The Minnesota Twins have agreed to sign right-handed starter Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Neal notes that the team is expected to announce the deal within the next week, and that Hughes will be in the Twin Cities to take his physical in the near future.
After agreeing to sign Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract before Thanksgiving, the Twins turned their attention to Hughes, as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported. Reports indicated that the Angels, Royals and Mariners, Mets and Marlins also expressed interest in the 27-year old, but the Twins' willingness to give him a three-year contract was likely a turning point in negotiations.
With Nolasco and Hughes in the fold, the Twins now have a formidable one-two punch at the beginning of a rotation that could also include Kevin Correia, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and top prospects Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer. The team has expressed interest in almost every free agent starter so far this winter, with Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza. A source indicated earlier on Saturday that they were heavily involved in talks with Arroyo, but the news of Hughes' addition will likely take them out of those sweepstakes.
The Twins have also been linked to catchers A.J. Pierzynski, Dioner Navarro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Neal notes that they have made progress in talks with Pierzynski. While it is unclear how far talks have progressed, there seems to be a legitimate chance that Pierzynski returns to Minnesota, the place that he called home from 1998 to 2003.