It's all the casual Twins fan has been talking about this offseason, up until the Josh Donaldson signing, of course.
The fact of the matter is that the Twins were agressive in pursuing their "Plan A" options for the offseason in free agents Ryu, Bumgarner, and Wheeler. It just didn't work out, mostly because of forces outside of their control.
To me, the Josh Donaldson signing signaled that the front office is pushing their chips to the middle of the table in 2020. At 34 years old, Donaldson might only have two years of elite production left. Now might be the time to capitalize in making that final offseason move for "impact pitching" right?; not necessarily.
The Twins made a pair of early offseason moves to their staff with Odorizzi accepting their Qualifying Offer, Pineda coming back on a two year deal, and a pair of New Years Eve signings in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey.
There is no doubt the Opening Day pitching staff still has some question marks but on paper this is a fine starting 5.
The question marks of course come from Pineda who is suspended for the first 39 games of 2020 and Rich Hill, who had "primary and revision" surgery and won't be back until "June or July".
Per Fangraphs Team Depth Charts 2020 Projections, the Twins starting staff projects to have a total WAR of 11.6, ranked 21st in MLB. Now, like I mentioned, this is because of the starts that should be made by Pineda and Hill in April - June will have to be made up by the likes of Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. Fangraphs projects that this trio will pitch 169 total innings - which may be too many for a team with deep playoff run aspirations. But if things shake out like the Twins hope, they will have a fine starting 5 for the second half of the year, not even factoring in a potential July 31st trade. But they have to get there first. That's the key.
As of right now there are two options the Twins have to add to their existing rotation, trade or sign a remaining free agent.
Sure, trading for a Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, or Jon Gray would be nice. However, it seems that with each day closer to Spring Training, that possibility dwindles.
What if they went a different direction...
What if they were able to sign a pitcher with starting experience who can bridge the gap in April and May to fill in until Pineda's return?
What if once he is not needed in the rotation anymore he can be added to the bullpen to strengthen the back end of baseball games?
What if he actually happens to be a very good reliever?
Enter, Collin McHugh.
Collin McHugh - The Starter
In 2016 - 2017, McHugh started 45 games for the Astros.
In 248 innings, McHugh posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 8.7 k/9.
He missed quite a bit of time in 2017 with right shoulder tendonitis. In 2018 he pitched only in the bullpen (more on that in a minute).
In 2019, the Astros put McHugh in the rotation on Opening Day. On the surface his numbers are ugly as a starter.
In 8 starts, he posted a 6.37 ERA in 41 innings with a 9.2 k/9 allowing an OPS of .808 (yikes).
But let's break this down a bit and only focus on the first six starts he made in 2019, as that really is all the Twins would need out of him before Pineda is back on May 10th.
McHugh only had one rough start. If you eliminate that outing, 5 of those 6 starts were very good. He threw 28.2 innings, struck out 36 batters, had three quality starts (one out away from 4), and allowed 8 runs - a 2.51 ERA.
That tells a much different story.
Collin McHugh - The Reliever
As stated earlier, in 2018 McHugh became a full time reliever. He was outstanding posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 11.7 k/9 in 72.1 innings. He also pitched in 4 playoff games that year allowing zero runs in 4 innings.
After he was done starting in 2019, he went back to the Astros bullpen posting a 2.67 ERA, a 10.7 k/9, in 27 appearances across 33.2 innings.
Do I think the Twins still need an "impact" SP to propel them to postseason success? Sure. Do I think the July 2019 Twins rotation could be very solid? Of course. But, they have to get there. Collin McHugh would help the Twins do that and add depth to an already established bullpen core for the second half of the season. A very hybrid and cost effective approach to bolstering the Opening Day Twins rotation. They can always wait to make their "impact pitching" move until the July 31st deadline. Signing McHugh would allow them the flexibility to do that.