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Brandon McCarthy Rumors
Behind the scenes at MLBTR, we’re busy discussing and polishing our Top 50 Free Agents list for the 2015 offseason. While we’ll wait until the appropriate time to officially release the list, it’s not too soon to talk about a few of the players who have done the best to improve their free agent stock. In general, I’m looking at players who weren’t even on the radar when Steve Adams kicked off our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings series on April 15. Today, we’ll take a look at a pure hitter, a starting pitcher, and an elite reliever.
1. Victor Martinez. I’m sure Martinez’s appearance on this list is of no surprise. When we compiled our initial power rankings post, 25 players were named. Martinez was not one of them. The 35-year-old designated hitter is limited in defensive versatility, but his bat is clearly elite. He is enjoying a fantastic offensive season with a .335/.404/.566 line and 31 home runs. All are career bests. He’s even stolen three bases (also a career best). The exceptional performance comes with a 10.5% walk rate and 6.6% strikeout rate, making him one of just two players with more walks than strikeouts (Jose Bautista is the other).
Martinez, who earned $12MM this season, will receive a qualifying offer, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. It’s difficult to handicap how the slugger will perform on the free agent market. The only recent comparable player is David Ortiz, although the short contracts he signed with the Red Sox do not appear to be directly applicable to Martinez’s situation.
The Tigers will have some leverage in retaining Martinez, where he can continue to hit with Miguel Cabrera. The White Sox are also said to be interested, per Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Chicago appears to be an ideal fit with its extremely hitter friendly stadium (Detroit’s Comerica Park is a neutral stadium), and he would make a good tandem with Jose Abreu. We seem to have the basic ingredients for a bidding war, and other teams will likely enter the fray.
2. Brandon McCarthy. What a fascinating season it’s been for McCarthy. His fastball gained two mph over previous seasons, and he’s posted the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.7%. While his 3.93 ERA is merely decent, advanced ERA estimators like xFIP (2.90) and SIERA (3.03) expect better things to come. He’s also buffed his strikeout rate to 7.72 K/9 while maintaining an elite walk rate of 1.53 BB/9.
McCarthy was easy to overlook entering the season. His command and control profile made him a steady but uninspired rotation option. His first 18 starts came with the Diamondbacks, where he flashed excellent peripherals with an unseemly 5.01 ERA. He was dealt to the Yankees prior to the July trade deadline. In 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.54 ERA that is supported by his peripherals. Many pundits (including this one) worried about the influence of Yankee Stadium on the homer prone starter, but his HR/FB ratio has regressed to league average in New York.
Prior to this season, he never managed more than 170 and two-thirds major league innings in a single season. That came in 2011. He’s frequently dealt with injuries including recurring “stress reactions” in his pitching shoulder. His most recent shoulder injury occurred in 2012. This season, he’s managed a career high 194 and two-thirds innings with a chance to eclipse the 200 inning threshold.
A sabermetrically inclined front office – especially one with a large ballpark – could justifiably view McCarthy as the fourth best free agent starter, after the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems will likely temper enthusiasm for a large contract offer. That might serve to increase demand by making him an affordable, second-tier option. McCarthy, who is entering his age 31 season, could top the four-year, $49 million contract signed by Ricky Nolasco last offseason. However, a smart club would include language to mitigate risk from future shoulder flare-ups.
3. Andrew Miller. If Miller was on anybody’s radar entering the season, it was as a moderately interesting LOOGY. By halving his walk rate and proving he’s no platoon pitcher, Miller will enter the offseason as an untested but possibly elite closing option. Due to his inexperience recording saves, clubs may still look at him as a setup reliever.
Split between the Red Sox and Orioles, the 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.93 ERA in 60 and two-thirds innings. His 14.84 K/9 is impressive, especially in light of his 2.37 BB/9. He’s allowed just 32 hits on the season and is one of three relievers to cross the 100 strikeout threshold – four others appear poised to do so by the end of the season.
