Phil Hughes: Buy-Low Option for Miami Marlins


Sep 18, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes (65) throws against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have plenty of young pitching already on their major league roster, a couple of up-and-coming prospects, and depth in their minor league system. However, the team is still interested in adding a veteran starting pitcher to the mix. It was reported over the weekend that the Marlins have shown interest in former New York Yankee starter, Phil Hughes.

With all the pitching depth the Marlins have, one has to wonder why the Marlins would have interest in a pitcher like Hughes, who is coming off of a rough season with the Yankees.

Chance for a Bounce-Back Season:

To me, the interest in Hughes is the Marlins going about building their roster the right way. The Marlins, when they have been most successful, have struck lightning in a bottle and collected starting pitchers for cheap on the open market and allowed them to regain their value before moving onto a new ball-club.

Hughes fits that mold to a tee for the Marlins. He is coming off a season where he posted an ugly 5.19 ERA and a 4.50 FIP in 30 games (29 starts), spanning 145 2/3 innings.

Hughes has always shown decent control, as he struck out 7.48 hitters per nine innings and walked just 2.59 hitters per nine innings last season. Those numbers were right in line with his career numbers of 7.56 SO/9 and 2.82 BB/9.

The main issue for Hughes has been that he is a fly-ball pitcher pitching in a hitter friendly ballpark, in Yankee Stadium. In the past two seasons, Hughes has given up 59 home runs in just 337 innings of work. The amount of innings he has pitched is something the Marlins would like to add to their rotation for sure, but the amount of home runs allowed is certainly concerning.

For a flyball pitcher like Hughes, pitching in a park without a jet stream and deeper dimensions would mean his flyballs would more often than not stay in the ball-park instead of finding the fans. A move from Yankee Stadium to Marlins Park would help regress the rate of home runs that Hughes has allowed. He would also be playing in front of an outfield defense that would likely be better than the one he played with in New York.

When you factor in that Hughes allowed a BABIP of .324 in 2013, which is well above his career BABIP of 2.96, you could build a strong case that Hughes 2013 season is in line for some regression. Here is the line that Steamer currently projects for Phil Hughes in 2014:

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These projections come without knowing the ball-park factors for which Hughes could play in 2014. If he does indeed end up in Miami, those numbers could even look better.

Trade Candidate:

If Hughes pitches that well for the Marlins in 2014, the team could shop him around at the trade deadline and hope another team bites on their reclamation project. Unless Hughes has a major breakout season, he is not going to bring the Marlins a high-end prospect, but if the team can sign him to a cheap contract in the off-season, they would have an easy time flipping him for a mid-tier prospect. One that has a shot of making an impact on the Marlins roster in the future.

The Marlins currently have a stock pile of pitching in their system,  but adding more arms in return for Hughes or even finding a bat would be very beneficial to the team in the long-run.

Where does Hughes Fit Into the Marlins Rotation?:

This is going to be a popular question if the Fish are able to reel in Hughes. The Marlins rotation, if the season began tomorrow, would look like this:

  1. Jose Fernandez
  2. Nathan Eovaldi
  3. Henderson Alvarez
  4. Jacob Turner
  5. Brian Flynn (Likely favorite to win headed into camp)

While the team feels they have a ton of depth in their future rotation, they have been actively seeking to trade one of their starters if they can bring back an impact bat. Adding Hughes would give the team the freedom to trade one of their starters and not worry about rushing the arms in their organization.

If you insert Hughes into the rotation and deal, lets say Henderson Alvarez, for an impact bat, the Marlins rotation could lineup like this:

  1. Jose Fernandez
  2. Nathan Eovaldi
  3. Phil Hughes
  4. Jacob Turner
  5. Brian Flynn

If the Marlins were able to acquire Hughes and trade one of their existing starters, they would still be able to monitor their young arms and not feel rushed to push some potential starting pitchers to the majors too early, such as Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, or Anthony DeSclafani. None of those four pitchers have pitched above Double-A and could benefit from additional minor league innings.

In this case, the Marlins would also be able to control their contracts for a little bit longer. The Marlins could always call up one of that quartet if Hughes continues to give up gophers at an alarming rate or if they can rebuild his value and collect a prospect at the deadline.

While Phil Hughes may not be the major splash that Marlins fans would be hoping to see the team make, it is certainly a move that could help the Marlins in 2014. To me, a bounce-back season seems to be in the cards for Hughes in 2014 and the Marlins need to capitalize on it.

What do you guys think, should the Marlins continue to pursue Phil Hughes or do you believe they could do better elsewhere? Drop your opinion in the comments and let us know how you feel about the Marlins rumored interest in Hughes.