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Trade Target: Collin McHugh (McWho?)

You might have heard the news already, but Yu Darvish followed Chris Gimenez and signed with the Chicago Cubs. There are many contingencies. But at this point, a trade may make more sense for the Twins than signing any of the remaining free agents. There are several trade targets that should be considered. Today, we consider Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

There are still the bigger named free agents from this year’s class, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Signing any of them would cost the Twins their third draft pick in 2018. There are the third-tier free agent pitchers like Jaime Garcia and Jason Vargas. They won’t cost a draft pick, but there is minimal upside. There are several other free agent starters that are back end of the rotation types at best.
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina, USA Today
Background
Collin McHugh made 15 big league appearances in 2012 and 2013 for the Mets and Rockies. Following that 2013 season, Colorado waived him and the Astros claimed him. As a 27-year-old rookie in 2014, he made 25 starts for Houston and went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA. In 2015, he went 19-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 32 starts. In 2016, he made 33 starts and went 13-10 with a 4.34 ERA. Last year, he missed a lot of time due to a posterior impingement of his right elbow. He made 12 starts and went 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA.

However, last August, the Astros acquired Justin Verlander and went on to win the World Series. Then this offseason, they traded for Gerrit Cole. Their rotation going into spring training is Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton. McHugh provides depth, but he would be outside of the rotation.

McHugh is not a flamethrower. His average fastball is just over 90 mph. He throws a cutter in the mid-80s and also has a good slow curveball.

McHugh will turn 31 in mid-June. Last week, he lost his arbitration hearing and will make $4.55 million in 2018. He will have one more year of arbitration in 2019, so acquiring him gives you two years of control.

Risk
As I see it, there are a few risks with McHugh. First and foremost, the elbow is a concern. I get that as of last season his injury had nothing to do with his ulnar collateral ligament, but sometimes pain in that area can lead to other issues in related structures.

Reward
Collin McHugh is not Chris Archer. Acquiring him would give the Twins a real solid #3 pitcher (if healthy). A top three of Santana, Berrios and McHugh is pretty solid. Kyle Gibson bumps down to the #4 starter and then you’ve got depth of young pitchers with varying levels of upside competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. That depth then moves down to Rochester where they continue to work to move their way up.

Secondly, he provides a quality starter at likely two years and maybe $10-13 million.

Despite not having big velocity, McHugh finds a way to miss bats. Over his four previous seasons, his K/9 numbers have been 9.1, 7.6, 8.6 and 8.8. Those numbers would be at the top of Twins starters in recent years.

Potential Cost
McHugh has two more years of team control, likely in the $10-13 million range. He doesn’t have a spot in the Astros starting rotation. The Astros have used a lot of minor leaguers in the last couple of years to acquire players like Verlander and Cole. They will likely want to acquire prospects for McHugh, but the haul for him should be far less than a trade for Chris Archer. In other words, the Twins should be able to pick any 6-8 prospects that they say are untouchable, and then the conversation can start.

That would mean that the Twins may have to give up one quality prospect, but not a top 100 type of prospect. At that point, if I’m the Astros, I’m wanting quantity as much as quality. They should take advantage of the Twins minor league depth. Maybe they would want three prospects in the 16-30 range as opposed to the Twins #11 prospect alone.

By comparison, acquiring Chris Archer is likely to cost a young major leaguer, two top five prospects and maybe two more prospects. But instead of getting a guy similar to Ervin Santana, you would be getting an absolute ace who is young and under team control for four more years for about $30 million. It’s an important distinction when comparing two potential trade targets.


Is Collin McHugh a guy you think that the Twins should consider acquiring?

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65 Comments

Over the last four seasons, and while pitching against usually extremely tough offenses in the AL East, Archer ranks 5th for starters in the AL in fWAR.

 

Over the last THREE seasons, he ranks 3RD in the AL in fWAR. 3RD.

 

He has blemishes but you have to look hard.I guess the term Ace is reserved for like 3 pitchers.

