Once upon a time Phil Hughes was the best pitching prospect in baseball, but his Yankees career came to a disappointing end last season as he went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 146 innings before hitting the open market as a free agent.
Minnesota signed Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract anyway, believing that getting out of New York would help him rediscover the potential he once had as a prospect. And so far at least it’s gone exactly according to plan for the Twins.
Hughes tossed seven shutout innings against the Padres last night to improve to 5-1 with a 3.15 ERA, including a fantastic 47/6 K/BB ratio in 54 innings. That strikeout rate of 7.8 per nine innings is right around Hughes’ career mark of 7.6, but the walk rate is totally uncharacteristic.
Last season Hughes walked 2.6 batters per nine innings and his career walk rate is 2.7 per nine innings. This year he’s walked 1.0 per nine innings and Hughes is currently on a streak of 147 consecutive batters without issuing a walk. That includes five straight zero-walk starts, during which time Hughes is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 27/0 K/BB ratio in 33 innings.
It’s early still, but so far $24 million for three seasons is looking like one of the offseason’s best investments.
Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports that the Giants have signed catcher Nick Hundley. It’s a major league deal worth $2 million.
Hundley, who is 33, but who seems like he’s been in the bigs for about 27 years, hit .260/.320/.439 with 10 homers in 83 games for the Rockies last season. Obviously he will be the backup given the presence of Buster Posey.
Major League Baseball has experienced inconsistent progress in its efforts at promoting diversity and social responsibility in recent years despite making it a league priority. Today it has announced several changes in its leadership structure in these areas, with Commissioner Manfred saying, “As the sport of Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, we have a responsibility to uphold and honor their legacies, especially in ensuring that our sport and business practices are as inclusive, diverse and socially-conscious as possible.”
To that end:
- Billy Bean has been promoted to Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. This is a newly-created and elevated position in which Bean will continue his efforts at promoting human rights issues important to Major League Baseball, with a particular focus on LGBT and anti-bullying efforts. He has done such work since 2014 as its Ambassador for Inclusion, but putting him at the vice presidential level and having him answer directly to Commissioner Manfred increases his profile and that of his mission;
- Renée Tirado, has been promoted to Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion. Tirado had previously served as Senior Director of Recruitment. She will direct the implementation of recruitment plans and procedures to support MLB’s staffing objectives and will oversee MLB’s Diversity Pipeline Program. As you may recall, Major League Baseball has struggled mightily in these effort in recent years, and has admitted as much; and
- Melanie LeGrande has been promoted to Vice President of Social Responsibility. She previously served as MLB’s Director of Community Affairs. Her job will be to develop and enhance the initiatives that support MLB’s position in the community and oversee MLB’s community investments, nonprofit/non-governmental organization partnerships, large-scale disaster relief efforts and employee volunteer engagement.
Manfred said, “the promotions of Billy, Renée and Melanie reflect our commitment to have strong, innovative leadership in place that aligns our industry objectives with a desire to be effective corporate citizens.”
While all of these are current employees who have served in roughly similar roles. A business’ organizational chart says much about how much that business values various functions and initiatives. In keeping with Manfred’s comments, that all three of these people have been promoted to the vice presidential level is a strong signal from MLB about what it wants.
Now all it has to do is follow through and get what it wants.