Collin McHugh would be an inexpensive and experienced arm the KC Royals should consider adding to their pitching staff in 2020.
The management of the KC Royals has shown very little signs of life this offseason. Which, frankly, lines up with their in-season performance in 2019 as well. They have added basically nothing to a rotation that was objectively embarrassing to watch last season. They still have a chance to make some improvements on the cheap before it is too late. And one of those options is Collin McHugh.
Alex Wood has reportedly signed a 4-million-dollar deal with the Dodgers for next season. Those are the types of deals the Royals need to be attempting to make this offseason. We need, at the very least, some short-term stop-gap options for our pitching rotation. And if they are experienced veterans? Even better.
Collin McHugh will turn 33 years old this season. He is coming off what was probably his worst season. He pitched to an ERA of 4.70 and was a league-average pitcher with an ERA+ of 99. He also battled nagging injuries through most of the season.
McHugh also would have been our third-best starting pitcher last season. He was more than 20 percent better than Glenn Sparkman, a pitcher with an ERA over 6 that we seem determined to find an excuse to send back out there again in 2020.
The Homer Bailey signing in 2019 would be comparable to signing Collin McHugh in 2020. He is not going to extinguish the dumpster fire of a rotation that the Royals currently seem fine with. But he is at least league average and can try to keep us in games long enough for Soler to hit another home run or two.
As a starter in 2019 McHugh showed some signs of struggling, albeit it was only over 41 innings. He allowed 30 runs over those 41 innings. Worth remembering that 10 of those runs all came in one epic meltdown game that Jeremy Guthrie would have been proud of. McHugh’s xFIP of 4.45 as a starter in 2019 suggests that his performance was probably better than his results. He also struck out over a batter per inning and his groundball rate was still 40 percent. He walks a few more batters than I would like but, luckily for him, the Royals love pitchers that issue free passes.
McHugh would also bring some nice flexibility with him. Even though he has had some nagging arm issues over the last couple of years and has been up and down as a starter, he has shown flashes of brilliance coming out of the bullpen.
Over 114 innings as a reliever McHugh has struck out 139. He allows a batting average against of .206 as a reliever. His FIP is 3.2, his ERA is 2.76, and his WHIP is a very solid 1.1. If his arm can no longer handle the rigors of starting over a full season, we could certainly move him into more of a closer role after we trade Ian Kennedy. And, yes, we do need to trade Ian Kennedy.
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I have resigned myself to the fact that the KC Royals are not going to try to be winners in 2020. But that is no reason to send out hopeless pitchers a few days per week. The fans are still paying for these games. And it is also important that we do not ultimately rush our young talented minor league pitching prospects into the majors just because we were too cheap to spend a few million dollars on a short-term deal. Those deals are available to us. Collin McHugh is one the Royals should consider.