After the Royals signed Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen last week, there were moves in the works to accommodate them on the 40 man roster. On Tuesday Gil Meche retired, opening a spot for Chen, but the Royals were still left with 41 players for 40 spots.
And the unlucky player cut loose was Dusty Hughes.
I find it confusing.
Hughes had a 3.83 ERA in 56.1 innings in 2010 as the main left-handed reliever. He wasn’t overpowering (5.4 K/9) and not exactly precise (3.8 BB/9), but he did well enough, I thought, to stay with the team. The Royals have ten days to decide if they’ll trade him, release him or outright him to the minors.
The move leaves the Royals with just four left-handed pitchers on the 40 man, with two of those being projected starters (Chen and Francis). Noel Arguelles signed a major league deal last January, so Everett Teaford, added to the 40 man roster in November, looks like the front-runner for a left-handed bullpen job.
This also opens up a potential spot for lefty Tim Collins to make the club out of spring training. Collins got his first taste of Triple A last year after the Royals traded for him and he performed well. The Royals have immense flexibility with their payroll and could yet add a left-handed pitcher if they needed to.
There’s an outside chance that they could try Chen as a reliever and keep Sean O’Sullivan in the rotation, but that seems like a very remote possibility.
Perhaps the Royals don’t think another team will go after Hughes, and that they can stash him in the minors. That might be possible, but it also seems like any of Jesse Chavez, Kevin Pucetas or Nathan Adcock (all right-handed pitchers) could have been dropped to make room. Hughes isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it seems an unnecessary risk to try to sneak him through the system with a shot to re-make the team out of spring training.
It’s not the end of the world. Hughes had a WHIP of 1.473 and seemed to get some luck from a startlingly low HR/FB rate of 2.7%. That’s well below league average and is ripe for correction. Even with that lucky home run rate, Hughes carried an ERA+ of 110, so he wasn’t that much better than average despite some fortunate breaks.
It’s not a huge loss, and the alternatives are more attractive options anyway, so despite my confusion, I guess it’s the right move to make. Especially if you want to see Teaford or Collins in April at the K.