No recent left-handed reliever has entered free agency coming off so superfluous a season, which puts Miller in uncharted waters. Jeremy Affeldt, who signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the Giants following the 2012 season is a distant comparable. Joaquin Benoit is probably the best example among recent right-handed pitchers. He signed a two-year, $15.5MM contract with an option after emerging as the Tigers closer. However, he was also entering his age 36 season, so he was considerably older than Miller. Per the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, no non-closing reliever has signed a contract with over a $20MM guarantee. Miller has a chance to be the first. Prior to the 2007 season, Justin Speier signed a four-year, $18MM contract that could serve as a barometer of sorts once inflation is included.
Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner received awful news after experiencing discomfort in his third rehab outing last week. Via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link), Hefner has a fracture in his elbow and will have to undergo his second Tommy John operation of the past year. The 28-year-old has spent the past year recovering from TJ and will now likely miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign as well. MLBTR wishes Hefner the best of luck and a full recovery in the next round of rehab.
Here are some more links from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles aren’t interested in bringing back longtime second baseman Brian Roberts, who was recently released by the Yankees (Twitter link).
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post examines the Yankees‘ midseason rentals — Stephen Drew, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy — and wonders if any of the three will be back with the team in 2015 (and beyond). As Sherman notes, the final months of the season will serve as an audition for each player, and each could have a logical spot on the roster. Drew could replace the retiring Derek Jeter, Headley could handle third base when Alex Rodriguez DHs, and McCarthy can serve as valuable rotation depth given the uncertainty surrounding New York’s internal options.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he’s looking for rotation depth following the trade of Roberto Hernandez and the injury to Cliff Lee. That desire led to the claim of Jerome Williams, but it sounds as if the Phils could be on the lookout for other cheap additions that could help them beyond the 2014 season. Salisbury notes that 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola is not under consideration for a jump to the Majors.
- Within that same piece, Salisbury also speculates that the Tigers and Phillies could reboot their previous trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon due to Joe Nathan‘s recent struggles and Joakim Soria‘s injury (he is on the DL with an oblique strain). Amaro tells Salisbury that the two sides haven’t talked trade recently, but he does acknowledge that he spoke with the Tigers “particularly about the bullpen.” Antonio Bastardo was thought to be a Tigers target at one point, but as Salisbury notes, Bastardo was placed on waivers earlier this month. While no reports surfaced of him being claimed, it’s highly unlikely that he would clear, given that he had a mere $600K or so of his 2014 salary remaining at the time he was placed on waivers.
- One more note from Salisbury, as he reports that Amaro said it’s “possible” that top prospect Maikel Franco will receive a September call-up. An earlier promotion is unlikely for Franco, per Amaro, but there’s little doubt that he’s impressed as of late. While Franco struggled with the jump to Triple-A to open the season, he’s mashed since July 1, hitting .338/.360/.564 in 139 plate appearances.
With 10 wins in their last 12 games, the Rays have escaped the AL East basement and added another wrinkle to the David Price trade rumors. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times outlines, it still makes a lot of sense for the Rays to deal Price, given that the club needs to replenish its minor league stock and the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade only increases Price’s value as the best starter available. On the other hand, the Rays have already invested a record payroll into this year’s team and they could still make a comeback in a weak AL East, then wait until the offseason to explore trading Price.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- “The Yankees don’t have a strong interest in” reacquiring A.J. Burnett, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Burnett is a logical trade candidate if the Phillies decide to sell, though the veteran has a partial no-trade clause in his contract.
- Brandon McCarthy‘s tendency to allow home runs and grounders might be a problem given Yankee Stadium’s small dimensions and the Yankees‘ poor infield defense, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News still feels the Bombers made a good move in acquiring the righty from the Diamondbacks. McCarthy’s peripherals indicate that he’s due to pitch better in the second half, and even if he’s only average, Martino still considers that an upgrade over the struggling Vidal Nuno.
