Posted on March 5, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine

Collin McHugh
Image via kansascity.com

Amidst unanswered questions and vacant spots in their starting rotation three weeks before opening day, the Boston Red Sox have made a signing to address those concerns. On Tuesday, the club announced the signing of veteran pitcher Collin McHugh. The deal is worth just $600,000 in base salary for the 2020 season but comes with up to $3.625 million in incentives. McHugh has been waiting around all winter for a guaranteed major league contract and finally got one. To make room for him on the roster, the Red Sox designated Hector Velazquez for assignment.

The 32-year-old McHugh spent several years as a reliable starter with the Astros but has spent more time pitching in relief the past two seasons. In 2018, he was 6-2 with 1.99 ERA while making 58 appearances exclusively out of the bullpen. However, elbow trouble hampered McHugh last season, limiting him to eight starts and 27 relief appearances, posting a 4.70 ERA between the two. The fact that McHugh is capable of pitching in both roles and could bounce back and forth between the two helped make him an appealing option for Boston.

“Well, he can do both and he’s willing to do both,” Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke said of McHugh. “So we’ll kind of get him ramped up, extend him out and then see where he fits in on our staff.”

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The signing of McHugh comes amidst uncertainty regarding ace Chris Sale. After getting no less than three opinions on his balky elbow, Sale has been diagnosed with a flexor strain. He will avoid having to undergo Tommy John surgery for now but will likely begin the 2020 season on the Injured List. Last month, the Red Sox traded away fellow veteran David Price, creating another vacancy in Boston’s rotation.

Following the trade of Price and the injury to Sale, it seems to be almost a guarantee that McHugh will begin the season in Boston’s rotation, at least if he can get him arm into shape by the end of the month. Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi are set to lead the rotation with Sale sidelined. Veteran Martin Perez is also a safe bet to be part of the rotation despite a couple of rocky campaigns in the last two years. That leaves two open spots, one of which could be McHugh’s for the taking.

The likes of Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, Chris Mazza, Tanner Houck, and Kyle Hart are all in the mix as well for the vacancies in Boston’s rotation. Johnson is the most established of the group with 26 career major league starts while Weber and Houck have both impressed this spring. The Red Sox are no doubt hoping that at least two of the pitchers in that group can earn a rotation spot by the end of spring training. That could allow them to start out McHugh in the bullpen rather than force him into the rotation with an abbreviated spring training.

While questions linger, adding McHugh should help to ease some of the more immediate concerns for the Red Sox. If they need him to hold down a spot in the rotation temporarily, he should be up for the challenge. If some of their younger arms prove capable, McHugh can also be useful in relief. Obviously, not having Sale available takes away an elite starting pitcher from Boston’s rotation. However, signing McHugh will help the Red Sox add some much-needed depth to their pitching staff.

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