The Detroit Tigers have already been connected to veteran right-hander Phil Hughes, who was designated for assignment by the Twins on Monday.
The Detroit Tigers signed two veteran starting pitchers last off-season. The hope was that they could eat innings at the back-end of the rotation, and serve as potential trade bait if they played well. So far so good for Francisco Liriano, who is already drawing interest from multiple teams. Mike Fiers hasn’t been quite as good, with a 4.57 ERA and just a 5.82 K/9.
With Fiers struggling and Jordan Zimmermann on the disabled list, the Tigers turned to Blaine Hardy and Ryan Carpenter to make a handful of spot starts. It’s possible the Tigers are looking to adding more depth to the rotation. Players who can also pitch out of the bullpen, where the Tigers have struggled tremendously, would be a bonus.
One player was just designated for assignment who, technically, fits this bill. That would be 31-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes. And the Tigers have already been connected to the veteran, according to a tweet from Twins beat writer Mike Berardino.
After being DFA’d on Monday, the Twins have until May 28 to trade Hughes or place him on irrevocable outright waivers. If he clears waivers, the Twins can either release him or send him to the minors. Hughes is currently owed a staggering $13.2 million dollars this season and next season, part of a very ill-fated contract he signed in 2017.
Hughes to the Tigers?
The Tigers are not going to trade for Hughes while he is in DFA limbo, as they would have to absorb his gargantuan contract. The most likely scenario is that Hughes clears waivers and either rejects his minor league assignment or is released. If that is the case, he could be signed for the league minimum or even to a minor league contract.
As you can see from the tweet above, Hughes’ reported connection to the Tigers stems from his relationship with bullpen coach Rick Anderson. Anderson helped Hughes during his dominant 2014 season. Expecting Hughes to come to Detroit and repeat the dominance he had that year, when he posted a 3.52 ERA and a 5.9 fWAR, would be foolish – bordering on insane.
On one hand, adding a veteran capable of starting and coming out of the bullpen on the cheap makes sense for the Tigers. Hughes could serve as the swing-man and if he pitches well, he could command a prospect or two at the deadline. And if he doesn’t, they could just cut him. No harm right?
The Harm in Hughes
Well, the problem is that Hughes has shown absolutely no reason over the last three years to believe he will be even an adequate big league pitcher.
Hughes has thrown 12 innings in 2018. He’s made seven appearances, with two coming as a starter. He boasts a 6.75 ERA (7.62 FIP, 5.86 xFIP) with a 1.58 WHIP and an 8/5 K/BB ratio. From 2015-2017, Hughes tossed 268 innings for the Twins. He had a 5.04 ERA (4.93 FIP) with a 1.40 WHIP and a 5.6 K/9. Opponents slashed .299/.328/.513 off Hughes in that time.
Outside of a relationship with coach Anderson, there’s no reason to believe Hughes will turn it around in Detroit. His velocity is down, his strikeout stuff is non-existent, he’s homer prone, he gives up hits to both righties and lefties, etc.
The point is, Phil Hughes is bad. And as far as reclamation projects go, the Detroit Tigers should look elsewhere.