- Before dealing for Rich Hill, the Angels showed some interest in acquiring Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow but felt that Breslow’s stuff had declined since last year, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports. Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA (though a 4.37 xFIP) over 59 2/3 relief innings for the Sox in 2013 but has struggled this season, managing only a 5.04 ERA and almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over 30 1/3 innings. The southpaw is also averaging just 87.8 mph on his fastball, down significantly from his 89.9 mph average last year.
- Also from Edes’ piece, he lists several Red Sox veterans who could be traded this summer now that Boston is on the brink of falling out of contention.
- While it may not seem likely Jon Lester and the Red Sox will work out a new contract before Lester hits free agency, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reminds us that Cole Hamels and the Phillies were in a similar situation two years ago and agreed on a midseason extension. Lester has been unwilling to negotiate during the year for fear of distractions, though it was recently reported that he would be open to hearing an offer if it led to a quick signing process. (One would think he’d be very quick to agree if the Sox presented Lester with the six-year/$144MM deal the Phillies gave Hamels, though I strongly doubt Boston would offer that much.)
- The Blue Jays have done a poor job of drafting and developing position players over the last decade-plus, Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun writes, a problem that has been underscored by the lack of depth available to fill in for several injured Jays regulars.
The Blue Jays and Padres continue to discuss a Chase Headley trade, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. His colleague Ken Rosenthal adds that some within the Jays organization think that the team’s most acute need is a hitter, rather than a starting pitcher. In late June, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Blue Jays had interest in Headley and that the Padres would be willing to deal him. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Cubs dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel early in the trading season, and for a package based around a position player, because Addison Russell was too good to pass on, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes. “There was no pitcher available even close to the caliber of player that Addison Russell is,” says team president Theo Epstein.
- The Cubs now have a top-notch collection of hitting prospects, but don’t have nearly as much pitching. They believe, however, that they can use that to their advantage, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It’s hard to find hitters in today’s low-offense environment, and the Cubs have plenty of them. “If you look at the way the game is going, the batter-pitcher dynamic has shifted in recent years dramatically in favor of the pitcher,” says Epstein. “So there are more effective pitchers out there right now than there are position players.” The Cubs also feel they can compensate for their lack of pitching by acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter within the next couple of years. Epstein also seems to allude to the possibility that the Cubs will make trades for pitching in the future.
- A pair of Rockies are making their 2014 debuts with rookie-level Grand Junction, Patti Arnold of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Former Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who’s working his way back from an elbow injury, pitched a scoreless inning today, striking out one and walking one. Also, Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday.
- The Diamondbacks placed now-Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy on waivers six to eight weeks ago, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. That means anyone could have claimed him and assumed the remainder of his $9MM salary for 2014. No one bit.
- Red Sox first-round pick Michael Kopech will be represented by MVP Sports Group, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets.
10:44am: The Diamondbacks will eat $2.05MM of the $4.1MM owed to McCarthy for the rest of the year, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Meanwhile, the Yankees will pay the $1MM assignment bonus to McCarthy.
10:21am: The D’Backs will be eating money in the deal, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. McCarthy is owed the prorated portion of his $9MM contract, plus the $1MM assignment bonus he is set to earn after being traded.
The prorated portion of McCarthy’s deal comes out to roughly $4.1MM, not counting the assignment bonus.
Nuno, 26, owns a 5.42 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 through 14 starts and three relief appearances this season. While McCarthy is on an expiring contract, Nuno won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season.
The left-hander was originally in the Indians’ system before being released in March 2011. The Yankees picked Nuno up a couple of months later and after getting 17 big league starts out of him across the last two seasons, they have parlayed him into the 6’7″ McCarthy.
10:10am: The Yankees have acquired Brandon McCarthy from the D’Backs, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish (on Twitter). The two sides were discussing a deal involving Vidal Nuno last night, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter), but it’s unclear if Nuno is in fact in the trade.
