Huff’s In

David Huff will start Saturday against the Red Sox and Phil Hughes will move to the bullpen.

The Yankees are smart enough to know that Huff isn’t really an upgrade over Hughes. He has made over 50 starts in the majors and he has a career ERA over 5. Hughes has made over 100 starts and has an ERA of 4.72 as a starter. The chances are very good that Huff gets lit up Saturday just like Hughes probably would have.

So why make this move? I suspect it is being done for two reasons. First, Huff is under team control next year as an arbitration-eligible player. The Yankees want to take a long look at him and see if he has any value before they tender him a deal. If he somehow continues to pitch like he has so far this year, it will be an easy choice to bring him back on a small contract. But the Yankees are also hurting Hughes’ value with this move. I wonder if they are doing it deliberately? Let me explain.

I said last week that the Yankees can’t offer Hughes a contract for next season because at the price, $14-million, it is very likely he would accept and they certainly don’t want to pay him that much for 2014. But, by not offering him a contract, the Yankees risk losing him for nothing. So, is this move to the bullpen an attempt to lower his value even more with the idea of bringing him back on a one-year deal for $6-million or so? The Yankees could pitch it as a chance for Hughes to re-establish his value and chase bigger dollars after 2014.

Ultimately, the Yankees don’t owe Hughes anything. They have given him ample opportunity to pitch and he hasn’t done a lot with that opportunity. I think Brian Cashman and his advisors would be best served by letting him walk away to a different team next year, even without any compensation. But that would be a bitter pill to swallow for a staff that is taking increasing heat for a bad player-devlopment track record.