The Boston Red Sox are interested in free-agent Collin McHugh
The hot stove is firing up again now that the lockout has been lifted and the Boston Red Sox are eager to get back to upgrading their roster. Chaim Bloom is intent on stockpiling pitching and his latest target is right-hander Collin McHugh.
According to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo, McHugh has a robust market that includes the Red Sox.
Signing McHugh would technically count as a reunion of sorts. The right-hander signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Red Sox following an injury plagued 2019 campaign but he ended up opting out of the shorted 2020 season when his arm wasn’t fully recovered from the non-surgical procedure he underwent during that offseason.
McHugh joined the Tampa Bay Rays on a one-year deal last year and he bounced back with an outstanding season. He went 6-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 0.938 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 37 appearances, including seven starts.
His Statcast data from last season places McHugh among the elite. He ranked in the 95th percentile or above in BB%, Hard Hit%, xSLG and xwOBA, per Baseball Savant.
McHugh doesn’t throw hard with a four-seam fastball hovering in the low-90s but he commands it with pinpoint control while avoiding hard contact. He compliments his fastball with an 87 mph cutter, which he seems to trust more against lefties compared to the four-seamer. His most frequently utilized pitch is a slider that held opposing hitters to a .177 average last season. McHugh will also occasionally toy with a curve, although he’s moved away from that pitch since transitioning to the bullpen.
Health is a factor that the Red Sox will need to be cautious of when pursuing McHugh. In addition to the elbow problems in 2019 that sidelined him the following season, McHugh missed time last year with a back strain and arm fatigue. The 34-year-old can’t expect a long-term contract but he may not be willing to settle for another one-year deal. Another incentive-laden deal similar to what the Red Sox inked him to two years ago would make sense but that might not be an option with more teams competing for his services this time.
While he was a solid starting pitcher earlier in his career with the Houston Astros, McHugh is primarily a bullpen arm at this stage of his career. He provides versatility with the capability of handling a variety of roles, including spot starts, long relief and high-leverage situations.
He isn’t an experienced closer but the Red Sox could use McHugh in a variety of ways to bridge the gap to the ninth inning. Imagine a bullpen that can alternate between McHugh, Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck to lock down a few innings late in games. If either of the latter two pitchers ends up in the rotation, McHugh would be a perfect fit for a bulk inning role behind them.
The Red Sox have some money to spend with the luxury tax thresholds rising in the new collective bargaining agreement. They are more likely to spread their remaining budget out to fill several holes rather than splurge on any of the remaining star free agents. McHugh offers the type of skill set and versatility that Bloom covets. While signing him didn’t pan out last time, McHugh is the type of target worth giving a second chance to.