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Yankees, Phil Hughes Avoid Arbitration

Last year's #4 starter in the playoff rotation is now set to return for what could be his final year in pinstripes.

Will we be seeing Hughes again after next year?
Will we be seeing Hughes again after next year?
Al Bello

Major League Baseball officially reported that the New York Yankees and Phil Hughes have agreed to a one-year contract in the last of Hughes's three years of arbitration. Last year, he made $3.2 million, and although the actual figures of his 2013 deal were not released, Mark Feinsand heard from two sources that it would be $7.15 million. If accurate, that would put the Yankees' 2013 payroll at $196,895.000, up from $189,475,000.

According to FanGraphs, Hughes was worth $8.4 million last year, so he does not have to do too much different in 2013 to reach his projected value. Although he gave up more gopher balls last year than anyone in Yankee pitcher in team history besides 1962 Ralph Terry, he had arguably his most consistent season in his six-year career. His 2010 season numbers (99 ERA-, 99 FIP-, 2.4 fWAR) might have been slightly better overall than last year (101 ERA-, 108 FIP-, 1.9 fWAR), but he was Jekyll and Hyde that year and wilted in the ALCS against the Texas Rangers.

In 2012, he maintained a steady back-of-the-rotation presence and made more starts than anyone other than Hiroki Kuroda. Hughes hit a career-high in innings (191.1), tied for the team lead in WINZ (16), and most importantly, he showed great control with a sparkling 2.16 BB/9 that limited the damage from the many homers. That figure was eighth in the league, even better than contemporaries like David Price, Justin Verlander, and James Shields. He followed up this fine season with a solid start in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles that should have earned him a win if the Yankees' October offense had a pulse. Unfortunately, his season came to an end in Game 3 of the ALCS when back problems forced him the game after three innings of one-run ball.

Now, the Yankees will look to Hughes to do what he did last year, and you can bet that he and his agent know that it is a contract year. No one knows for sure if the Yankees will bring their '04 first-round draft pick back for another round when the '13 season ends, especially given the looming $189 million figure that the franchise appears to be trying to meet. Hughes has watched pitchers similar to himself get decent deals this offseason, like Jeremy Guthrie (three years, $25 million with Kansas City) and Joe Blanton (two years, $15 million). Hughes is better and younger than those guys, so it would probably cost at least that much to keep him around and almost certainly more.

Regardless of what will happen to Hughes next year around this time, let's hope he brings his Philthy stuff to 2013 and takes a big step toward earning the deal that he seeks with a stellar season. Keep the meatballs to a minimum, Master Chef.