Astros: Maybe it’s time to re-sign pitcher Collin McHugh

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 30: Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on August 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 30: Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the fourth inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on August 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Collin McHugh is still on the list of free agents and spring training is just around the corner. Maybe it’s time to add him to the Astros pitching staff.

The Astros pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Florida, for spring training one week from today. There are still a lot of questions concerning what the pitching squad is going to look like come opening day. Wouldn’t bringing back a familiar face and experienced pitcher like Collin McHugh make perfectly good sense?

The starting rotation is all set at the #1 and #2 spots with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke heading up the group. But beyond that, uncertainty abounds. Lance McCullers Jr. is coming back from a season off after undergoing Tommy John surgery and the last couple of spots in the rotation are up for grabs.

The bullpen has Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Ryan Pressly, Brad Peacock, and Roberto Osuna as the five relief pitchers with any degree of extended experience. Peacock could even end up as one of the starters, shortening that list more.

McCullers will most likely be on a strict inning limitation and any inexperienced prospect that makes the rotation will bare the risk of tiring toward the end of the season. McHugh’s time as a starter and reliever would be a valuable asset as an occasional fill-in starter or in long-inning relief situations.

McHugh did struggle some last season in the starting role going 3-4 with an ERA of 6.37. But, he did have issues with shoulder discomfort early in the season and that could have had contributed to those numbers. But when management moved McHugh to the bullpen, his performance level improves immensely.

McHugh appeared in 27 games out of the pen totaling 33.2 innings. His ERA as a reliever was 2.67, quite the contrast from his results as a starter. He was credited with five holds and one win and was tagged for just one loss. He kept his opponents BA down to .208 as a reliever versus .232 during his starts. McHugh’s SO/9IP was also better when relieving (10.7) over starting (9.2).

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Among the relief pitchers on the free-agent list, McHugh had the 14th best WAR. Every pitcher that ranked above him is already signed except one, along with over 60 relievers ranking behind him. I’d be willing to bet the Astros could get him at a discount this late into the offseason and I don’t think they would regret it, especially later in the season.