As the Padres rotation seems to get thinner each week, the team has made a move to try to fortify the present while also adding some future potential. On Sunday, the Padres received righty pitcher Phil Hughes along with a draft pick from the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are receiving minor league catcher Janigson Villaloboss and covering $7.25M of Hughes’ contract.
Phil Hughes is under contract through the 2019 season after signing a 5yr/$58M contract before the 2015 season. He’s due to receive $13.2M for the 2018 & 2019 seasons, and as noted above the Twins are covering a fair chunk of the balance. When Minnesota acquired him as a free agent, he was an enigmatic power pitcher with dominant stuff but an inability to put it all together and achieve the ace potential he flashed. A first round draft pick for the Yankees in 2004, Hughes was considered one of the game’s best pitching prospects when he broke into the league in 2007. A power fastball, a killer curve, and plus command had him looking like an ace in the making. In his second career MLB start, he had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning when he pulled his hamstring and wound up on the DL. Since then, his career has been plagued by injuries, leading to a diagnosis of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and two separate surgeries to address his symptoms. During his final days in Minnesota, manager Paul Molitor related that managing Hughes’ roster spot was somewhat similar to handling a Rule 5 selection, suggesting that his performance was so poor that he was only deployed in the situations with the lowest leverage. The Padres have as much experience with TOS recovery as anyone in the league, as Clayton Richard, Tyson Ross, and Carter Capps are all in various stages of recovery from the affliction. Hughes is headed to the bullpen for now, but if Darren Balsley can work his magic, we might see him slide into the rotation later this season. Hughes has been a starter for most of his career and was starting for the Twins this April.
The Padres also acquired the 74th overall draft selection in the deal. Wait, I thought MLB draft picks couldn’t be traded! Ah, but this is a “competitive balance compensation” pick, which is the only type of pick that can be traded. For reference, the Padres selected promising prospect Reggie Lawson 71st overall in the 2016 draft, so there is plenty of talent available at that point in the draft. Perhaps even more important than the pick itself, the team’s draft pool jumped from $9.65M to $10.46M, now the seventh highest in the league. The team now owns four of the first 84 picks in the draft.
Going to the Twins is minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos. The 21-year-old Venezuelan was signed in March 2016 and played in the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Summer League the last two years. Catcher is currently a position of depth for the Padres, especially after selecting Blake Hunt and Luis Campusano in last year’s draft as well as Johnny Homza, who has been converted to catcher after being drafted.
Phil Hughes represents a short-term recovery project for the Padres. The team has the financial flexibility to eat his contract if he doesn’t pan out, but if he can turn it around he would be a nice success story. The draft pick and pool money represent future value, so for the cost of a minor leaguer this transaction brings potential future value to the organization from multiple angles. Hughes is scheduled to report to the team today, May 28th. There has been no announcement regarding the corresponding 25-man roster move, but my best guess is that Tyler Webb will be back on the El Paso Express some time today.