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Free-agent profile: Phil Hughes

Nick Laham

To use a poker analogy, the Giants have an ace, a Cain, two Tims, and a coupon, and it doesn't matter because they'll have a full house regardless of what happens, and most of those people will buy panda hats. Also, I'm terrible at poker. Not even sure how it works. So I probably shouldn't use poker analogies.

The point is that we'll know what the river is in July or August. We'll also know then if the Giants should have ate the cards and spent the money on a really awesome yacht party instead. But one of these starting pitchers is going to be the right card for a team with the right hand. It's so frustrating doing these free-agent profiles because they all follow the same format:

1. Explanation of why pitcher could be good again

2. Explanation of the reason the pitcher is looking for a one- or two-year deal

3. Admission that I'd be cool signing him, even though he's a risk

All of them follow that format except for Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana, and all those guys will get contracts the Giants shouldn't give. Probably won't even get to profile them before they sign, mostly because I'm terrified of them.

Today, though, is about Phil Hughes, who could be just the best unless he's just the worst. He might get a three-year deal from a true believer, but I'm thinking he'll want the one-year deal and a pitcher's park to get back on the market and make millions more. Which is fine by me. That fits.

Explanation of why pitcher could be good again

It used to be Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, and Tim Lincecum, all bunched together at the top of the right-handed prospect list. There were arguments about them on every prospect-nerd site in the wild. Then Lincecum won the Cy Youngs and the argument. Homer Bailey is on the rise, though, and he could have a Scherzer-like late-blooming period that gets him back in the conversation. Poor Hughes had one good season as a reliever, but nothing else that was anything more than average. Last year, he was especially wretched, having a Lincecum-like season without the no-hitter.

But the stuff is still there:

Cool camo hat, Yankees.

He doesn't walk a lot of guys, either. This isn't a Jonathan Sanchez (or even Tim Lincecum) thing, where you nod at the stuff and then wait patiently for control that never comes. His problem might be more park-related:

Home 1 10 6.32 0 78.1 103 55 55 17 18 74
Away 3 4 3.88 0 67.1 67 36 29 7 24 47

Yankee Stadium is hilarious, unless you're Phil Hughes. To be fair, he had the opposite splits in 2012, so we're talking about a small sample all around. But he still allowed 22 homers in 98 innings in 2012, so the park was still hosing him, even if his ERA didn't really reflect it.

Why he's looking for a short-term deal

Because he was awful last year. There's no way to sugarcoat it. The good strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't so good that it's unimpeachable. He's basically Lincecum with better command, except he's never had anything close to a breakout season in his career.

And it should be noted that FIP has never liked him. The strikeouts aren't plentiful enough, and the walk totals aren't small enough. He might have earned those runs, pun intended.

Admission that I'd be cool if the Giants signed him, even if he's a risk

I'd be cool if the Giants signed Hughes, even if he's a risk. I'll gamble on a fly-ball pitcher with great stuff and a scouting legacy to get well in San Francisco. We're talking about a fifth starter, here. It's hard to pick a pitcher with upside and rail against the idea of signing him to a short-term deal.

Phil me up, lol.