One of the greatest follies you can make during analysis is ignoring the context in which decisions are made. Not everything happens in a vacuum, and to pretend that it does only results in dishonest commentary. That's where a lot of the breakdowns of the Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes signings have fallen, unfortunately - but that doesn't mean that the writers aren't also making good points.
Here's a quick spin around the web, to see how outsiders view the three-year, $24 million dollar deal between Hughes and the Twins. This is the internet, so it wasn't difficult to find commentary on any side of the issue.
- The Intersection of Cheap, Sane, Wise and Winning believes the Twins were neither sane nor wise in their Hughes decision. Saber Bucs believes that both he and Jason Vargas are number five starters; it's a good reason to not like the signing, but more importantly it's a misunderstanding of what a number five starter is. For a Pirates fan, you'd expect him to know exactly what that is, and it's not xFIP marks of 4.35 and 4.39 over the last two seasons. Minnesota certainly doesn't have any better pitchers available for the Major League rotation in the minors, but it's also not as easy as he believes it is to go out and pluck what is essentially a cost-controlled, serviceable, and effective starter from someone else's rotation. Particularly one that meets the standards of what he believes a number five starter to be.
- Pinstripe Alley wishes Hughes well, and subtly wishes us good luck with him. Jason also points out that the first Yankees-Twins meeting of the year is a series kicking off on May 30. It's pretty much guaranteed that Hughes starts that series and that, no matter how well he's done to that time, he'll be lambasted. Right?
- Let's Go Tribe is oddly positive on the signings, at least from a Twins perspective, believing that Minnesota could have a league-average rotation after the additions of Nolasco and Hughes. Naturally they're not as optimistic about our defense, and rightly so. That, actually, is one of the biggest concerns in getting the most out of the two biggest free agent signings in franchise history: the defense needs to make the outs they're supposed to make, and maybe a few more.
- Mike Petrielo of FanGraphs breaks down both the Nolasco and Hughes signings, and adds a great deal of contextual evidence to the naturally statistically-minded slant of the the post. He concludes that the Nolasco signing makes the team better this season but is more about the long-term competitiveness of the club, and that Hughes is more of a gamble on reaping better numbers away from Yankee Stadium, believing that both signings are defensible from a financial standpoint and from a production standpoint. Time will tell.
- Over at The Hardball Times, Brad Johnson knows that both pitchers have warts and he also covers how incredibly awful the team has been over the last three seasons, but ultimately concludes: "The lesson here is that evaluating the Twins' new acquisitions in a vacuum is incorrect. There are trickle-down effects to rostering league-average starters over replacement-level fodder. And sometimes that replacement-level fodder can become a nice role player when moved to the bullpen. By marginally improving now, the Twins may be in a better position if and when their vaunted prospects reach the majors."