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New York Yankees Should Keep Phil Hughes and Sign an Adonis

Has any New York Yankee been mentioned more in trade rumors since he came to the majors than Phil Hughes?

Sometimes it seems that the Yankees can hardly wait to get rid of him.

Hughes is considered a trading chip this spring because the Yankees are potentially deep in front-line pitching and could use a young hitter to help immediately or stash in the minors for a second-half call-up. 

At least it appears that Freddy Garcia has also joined Hughes as trade bait, although he would figure to bring a smaller return.

The Yankees can have it both ways, however, if they make an all-out effort to sign Adonis Garcia, the 26-year-old Cuban who can play several positions and should be major league ready after some time in Triple-A.

Garcia is only 5’7″ but is considered strong for his size. He would eventually add youth to an aging Yankees lineup in a reserve role in the outfield or infield, either late in the season or next year.

One lesson the Yankees should learn from the Joba Chamberlain episode is how uncertain pitching can be. Chamberlain was already recovering from Tommy John surgery when he suffered a severe open fracture of his right ankle on a trampoline, which will likely cost him the 2012 season, if not jeopardize his career.

The Yankees believe they have a glut of starters with CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Hughes, Garcia and Andy Pettitte.

They also have two or three highly regarded prospects that might be able to contribute as early as this season, especially right-hander Dellin Betances.

But today’s strength can become tomorrow’s weakness, and making moves in spring training before any real games are played seems premature.

The first three months of the season will enable the Yankees to properly assess their starters.

Is Pineda the imposing force he was in Seattle the first half of last season or will he struggle a bit as he did in the second half?

Can Nova come close to duplicating his breakthrough 2011 season when he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA?

How will the 37-year-old Kuroda adjust to a more hitter-friendly American League and Yankee Stadium after four years with the Dodgers? He is considered a solid innings-eater but his career record in the National League was 41-46.

And after a year in retirement, will Pettitte be the same dependable big-game pitcher he was in 2010? He is 39 and probably won’t join the Yankees until May.

Why not answer these questions and also determine whether Hughes, who is only 25, can duplicate the 18-8 record he had 2010 before contemplating trades?

The early season schedule, with off days and weather postponements, makes it difficult to keep five starters working regularly, much less six, so relegate Freddy Garcia to the bullpen and let Hughes assume the starting role.

Freddy won’t be happy but it gives the Yankees a chance to evaluate Pineda, Hughes and Nova, perhaps the core of their future staff.

Another decision will have to be made when Pettitte is ready, but why not let that play out instead of simply assuming he will be the Andy of old?

Adonis Garcia will cost the Yankees money, perhaps $16-$18 million over several years, but that is better than giving up Hughes for another team’s prospects or an everyday player with nowhere to play in the current Yankees lineup.

At worst, Adonis Garcia can give Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez a day off on occasion or move to left field if Brett Gardner has another slow start as he did in 2011, although he is considered an adventure in the outfield.

But if he is a solid hitter as advertised, he will infuse energy into a lineup built on the long ball but with only Cano a likely .300 hitter. 

Another lesson the Yankees should have learned is how they played a big part in the inconsistency that Hughes and Chamberlain have shown because of being shuffled from the rotation to the bullpen and back.

Ideally, those decisions are made when a prospect is still in the minors, not when he is trying to establish himself at the major league level.

The Yankees need to see once and for all whether Hughes is a starter capable of 12 to 15 victories a season, a middle innings reliever or even someone with closer potential. He was 8-3 in 51 appearances in 2009, 44 in relief.

If Hughes bombs, his value will decrease but it is difficult imagining a team giving the Yankees an established position player or one of their best prospects for a pitcher who was 5-5 and injured last season.

If Hughes is traded, Kuroda can’t cut it in the American League, Pettitte doesn’t have it anymore, Freddy Garcia breaks down as he has in the past and Nova comes down to earth, it will put a lot of pressure on Sabathia and Pineda, whom the Yankees want to gradually groom to be their No. 1 starter.

By the All-Star break, either the Yankees will be dealing from strength or looking to acquire players that contenders-turned-pretenders are looking to unload.

Besides, who wouldn’t want an Adonis on their roster?

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