Well he's pitching in the Arizona Fall League, and the results have not been good. Such that some are beginning to speculate on his future in New York. It means GM Brian Cashman has a tough decision to make: continue to invest in Phil Hughes potential, or trade him while he still has blue-chip market value.
In baseball there's nothing greater than a homegrown stud. Everyone appreciates great players, but great players that came up through your farm system have a little extra oomph.
Think Derek Jeter on the Yankees. Albert Pujols in St. Louis. BJ Upton or Evan Longoria in Tampa.
And it means even more if you can groom an ace starter, for example Phillies ace Cole Hamels who surely gets steak-and-cheese sandwiches on the house wherever he goes in Philadelphia.
Homegrown talents have extra value as players not only because fans love them to pieces, but also as high-margin business commodities. Young players are cheaper, and if your young guys are also All Stars then you have a leg up on everyone else.
Brian Cashman certainly believes in this, and for good reason; when the Yankees dynasty of the late 90s was at full throttle, he had a number of homegrown studs: Jeter, Rivera, Bernie, Pettitte. After following that era by trying to buy every good player available, the last couple years have seen Cashman return to prioritizing the development of the farm system first.
And after Joba Chamberlain, the biggest symbol of this return to homegrown roots is Phil Hughes. Unfortunately Hughes has yet to deliver on that promise.
Last year Cashman passed on dealing Hughes for the right to shell out a huge contract to Johan Santana a huge contract. At the moment that decision looks horrible, and is looking worse with each mediocre pitching performance.
But the allure of hot young pitching prospects springs eternal, and while Hughes may have lost some of his luster Cashman probably has one more shot to deal that potential for a really good established commodity.
There are good players available: names like Jake Peavy, Prince Fielder, and Matt Holliday. Hard to say exactly what would be needed to complete a deal for any of those guyss, but there's little question that the inclusion of Phil Hughes would get the conversation started in earnest.
Of course Cashman held off dealing him last year because you don't trade homegrown potential aces. So if Cashman still believes, then he may want to continue to hold the stock.
But if there's doubt, this may be his last chance to sell before the bottom falls out. Either way -- whether traded for a good player, or staying in pinstripes -- Cashman's legacy likely hangs on the decision.