Red Sox visit free agent market; ink Collin McHugh to one-year deal

(Photo: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe)

Amidst a nervous few days in Red Sox Nation with anticipation of Chris Sale news, the Red Sox finally did the right thing and hit the free agent market to pick up a well-reputed arm.

On Thursday, Boston inked Collin McHugh to a one-year big league deal with a base salary of $600,000, barring bonuses relating to innings, appearances, etc.

The 32-year-old has spent 8 major league seasons as both a starter and a reliever and while with the Astros, served as one of the most underrated pitching roleplayers in the game. During his first four seasons with the Astros, he was exclusively a starter and highlighted his career as a starter in 2015 when he went 19-7 with a 3.89 ERA and pitched over 200 innings and received top-10 Cy Young votes. In 2018, he was converted to a reliever. That year, he pitched in 58 games to the tune of a stellar 1.99 ERA. McHugh also has a 3.60 ERA in the postseason, primarily via multi-inning appearances to bring the gap from the starter to the late-inning arms on the way to wins.

McHugh spent part of the offseason with an elbow concern but he was cleared to throw and it comes as a surprise that he didn’t draw more immediate interest from several teams, including a certain rival in the division with starter concerns. Whether or not Chris Sale will provide reliability from a health standpoint in 2020, this move was a necessity to complete a very solid rotation that hopes to keep the Red Sox in contention behind the potent offense.

McHugh’s versatility is an invaluable asset to a team that might need all the help they can get in the rotation or the pen. While I expect McHugh to start the season as a starter with the absence of Sale on Opening Day, don’t be surprised if he provides some longer appearances out of the pen down the stretch if the rotation remains fairly injury-free.
With the fairly slim pitching depth on the free agent market, the Red Sox picked the right guy for the job. While some eyes were set on 2-time Red Sox champion Clay Buchholz, recent Red Sox pitcher Andrew Cashner, and 2016 AL ERA champion Aaron Sanchez, the front office kept their eyes on the ball and picked out the best man for the situation. McHugh fits the bill in terms of age, experience, and caliber and adds himself to the list of several Red Sox pitchers with high upside. McHugh is also the leader of The Twelve Six Podcast, intended to bring out the human side of baseball, a great listen consisting of interviews with current and former players such as Sean Doolittle, Alex Bregman, and John Smoltz.

To make room for McHugh on the 40-man roster, the Sox designated HĂ©ctor Velázquez for assignment. In three big league seasons for Boston, Velázquez pitched in 89 games and posted a 3.90 ERA, often times providing much-needed spot starts. If Velázquez’s career in Boston is indeed over, he should be remembered for his services as part of the 2018 championship run.

Follow the author at @AhaanRungta and read more here.