(How much can Hughes make for himself in 2013? Courtesy of Getty Images)
After a 2011 season that could only be called a complete disaster, Phil Hughes rebounded nicely in 2012. He came into camp healthy and stayed that way for the entirety of the season on his way to a career high in starts (34) and innings pitched (201.0) between the regular and postseasons. With other key members of the rotation either getting hurt (CC, Andy, Pineda) or flaming out (Nova), Hughes' mere presence in the lineup helped provide consistency and an extra innings eater, and after a rough April he actually pitched pretty well.
Earlier today, Chad Jennings, expanding on an idea originally included in a post by Joel Sherman last week, discussed the strange position Hughes finds himself in heading into 2013. He's made himself a much more important part of the current and possibly future rotations after years of inconsistency and uncertainty, and at age 26 at season's start would be primed to earn himself a big payday in free agency next offseason. He's also done/doing it during a time where the Yankees are tight with their money, and could very well price himself out of their range with a good year. Complicating the matter even more are Hughes' spotty career totals and recent positive trends, the Yankees' own internal starting pitching questions, and the free agent market to be.