The Arizona Diamondbacks signed free agent reliever Brandon Hughes to a minor league contract on Thursday, officially ending his stint with the Chicago Cubs.
Hughes was non-tendered by the Cubs on November 17, alongside fellow relievers Codi Heuer and Ethan Roberts. All three men became free agents at that time, with Roberts re-signing with the Cubs and Heuer still on the open market to this day.
It's unfortunate to see Hughes go because he was arguably former manager David Ross's most trusted relief pitcher in 2022, and he was pretty darn good that year. Hughes appeared in 57 games with a 3.12 ERA with eight holds and eight saves. He made his debut on May 17 and he struck out 5 batters in his first big league game. Christopher Morel made his MLB debut on the same night and cranked a booming home run to left field in his first at-bat.
Hughes' success was halted in 2023 when a persistent knee injury kept him on the IL most of the year. With the Cubs in need of left-handed help in the bullpen, it's a bit of a head-scratcher that they were unwilling to even give him a minor-league deal and set Hughes up for a potential return. Especially when you take into account the fact that the Cubs successfully converted Hughes from an outfielder to a pitcher when he was in the minor leagues. He was one of the initial testaments to the Cubs' ability to develop pitchers before the emergence of Justin Steele as an ace and Adbert Alzolay as the closer.
Maybe the Cubs know something the public doesn't about Hughes' knee. Or they just weren't ready to give Hughes playing time with other lefties like Luke Little, Drew Smyly, and Bailey Horn looking to fill the lefty bullpen role. In any case, it's good to see someone will be employing Hughes this year and hopefully, he will be able to get back to where he was in 2022.