Chris Sale’s latest setback and the overarching fact that the Red Sox have neither the quality or quantity of pitching to even pretend to contend have combined to finally force Chaim Bloom’s hand.
That’s right: the Red Sox actually spent some money.
And on a former Houston Astro, of all players.
Today, the Red Sox announced that they have signed 32-year-old right-handed pitcher Collin McHugh to a one-year deal.
To make room for McHugh on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox designated fellow righty Hector Velázquez for assignment.
The Red Sox are in the unfortunate position of needing help in the starting rotation as well as the bullpen. McHugh can do both, and will likely be used in the opener strategy the Red Sox will likely have to employ this season due to their pitching situation.
Each of McHugh’s seasons have been different; aside from 2015, when he only appeared as a starter, and 2018, when he did not make a single start, he has pitched in dual roles throughout every season depending on his team’s needs and his own health. In 12 starts in 2017, McHugh posted a 3.55 ERA. Last season, after struggling in his 8 starts, he moved back into a relief role for 27 games, posting a 2.67 ERA and holding batters to a lowly .208 AVG in those games.
McHugh has made at least one start in all but one of his eight seasons in the Majors. That one season in which he appeared solely in a relief role, was undeniably his best; in 2018, he appeared in 58 games and posted a career-best 1.99 ERA. His ERA has never been lower than 2.73 in any other season. He’s also only thrown more than 75 innings in three seasons. In 2015, his only season of 200+ innings, he posted a 3.89 ERA in 32 games, all starts.
But McHugh is far from a strong solution to this team’s plethora of pitching problems. In fact, like Sale, he has a history of elbow problems, including missing the last month of last season and then undergoing a procedure to “alleviate elbow concerns.” (WEEI) He also isn’t an addition who will be able to make any immediate impact, as he has yet to begin a throwing program. Health-wise, pitchers are almost always a huge risk, so no one the Sox acquire would be a sure thing, but another pitcher with elbow issues is pretty much the last thing this team needs right now.
There is also the unfortunate fact that McHugh comes to Boston by way of Houston, and in the current baseball climate, Red Sox fans would prefer to be as far separated from them as possible. Between the Astros cheating scandal, the Alex Cora connection and subsequent Sox investigation, and now McHugh, it feels like turning the page will not be possible any time soon.
There’s no guaranteeing McHugh’s quality, but at least the Red Sox are doing something about quantity, and that is a start. As with pretty much everything the Red Sox have on their plate right now, all anyone can do is wait and see how McHugh plays out.
Research: Baseball Reference