Potential Red Sox target Collin McHugh signs with Braves

Former Red Sox reliever Collin McHugh will not be taking his talents back to Boston this year. The free agent right-hander has instead signed a two-year deal with the Braves, the club announced on Tuesday evening.

Per a team release, McHugh’s contract includes $10 million in guaranteed money. The 34-year-old will earn $4 million this season and an additional $5 million in 2023. There is also a $6 million club option for 2024 that comes with a $1 million buyout.

A veteran of nine major-league seasons, McHugh originally signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox in March 2020 after a successful six-year stint with the Astros. At that time, however, the righty was still recovering from a Tenex procedure he underwent the previous December to treat a flexor strain in his elbow.

After the COVID-19 shutdown halted spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 campaign, McHugh reported to Fenway Park for summer camp but ultimately opted out of the season altogether since he was not progressing well from his elbow procedure.

The Rays then signed McHugh to another one-year deal last February and he made the most of it. Despite multiple trips to the injured list in 2021, the 6-foot-2, 191 pound hurler still bounced back by posting a 1.55 ERA and 2.12 FIP with 74 strikeouts to 12 walks over 37 appearances (seven starts) spanning 64 innings of work for Tampa Bay.

On the heels of such an effective campaign, McHugh was seen as a viable free agent target for the Red Sox since he is undoubtedly familiar with the organization and can pitch in a variety of roles.

As recently as last Friday, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reported that the Sox were indeed “among the teams with interest” in McHugh. How interested Boston was in McHugh remains unclear, but it obviously was not enough in the end for any sort of reunion.

While chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will now have to continue to look elsewhere for bullpen help, McHugh is heading back to his home state of Georgia to pitch for the team he grew up watching.

(Picture of Collin McHugh: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)


Should Red Sox pursue reunion with Collin McHugh once lockout ends?

The Red Sox have already signed two pitchers who spent at least part of the 2021 season with the Rays this off-season, so what’s stopping them from going after a third?

Following the additions of Michael Wacha and Rich Hill, the Sox should next turn their attention to Collin McHugh — someone they already have a history with — once the Major League Baseball lockout ends.

Last March, Boston signed McHugh to a one-year deal for the 2020 season a few weeks into spring training. But the veteran right-hander never suited up for the Red Sox.

At the time of his signing, McHugh was approximately three months removed from undergoing a Tenex procedure to treat a flexor strain in his elbow. The COVID-19 pandemic and the league-wide shutdown that followed only prolonged his recovery, and the righty ultimately opted out of the 2020 season in July.

After sitting out all of 2020, McHugh inked another one-year pact with the division rival Rays this past February and enjoyed a nice bounce back in what was his ninth big-league season.

Across 37 appearances (seven starts) for Tampa Bay, the 34-year-old posted a miniscule 1.55 ERA and 2.12 FIP to go along with 74 strikeouts to 12 walks over 64 innings of work in 2021.

Not only was McHugh effective when it came to keeping runs off the board, he was able to do so while limiting hard contact against him. Among the 269 pitchers who accrued at least 60 innings on the mound this year, McHugh ranked fifth in barrel rate (2.5%), eighth in hard-hit rate (28.9%), and sixth in expected ERA (2.26), per FanGraphs.

For as productive as McHugh may have been with the Rays, he did miss some time on account of being placed on the injured list on three separate occasions. From April 18 through May 4, he was sidelined because of a low back strain. From July 25 through August 7, he was sidelined because of arm fatigue.

Despite those injury-related concerns, there was not much McHugh could do wrong in 2021. He did not allow a single run while serving as Tampa Bay’s opener and proved to be effective against left-handed and right-handed hitters alike.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-2, 191 pound hurler operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a nasty slider, a cutter, a four-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup. Opposing hitters batted just .177 against McHugh’s slider — a pitch he threw nearly 53% of the time — this year.

McHugh, who does not turn 35 until next June, is projected by FanGraphs readers to net himself a one-year, $5 million deal in free agency this winter. The Illinois native can pitch in a variety of roles and can provide multiple innings of relief when needed.

When speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) earlier this month, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom indicated that the club would be aggressive in pursuing bullpen help once MLB’s transaction freeze is lifted.

“We still would like to add more pitching,” said Bloom. “We’ve got some guys who can fill multiple roles. But as far as short relievers, that is something we have yet to address in meaningful fashion. And we’re going to continue to look at doing that.”

Considering that McHugh offers flexibility, would not be too expensive to sign, and is already familiar with the organization, he seems like a free agent the Red Sox should target as soon as they get the opportunity to.

(Picture of Collin McHugh: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Collin McHugh Opts Out of 2020 Season

Right-handed pitcher Collin McHugh has opted out of the 2020 season, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced Sunday.

Per Roenicke, McHugh made this decision based off the fact that he really was nowhere close to appearing in a game anytime soon and it had nothing to do with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, the 33-year-old would have begun the year on the injured list and it would have taken about “half a season” to get him back healthy. Now, while at Summer Camp with the Red Sox, it became apparent that McHugh, who is recovering from an elbow procedure, was more in “rehab mode” rather than “game prep mode,” as Roenicke put it. In other words, “His arm just didn’t respond as fast as he’d like it to.”

By opting out of the 2020 season, McHugh will be removed from Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning the club now has two open spots on said roster to work with. Those two spots could go to Brian Johnson and Zack Godley.

