10:06PM: The Blue Jays are one of the teams with some interest in McHugh, as TSN’s Scott Mitchell (Twitter link) reports that the right-hander “has been discussed internally” within Toronto’s front office.
11:03AM: Free-agent righty Collin McHugh has recently been cleared to begin a throwing program after undergoing a (non-surgical) tenex procedure on his right elbow, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. A wide range of clubs have recently checked in on his status.
The latest update on McHugh — and really the first of the offseason — indicates that he’s a ways behind pitchers who are currently in camp, so he’s not likely to be plugged into a team’s pitching staff from the outset of the season. McHugh missed about a third of the 2019 season due to ongoing discomfort in his right elbow and didn’t look like himself when he was healthy enough to take the mound. In 74 2/3 innings of work, he was hammered for a 4.70 ERA and a 4.43 FIP with 9.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.45 HR/9 and a 38 percent grounder rate. The 32-year-old’s average fastball sat at 92.1 mph in 2018 but dipped to 90.8 mph in 2019. His swinging-strike rate, opponents’ exit velocity and opponents’ hard-hit rate all went in the wrong direction.
That said, McHugh was lights out in a bullpen setting in 2018, spinning a pristine 1.99 ERA through 72 1/3 innings with averages of 11.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 0.75 HR/9. And from 2014-17, McHugh was a quality rotation piece in Houston: 606 1/3 innings of 3.70 ERA (3.60 FIP) with 8.4 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9. He was one of the first spin-rate darlings in MLB, as the huge spin on his curve is reportedly what prompted the ’Stros to pluck him out of the Rockies organization via a 2013 waiver claim.
It’d be easy to make the case for how McHugh could help virtually any club in baseball. The price tag on him shouldn’t be too high at this point — if he requires a big league deal at all — so it’ll be more a question of where McHugh feels comfortable and feels he’s presented with the best opportunity. That could mean signing on with a rebuilding club that’ll give him rotation innings or suiting up for a win-now club with fewer innings to offer but greater promise of a return to the postseason. Those preferences will be for McHugh and agent Mike Moye to sort out, but interest in the right-hander should be robust now that he’s able to get on a throwing program and give prospective new teams a clearer timeline for his return.