    • rghrbek, KirbyDome89 and Original Whizzinator like this
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KirbyDome89
Feb 12 2018 07:16 PM

 

"An ace" pitches every five days.There are only about five or six true aces in the league and Darvish sure as heck isn't one of them.Neither is Archer and I don't think Arrietta is now.

 

He said a "balanced rotation"

I would rather have that than an ace and a couple of question marks at the bottom of the rotation.I believe that is what he meant.  

Having an elite pitcher doesn't preclude the Twins from filling out the rest of the rotation with back end guys (I'm not sure how else to interpret "balanced.") Those type of pitchers can't match up with what Boston, NY, Houston, Cleveland, LA, or even Seattle is going to run out in first few games of a series. The Twins horrific postseason record the last decade + would suggest it's going to take more than 3-5 range starters to go anywhere in October. 

 

    • Oxtung and jimmer like this
Didn't KC make 2 WS recently with a strong pen, good defense and solid offense? The Twins probably can't match their pen, but its better with more help on the way. They probably have a better offense. Need to deepen the rotation, even without a clear #1, IMO.

McHugh is OK, but I think I'd rather sign a still solid, quality FA, lose the 3rd rounder, and keep the roster and system intact. For now anyway, and look at a future trade.

The idea of Archer is a completely different animal. But what I will say is I'd rather keep Kepler and trade 4-5 prospects of quality...yes, maybe even Lewis...and not touch the ML roster. Much as I like Lewis, SS is pretty deep, as is the system as a whole, and if prefer that route if possible.
    • ewen21 likes this

Yawn- Seth, I need you to convince me that I should disregard the things you have written about our prospects.I need to know that a 31 year old pitcher is actually better than what we have in our prospects and if you do my expectations of our young talent will take a big hit.

Name some SP that you expect to be available at the trade deadline in 2018. Not all trade deadlines are created equal -- remember 2016 when Hector Santiago was one of the leading arms available?

And even in 2017 when there were 4 notable SP available, I think you are dramatically underrating the difficulty of acquiring them. Look where they wound up: Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, Astros. Doesn't look much different from FA negotiations, does it?
Verlander's no-trade clause played a big role too, limiting his potential landing spots as much as any choosy FA.


I'd say that if I had to put money on it, I'd say to watch a team like San Francisco, they are so old that if they aren't kicking everyone's butt's going into July they might just fall apart, they will have injuries and other things happen to them, I believe they have probably what would be projected as the oldest starting lineup in baseball. Now imagine if they start to slip in June or July, that team will have to close up shop and start the fire sale because they will realize they aren't going to bounce back next year so they will be getting rid of guys like Samardzija, and Cueto along with the geriatric position players they have all over the place. But that is just one team that i forsee might need to get rid of someone. Tampa Bay also, if they are getting pounded in the East they might start to look to get rid of guys like Archer and Odorizzi a little more seriously at that point in time; right now they are in a position where they don't need to move them, so their values are preceivably higher right now, those values might drop a little going into August if they are out of the running. Other teams that have some decent guys that could have to move guys to get younger and more competitive would be Seattle, Toronto, heck Arizona could have a bad year and need to unload some things? If the Mets can't get it put back together they may need to unload some things. Teams like the White Sox, Royals, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami already seem to be in full rebuild so they won't have much, those teams seem to have gone young already. But now could you imagine if a team like the Red Sox faltered this year?? If for some reason they took a dump, they'd have some nice pieces up for bid???

Those are just some ideas, yeah I think I'd sigh Cobb or Lynn and wait to make that trade when I know if I'm actually in it or not?? Thats just my thoughts. But if the Twins do it that way they will know a little more about their prospects too, and they will know if a guy like Gonsalves will actually make it or not.

Also for giving up a 3rd rounder for Cobb or Lynn, the Twins don't know who they would draft with that pick anyway, they might be able to get the guy they wanted with the 4ty pick?? Also that pick is a complete unknown right now whereas the trade chips they got right now they know who they are and what to expect??

Again just my opinion.