As for McHugh, the veteran right-hander initially signed a one-year, major-league deal with the Sox back in February after undergoing a non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain over the winter. He will now return to his family in Atlanta.



Red Sox’ Collin McHugh Using Social Media to Document Unique Summer Camp Experience

Red Sox right-hander Collin McHugh is using his platform on social media to document the day-to-day experience of Summer Camp at Fenway Park.

Beginning on Friday, the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers, the 33-year-old took to Instagram to chronicle what it was like to be a professional athlete in the midst of a nationwide coronavirus pandemic.

From daily intake COVID-19 testing at Gate D, to the luxury suites that have been converted to locker rooms to practice social distancing, to the Sam Adams deck in right field that has been converted into a training room, to the infield concourse that has been converted into a weight room/batting cage area, to non-contact food pick up, to shower trailers outside the grandstand, Fenway Park has undergone quite the transformation to accommodate players and staff during these unprecedented times.

Based off a video posted to Instagram and Twitter by McHugh earlier Saturday morning, it would appear that players are required to spit into a vial approximately 15 times every other day while not being allowed to eat or drink anything 30 minutes before said test.

When asked about how optimistic he feels in regards to the uncertainties surrounding the 2020 MLB season, McHugh said the following:

“I’m up here in Boston without my family for three months trying to play baseball, trying to put a game on for three hours a night for people to hopefully give them some rest, give them a break, give them some entertainment. But then go right back to the real world. Obviously our hope is that we can do this safely and we can pull it off, but we’ve seen in different areas in the country and different areas of the world that this virus can be unpredictable and if we aren’t extremely vigilant on our part it doesn’t take a lot for the walls to start closing in on. I think for players, we understand that and we understand both our safety, our health and all the health and safety of the people around us give us a chance to play this game. It rides on that fact, that we are extremely, extremely careful and vigilant about following these protocols. I think if we can do that as players and staff and organizations across the league can commit to doing that I think we can do this and pull this off.”

McHugh signed a one-year deal with Boston back in early March. He is currently working his way back from a non-surgical procedure underwent in the offseason to repair a flexor strain and may or may not be ready for Opening Day later this month.

To follow McHugh on Instagram, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click here.

Red Sox Injury Updates: Alex Verdugo and Collin McHugh Making Significant Progress as Training Camp Nears

Two of the newest additions to the 2020 Red Sox are progressing well from their injuries, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters in a Zoom call earlier Wednesday night.

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece in the February Mookie Betts trade, was coming off a stress fracture in his lower back suffered while he was with the Dodgers last year. It looked as though he would miss quite a bit of the 2020 season earlier in the spring.

Now, with an abbreviated 60-game campaign set to begin late next month, the 24-year-old likely won’t miss any game time at all if all goes according to plan.

“He should be all systems go,” Bloom said of Verdugo Wednesday. “The only limitation on him at this point is what we’ve been able to do by virtue of the fact that we’ve been shut down. He’s handled everything great. He should be ready to roll as we get him ramped up. This applies to everybody but it certainly applies to him given what he’s been through. We’re not going to cut corners. But we’re optimistic that he’s going to be ready to roll.”

With Kevin Pillar and touted prospects like Jarren Duran and Marcus Wilson in the mix, the Red Sox still should not feel the need to rush Verdugo back from his back ailment.

Once the Arizona native reports to training camp at Fenway Park next week, things will presumably become more clear regarding a course of action to take before the season starts.

As for the other new addition, veteran right-hander Collin McHugh has been “doing well” as he recovers from an offseason non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain.

While getting back to throwing off a mound in recent weeks, the 33-year-old is “basically progressing towards games,” per Bloom.

“He has tolerated everything really well,” Boston’s chief baseball officer added. “We’ve tried to build him up really responsibility. Don’t know yet on an exact timetable but he is progressing really well.”

The Red Sox and McHugh agreed to a one-year deal in early March that included $600,000 in guaranteed money.

At the time, the one-year pact also included incentives that could bring its value upwards of $4 million, but things have obviously changed now due to a shortened season where players will receive prorated salaries.

McHugh, a native of Illinois, spent the previous six seasons with the Astros and has experience working as both a starter and reliever. That versatility could prove to be quite valuable this year if the hurler is healthy.

In non-physical ailment-related news, an unidentified player on the Sox’ 40-man roster tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month while exposed to the virus in his hometown. As of now, he is not displaying any symptoms, according to Bloom.

Red Sox Add Collin McHugh on One-Year Deal, Designate Hector Velazquez for Assignment

The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year major-league deal with right-hander Collin McHugh. To make room for McHugh on the 40-man roster, fellow right-hander Hector Velazquez was designated for assignment. The club made the transaction official earlier Thursday.

McHugh, 32, had spent the previous six seasons with the Astros, and most recently posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 35 appearances (eight starts) and 74 2/3 innings pitched in an injury-shortened 2019 campaign.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, McHugh will earn a base salary of $600,000 in 2020, “though performance bonuses related to innings and active days could drive that higher.”

He probably won’t be ready for the start of the season after just recently being cleared to throw following an offseason tenex procedure that alleviated an elbow concern, but once he is up to speed, McHugh is a solid piece to fill out the Sox’ starting rotation in the wake of the concerns surrounding left-hander Chris Sale.

As for Velazquez, the 31-year-old was a potential candidate to take one of those rotation spots, but will now likely begin the year with Triple-A Pawtucket if he does clear waivers.


Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.