Yankees free agent target: Tim Hudson

USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees, especially over recent years, are known to pick up veteran starters off the market to help fill the starting rotation. Tim Hudson could be the next one.

It's no secret: The Yankees need starting pitching this winter. CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are the only guaranteed starters in the 2014 rotation; Andy Pettitte has retired; it's unknown if the Yankees will bring Hiroki Kuroda back or not; Phelps and Pineda are coming off injures (though, obviously, Pineda's injury is much more severe). In the past, the Yankees turned to the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, two guys picked up off the scrap heap, to fill out their rotation just two seasons ago. The Yankees could sort of do the same by signing Tim Hudson this off-season.

Hudson is known as someone with a "bulldog mentality," whatever that means, but I suppose it's a good thing. In the past, Hudson was an innings-eating machine, pitching at least 179 innings in 11 out of 13 seasons from 2000-2012. He was set to log another 179 innings but came up 48 innings short thanks to a serious season-ending ankle injury he suffered in late-July while covering first base. He is expected to be 100% ready by November, however, so at least this won't be something he'll be rehabbing during camp, barring a Derek Jeter-esque setback, of course.

Before suffering that nasty ankle injury, Hudson pitched to a relatively solid 3.97 ERA (97 ERA+) and 3.46 FIP for the Braves. It was the first year Hudson had pitched to an ERA+ below 100 since 2006 (92 ERA+) and the second time overall in his career. His 3.46 FIP was the sixth time in the past seven seasons he has pitched to a FIP below 4.00. What ERA and FIP don't measure, though, is ground ball rate. Hudson has steadily posted ground ball rates above 55% every season since the data has been collected since 2002, including his 55.8% ground ball rate in 2013. This is obviously significant given Yankee Stadium's home run yielding tendencies.

Since Hudson is 38 and coming off ankle surgery, he won't figure to get too much of a raise from his $9 million salary he received this season, if not a pay-cut. You can also forget a multi-year deal, it's one year or bust. There's a chance, though it remains unclear how much of a chance, the Yankees don't re-sign Hiroki Kuroda. If they don't, they could take a gamble by signing Hudson at a lesser salary compared to Kuroda's $15MM in 2013 and hope for similar production. After all, Hudson did pitch to a 115 ERA+ from 2011-2012, and did pitch to a 2.73 ERA in his final 10 starts before his ankle injury, so he has shown he can succeed even at an advanced age. Although he shouldn't be the number one starting pitching target, the Yankees should at least keep their eye out for Hudson if they fail to land the bigger targets (Masahiro Tanaka) this winter.

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