Following Thursday’s announcement that Chris Sale won’t be prepared for Opening Day, the Sox only semi-complete rotation further crumbled. With only three proven Major League starters (I don’t put Brian Johnson into this category considering his role in the bullpen in recent years), the Red Sox need to grab some more arms before the start of 2020. Whether it be through free agency or by means of a trade, possibly one centered around Wil Myers, though that seems unlikely now, the Sox need to acquire more pitching in order to seriously contend in 2020.
The market is slim (since it’s almost March), but good rotation arms are still out there
One possible option for the Sox is Collin McHugh, the former Astros starter turned reliever. Although he’s had more success in the bullpen, it’s possible for McHugh to convert back into his original starting role in Boston. In 2015, ’16, and ’17, McHugh was successful as a major league starter. He posted ERA’s of 3.89, 4.34, and 3.55, respectively, in each of those years. His injury history of 2019 was troubling, but McHugh was cleared to start a throwing plan on Friday.
Showing he’s healthy is the most important thing McHugh has to prove in order to sign with someone this year. And this throwing plan is a large factor to enable McHugh to secure a deal with a major league club for the 2020 season. In this sense, McHugh is already on the right path and has drawn interest from lots of clubs this year, this is sure to only increase as his throwing plan begins.
For the new style Red Sox, this acquisition makes perfect sense
McHugh, who posted a 5.26 FIP in games he started in 2019, would be an affordable, and expendable, option for the wilting Red Sox rotation. His contract in his only post-arbitration year was 1yr/$5M. And this salary will decrease even more considering the season-ending elbow injury he sustained in August of 2019. He should be ready for the start of the 2020 season, as long as he doesn’t face any setbacks during his throwing plan. He could be used in the rotation until Sale is healthy and the starting staff returns to its partial strength. Following Sale’s return, the Sox could move McHugh to the ‘pen, or keep him in the rotation to avoid a 5th-day opener. Building on the opener theory, Brian Johnson could open for him. And then McHugh could pitch as a traditional starter following the substitution.
For 2020 and the new style of roster construction the Red Sox are implicating, this signing makes sense. McHugh is cheap, with a projected salary of less than $5M. He is also easily expendable, he can be used as a starter, opener, or bullpen piece. And could be dropped off the roster if he’s no longer needed in the second half of the season. If McHugh is successful, he could return for 2021 and beyond. If not, it’s good for the Red Sox to experiment with this style of signing as the league continues to trend towards ones such as this. Chaim Bloom should be willing to do this, as seen in his actions while inhabiting Tampa. And while McHugh is no Gerrit Cole, he makes sense for the Red Sox. Specifically due to their roster construction, payroll concerns, and limited time to find a starter to complete the rotation.
Photo Credit: USA Today / Troy Taormina