By the time the pitcher was 27, he had made an All-Star team. He'd won 18 games in a season. He had been the main setup man on a World Series champion.
Another team added together his young career and decided to give him three years and $24 million.
Disappointment? Hmm, that seems a little steep for Phillip Joseph Hughes. Was he as good as advertised? No. Did he contribute? Yes.
Ultimately, to twist the old Denny Green line, Hughes was never who we thought he could be. Before Joba Chamberlain arrived in 2007, Hughes was clearly the more highly touted prospect. Before he was even called up, I remember driving down to Scranton to interview him about being the next great Yankee pitcher. He was impressive.
Even before he threw one major league pitch, he always handled everything with ease. Raised by a nice Southern California family, Hughes was courteous, insightful and available. Those qualities served him well as a Yankee.
But he never was good enough as a starter. Last season, he was downright awful, finishing 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA. Truth be told, in 2010 when he was an All-Star, he really only had six good weeks and then was the beneficiary of the Yankees' offense.
By 2011, we were saying he should be out of the rotation. By June of 2013, we were saying Hughes in Yankee Stadium and in the AL East doesn't work. Joe Girardi grew very frustrated with Hughes and by the end of the season was pulling him when he would fall behind in counts.
Hughes had to leave the Bronx. That he ended up in Minnesota is perhaps fitting because the Yankees would not relinquish him to the Twins to acquire Johan Santana in the winter of 2007. Hughes' career tumbled so far in 2013 that by the end of the season the Yankees couldn't even extend him the qualifying offer -- which would have garnered them a first-round sandwich pick -- for fear that he would accept the $14.1M.
So he leaves the AL East for the AL Central. In his career, he has a 1.89 ERA in 71 1/3 innings against the Indians and White Sox. With the Twins, he might do OK. With the Yankees, it never fully worked.
The fact that he took three years and did not just take a one-year deal to return to the market next year might be telling. Hughes was always a bit satisfied. Being OK was good enough. It's too bad he never could develop his secondary pitches. He seemed to prefer to be a top-of-the-rotation guy, but there was never the proof that he wanted it badly enough.
So he goes to the AL Central for a contract that didn't befit the original expectations. It is nice money, but he was supposed to be a $100 million ace, not a $24 million, middle-of-a-bad-rotation starter.