the entire story through a series of tweets. Deadspin has already captured them, so we won't bother to do the same.
But trust us: go have a look-see.
But as big of a deal as that news conference was Tuesday afternoon, there was a reality check less than 24 hours later. The Yankees once again opened their giant checkbook and reportedly agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a 7-year, $153 million deal. This makes Ellsbury the next Johnny Damon when it comes to Beantown Betrayal.
It also represents more than triple in total value what the Twins paid for Nolasco, and nobody really bats an eyelash when the Yankees do it.
All of this, too, while the Yankees are reportedly trying to cut payroll.
Then again, the Yankees' version of cutting down means getting just under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Even if New York wound up at, say, $185 million for next season, they would still dwarf the Twins and many other teams.
This isn't news, just review -- and a reminder that on a day the Twins spent twice as much as they ever have on a free agent, it was learned the Yankees have committed to spending more than three times that pumped up figure. We wrote a couple months back about spending vs. winning and the correlation. Again, what it comes down to in our mind is this: If the Twins are wrong about Nolasco and he flops, that is a devastating blow to their hopes. If the Yankees miss on a guy like Nolasco, they can always buy another one.
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.