Rumors continue to swirl around the New York Yankees and their desire to add another starting pitcher before Opening Day. Collin McHugh is that perfect guy.
Contrary to what CC Sabathia and Luis Severino believe, the New York Yankees do not need to add another starting pitcher. But if they’re going to—and it seems like they’re intent on doing so—Collin McHugh is the arm they should be targeting.
Yankees fans may remember McHugh from such outings like Game 3 of the 2017 ALCS, when he came on in relief of Houston starter Charlie Morton and proceeded to throw four no-hit innings, walking one and striking out three.
While it’s not for certain that Houston is willing to deal McHugh, sources tell The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that “the Astros might want the payroll flexibility they would gain from trading McHugh.”
Why McHugh and not free agents like Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn? That’s easy—money. Signing any of the three would wind up exhausting the rumored $15 million in spending cash the Yanks have left for the offseason. As Rosenthal notes, McHugh and the Astros are headed to arbitration, with the pitcher seeking $5 million, the team offering $4.55 million. Regardless of what the final number is, adding McHugh’s salary is no issue.
“Hey,” you might interject, “isn’t Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi also relatively inexpensive and rumored to be available?” Affirmative on both fronts, as Rosenthal notes. He’s also younger than McHugh and has experience pitching in the AL East.
So why McHugh over Odorizzi? It’s all about how hitters put the ball in play against them. Check out these career numbers:
Now those numbers might not seem so drastically different and, in fact, it’s Odorizzi who has the superior ERA and WHIP. But think about this: Odorizzi has called spacious Tropicana Field, one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the game, home for his entire career.
It’s a ballpark in which a pronounced flyball pitcher, like Odorizzi, can thrive. Balls that would clear the fences elsewhere often wind up in an outfielder’s glove at the Trop. Now imagine how a pitcher who finds the ball in the air roughly 50 percent of the time at Yankee Stadium. Things could get ugly—fast.
It should come as no surprise then to learn that Odorizzi has allowed 10 home runs in just 36 innings of work at the house that George built. That works out to an insane 2.5 home runs per nine innings of work.
The Yankees might have a powerful offense, but asking the bats to overcome two-to-three home runs from the opposition whenever Odorizzi toes the rubber in the Bronx—not only is that unfair, it’s patently absurd.
McHugh gives up his fair share of home runs as well, let’s be clear about that. He’s only made one start at Yankee Stadium, surrendering one home run over 6.2 innings of work, so comparing their numbers in the Bronx doesn’t do us any good. But he does a far better job keeping the ball on the ground—and in the park—than Odorizzi.
None of this is to say that Odorizzi is a bad pitcher. Like McHugh, he’s a solid back-of-the-rotation arm. Like McHugh, he’s controllable through 2020. But unlike McHugh, his penchant for fly balls makes him a horrible fit for Yankee Stadium.
As for what it’d cost, prospect-wise, to acquire either pitcher is anyone’s guess. With Houston and Tampa Bay both looking at a potential trade as a salary dump, you’d think they’d be seeking a minimal return. But neither team is going to do the Yankees any favors.
Which brings us back to our original point. The Yankees don’t need to add another starter. Jordan Montgomery deserves a chance to serve as the team’s No. 5 starter, while Chance Adams has little left to prove in the minors.
Dealing away any prospects for a pitcher that may not be any better than the team’s in-house options just doesn’t make much sense. But if the Yankees decide to go that route, McHugh should be the choice.