 

My point is this. I'm not against trading prospects, even great ones, but they can make that trade in August. Until then they need a Lynn, Cobb, etc... To get them through the season. There will be a lot of teams that will be out of it and they will have some really good starting pitchers that will become available. They will be trying to get rid of them, just like the Tigers did with Verlander this year. Now if they get Cobb now, get Santana back in May, have Berrios develop a little more, have Gibson not do terrible and then add that so called Ace in August. Then the Twins will end up with two better pitchers to put in the rotation. Now you have your so called world series contender. But if you trade a bunch for a guy like Archer now, they will be done and won't be able to add that extra guy in August because you can't sign free agents in August. Sign that free agent now, Cobb, Lynn, etc... And get the Ace at the trade deadline.

 

Why trade against leverage (trade deadline) in order to receive a half season or less of a player when you could have traded for them preseason and had them all year?That said, I can't imagine the Rays trading Archer.The guy is a stud and young and under contract.Unless he demanded a trade and said he would absolutely not re-sign with Tampa, they should keep him and continue to build around him.  

    • Twins33, Twodogs, Vanimal46 and 1 other like this

 

Having an elite pitcher doesn't preclude the Twins from filling out the rest of the rotation with back end guys (I'm not sure how else to interpret "balanced.") Those type of pitchers can't match up with what Boston, NY, Houston, Cleveland, LA, or even Seattle is going to run out in first few games of a series. The Twins horrific postseason record the last decade + would suggest it's going to take more than 3-5 range starters to go anywhere in October. 

I get it, but we have not hit in the postseason

2010 7 runs in 3 games

2009 7 runs in 3 games

2006 7 runs in 3 games

 

Those are the facts, ugly as they are.Ace or not, we ain't winning if we don't do some hitting in these pressure games and the fact is we have not.Scoring just over 2 runs a game isn't winning you anything.

 

YES, it would be nice to have an "elite pitcher" but can we for once raise some decent starting pitching?Other organizations do it and those tend to be the teams that go places.

 

 

 

Over the last four seasons, and while pitching against usually extremely tough offenses in the AL East, Archer ranks 5th for starters in the AL in fWAR.

 

Over the last THREE seasons, he ranks 3RD in the AL in fWAR. 3RD.

 

He has blemishes but you have to look hard.I guess the term Ace is reserved for like 3 pitchers.

The term "ace" in baseball doesn't have a definition, but I define an ace as a guy who can take the ball and give you seven or eight solid innings a whole bunch of times.An ace tends to take you to the set up guy then the closer quite often, so a true ace, in my opinion, is rare.

 

Some guys have good stuff, but labor a lot.That isn't an ace to me.

 

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KirbyDome89
Feb 13 2018 01:27 AM

 

I get it, but we have not hit in the postseason

2010 7 runs in 3 games

2009 7 runs in 3 games

2006 7 runs in 3 games

 

Those are the facts, ugly as they are.Ace or not, we ain't winning if we don't do some hitting in these pressure games and the fact is we have not.Scoring just over 2 runs a game isn't winning you anything.

 

YES, it would be nice to have an "elite pitcher" but can we for once raise some decent starting pitching?Other organizations do it and those tend to be the teams that go places.

2010 they gave up nearly 6 runs a game

2009 they gave up nearly 5 runs a game

2006 they gave up 13 runs in the two games Johan didn't pitch

 

Not many offenses can compensate for that kind of pitching. I'm not saying the lack of playoff success is entirely the fault of the pitching staff, but against elite level pitching offenses are going to have 2 or 3 run games. 

 

I would love it if MN had some young arms with elite potential. It's certainly more cost efficient and less risky than spending in FA, but the reality is the Twins have failed in that area for a while now, so their options are limited at the moment. Yes, teams that can grow elite pitching leave themselves with financial resources to commit elsewhere but in that group of teams mentioned earlier many have made big signings or trades. 

 

2010 they gave up nearly 6 runs a game

2009 they gave up nearly 5 runs a game

2006 they gave up 13 runs in the two games Johan didn't pitch

 

Not many offenses can compensate for that kind of pitching. I'm not saying the lack of playoff success is entirely the fault of the pitching staff, but against elite level pitching offenses are going to have 2 or 3 run games. 

