Feasible contract cut
One of the biggest issues in recent years for the Minnesota Twins has been where “big” money has been spent. Phil Hughes is only the most recent example. Outside of Ervin Santana, the Twins spending on pitching has not been great. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn received extensions and then could not stay healthy or throw well anymore. Carl Pavano was great in his one-year deal, but the moment he signed a multi-year deal with the Twins, things went downhill fast. Even smaller signings like Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey were bad. Ricky Nolasco was a mess.
However, Phil Hughes may still be the biggest mistake of them all. Hughes had excellent pedigree as a prospect, ranking as the #4 prospect with Baseball America and #2 prospect with Baseball Prospectus before the 2007 season. He had an up-and-down career with the Yankees in the majors, going 56-50 over 7 seasons, throwing 780 2/3 innings with a 4.53 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.3% walk rate, and 19.7% strikeout rate.
After the prospect glean had worn off, the Twins signed Hughes after the 2013 season for a 3 year, $24M deal with additional bonuses that could bring the deal to $27M. In the first season of that deal, Hughes was excellent, going 16-10 (on a team that lost 92 games) over 32 starts, throwing 209 2/3 innings, with a 3.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 1.9% walk rate, and 21.8% strikeout rate. He set a record for the biggest K/BB rate in MLB history.
However, whether it was due to feeling he would repeat this season for years to come, or due to the fact that Hughes ended up just 1/3 inning short of a 210 mark that would have earned him an extra $500K, but after just one season with the team, Hughes was given an extension that carried his contract through 2019. That raised his 2015 and 2016 salary to $9.2M each season from $8M along with salaries from 2017-2019 of $13.2M each.
While that salary is not exorbitant, the Twins have had no luck whatsoever trading Hughes’ salary as he has fallen back to earth in performance and suffered through injuries and is now recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and likely will not pitch much of 2018 as well.
At this point, it will cost the team money ($26.4M left on the contract) to release Phil Hughes, but it may be best for all involved to simply move on and allow the organization to use that roster spot for the development of their future arms that are working their way through the system currently.