FEBRUARY 18: Hughes would earn $1.5MM in the majors and has a March 18th opt-out opportunity, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
FEBRUARY 17: The Astros have signed right-handed reliever Jared Hughes to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter link). He’s repped by ISE Baseball.
Hughes, 34, pitched to a 4.04 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.64 HR/9 and a hefty 59.2 percent ground-ball rate in 71 1/3 innings between the Reds and Phillies in 2019. That ERA was his highest since way back in 2013, as Hughes has quietly racked up sharp bottom-line results for the Pirates, Brewers and Reds for much of the past decade.
From 2014-18, Hughes worked to a combined 2.41 ERA between those three NL Central foes. He totaled 329 innings in that time, but his lack of missed bats (5.8 K/9, 15.9 percent strikeout rate) seemingly limited his appeal. The Pirates released Hughes at the end of Spring Training in 2017, and after quickly signing with the Brewers, Hughes was non-tendered the following offseason. He posted nearly identical ERAs of 3.02 and 3.03 in each of the two seasons prior to being cut loose.
Hughes has never thrown particularly hard in the first place, but the 91.4 mph average on his sinker in 2019 was still a career-low. The spin on that sinker has been lower than virtually any other heater in the game (first percentile in ’18, second percentile in ’19), which is a good thing for sinkers (as opposed to with four-seamers, where a high spin rate is optimal). As such, it’s no surprise to see that Hughes has been a ground-ball machine throughout his career (61.5 percent). That should bode well for a team that boasts a quality group of defensive infielders in Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel. He’ll need to earn a spot in the bullpen first, of course, but there are enough inexperienced arms in the ’pen mix to think that Hughes will have a solid shot at making the club with a good spring effort.