 

I would love it if MN had some young arms with elite potential. It's certainly more cost efficient and less risky than spending in FA, but the reality is the Twins have failed in that area for a while now, so their options are limited at the moment. Yes, teams that can grow elite pitching leave themselves with financial resources to commit elsewhere but in that group of teams mentioned earlier many have made big signings or trades. 

I get what you are saying and I am not making excuses, but the bats didn't give us a chance either.Johan needed to shut the Yankees out for us to win our last playoff game.We only scored two runs that game.As big an issue has been the pen, in my opinion.

 

I guess I REALLY want to see us raise our own pitchers for once. It has been frustrating watching the litany of starting pitcher FA signings we have made.SOmeone like Cobb or Lynn would be a couple of clicks above the Ponsons, Marquis, Corrieas, etc.....etc....we have signed in the past.

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Deduno Abides
Feb 13 2018 06:30 PM
Interesting article. McHugh has been good. However, he’s projected to be no better than Slegers this year. If the Twins acquire him, hopefully their revamped analytics department has a superior projection than what is publicly available and he’s not just another guy on the downside with only hope to recapture past performance.
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KirbyDome89
Feb 13 2018 10:34 PM

 

I get what you are saying and I am not making excuses, but the bats didn't give us a chance either.Johan needed to shut the Yankees out for us to win our last playoff game.We only scored two runs that game.As big an issue has been the pen, in my opinion.

 

I guess I REALLY want to see us raise our own pitchers for once. It has been frustrating watching the litany of starting pitcher FA signings we have made.SOmeone like Cobb or Lynn would be a couple of clicks above the Ponsons, Marquis, Corrieas, etc.....etc....we have signed in the past.

No disagreement about the offense being a letdown in the postseason. I'm giving them a little more rope because it's typically more difficult for offenses to get the best of elite pitchers than vice vera but you're right those were poor team performances all around.

 

Their more recent signings (Ervin, Hughes before the extension) and possibly Cobb or Lynn are definitely a notch above. If we're choosing between a guys like that or a steady stream of 1 year lotto tickets for the next few seasons then I'm pulling the trigger on Cobb or Lynn. I just think the Twins can do better. 

If you can't afford the price for Archer (certainly take back Span and possibly even Brad Miller to fold in the savings of roster dollars into the trade price), just sign Garcia.It adds another lefty to the rotation as well as adding value.If a starter prospect blossoms by July, he will have value at the trade deadline.Again, always good to have depth in the event of injuries or backsliding performances and Garcia could always slide into the role of spot starter/long relief/bullpen lefty.

 

I guess I REALLY want to see us raise our own pitchers for once.

I think everybody wants that but who this year is probably going to help us this year. (not who could if everything goes perfect)

Gonzo - not the prospect Berrios was only has 4 starts in AAA and has never started more than 24 games in a year.

Romero - Will be on a innings limit and has pitched 303 innings since 2012

Littell & Jorge - this year can you expect anything more than a spot start or two?

and the rest are probably a few years or more away - Lewis Thorpe, Blayne Enlow,Brusdar Graterol

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Physics Guy
Feb 14 2018 11:06 AM

I'm going to post this without reading the entire thread.I've taken a couple of days off and am overwhelmed by the number of posts on multiple threads regarding the rotation.I want to comment on a few things that stuck in my mind as I read through part of this thread. 

 

I am in agreement with many of the posts that I would like to see the Twins improve the top of the rotation.I am very skeptical at this point that it will happen. As a result, I have to think they will do something to add to the middle of the rotation (better than or equal to Gibson's last half of 2017).McHugh would do that, I believe.I also think Cobb or Lynn could provide that.I would be fine with any of these.

 

For those believing we can't compete without an ace, I ask you to look at the 2015 Royals and 2013 Red Sox.Neither team had a pitcher outperform Santana's 2017.It is possible to win with Santana/Berrios at the front of the rotation.I'm not saying the percentages are high, but it can be done.Removing the 9 starts by Gee, Tepesch, Wilk, Turley and Melville should help.We also had 6 starts by Enns, Slegers and Jorge, but I can live with those. 

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