McCarthy, 30, has a 5.01 ERA with 7.6 K/9 – a career best if it holds – and 1.6 BB/9 through 18 starts this season. While the 5+ ERA isn’t particularly attractive, advanced metrics such as McCarthy’s 2.89 xFIP indicate that he has been much better than that would indicate.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reported late last month that McCarthy would earn a $1MM assignment bonus if he was traded. Olney added that the D’Backs would likely have to pick up the tab on that sum.
The Diamondbacks made a smaller move yesterday when they shipped Joe Thatcher and Tony Campana to the Angels for outfielder Zach Borenstein and right-hander Joey Krehbiel. Between that deal and today’s trade of McCarthy, it’s clear that the 36-53 Diamondbacks are going to be committed to selling this month.
Despite their underwhelming performances so far this season, veterans Cody Ross and Aaron Hill could also be on the move. Eric Chavez, Bronson Arroyo, and Mark Trumbo could also be of interest to teams if they show that they’re healthy. And while Thatcher is already gone, fellow lefty Oliver Perez should have some value. Thatcher is merely a rental for the Angels but Perez is controlled through the 2015 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Brewers won’t announce their signing of Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara yet due to the fact that they’re expecting a change to their international bonus pool, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link). Teams can acquire additional bonus money as long as they’ve yet to exceed their bonus pool, so it appears they’ll try to land some additional slots before making the Lara deal official. The two sides reportedly agreed to terms on a $3.2MM signing bonus yesterday, but the team has made no statement. Milwaukee has a bonus pool just north of $2.6MM, per Baseball America.
Here’s more out of the NL Central…
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that the Pirates have some interest in Brandon McCarthy and wonders if the team could sell high on Vance Worley by flipping him to the Diamondbacks as part of a McCarthy deal. He notes that sabermetric ERA estimators such as xFIP love McCarthy despite an unsightly ERA, while Worley’s strong ERA isn’t sustainable. Sawchik opines that even if the two can’t be traded directly for one another, acquiring McCarthy and slotting him into Worley’s spot would improve the team’s roster.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer offered high praise for top prospect Arismendy Alcantara to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. Hoyer wouldn’t comment on whether or not Alcantara would see the Majors this season but noted that he’s underappreciated due to the big reputations of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Albert Almora. Alcantara is hitting .310/.350/.546 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 22 doubles and 20 steals, and that strong play has “opened [the Cubs'] eyes,” in Hoyer’s words.
- Rooftop owners in Chicago have agreed not to sue the Cubs if the team adds just one video board and one advertising sign in the outfield, according to a report from Ameet Sachdev, Jared Hopkins and Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune. The team’s most recent vision for the upgrades had a video board and five signs as well as other renovations to Wrigley Field.
Top Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker will make his 2014 big-league debut on Monday, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. (The Mariners optioned outfielder Stefen Romero to Triple-A Tacoma after today’s game, so it appears they’ll have space for Walker on their active roster.) Walker figured to be a key part of Seattle’s rotation this season, but he had shoulder troubles in spring training. Walker has made eight starts this season across three minor league levels, posting a 3.38 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. Elsewhere in MLB’s West divisions:
- Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy will receive a $1MM assignment bonus if he is traded, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Diamondbacks will likely have to eat that sum in any deal, Olney adds.
- Eric Chavez says retirement is a “possibility” after being transferred to the 60-day disabled list by the Diamondbacks, writes MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “I’m just so close to the end, you know, where I’ve got to worry about feeling good for the rest of my life,” said Chavez, who is dealing with an injured left knee. “So surgery would be the worst-case scenario for me to kind of be going down that line.”
- The slumping Rockies have been hit hard by injuries with nine players currently on the disabled list, but are not yet ready to become sellers at the Trade Deadline, according to Nick Groke of the Denver Post. “We’ll get to see our club whole, or closer to the point we know it should be,” Assistant GM Bill Geivett said. “At that point we’ll sit down and discuss where we’re at.“
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
In an Insider piece yesterday, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden listed 21 hitters who could change hands over the trade deadline and handicapped their odds of doing so. Bowden says it is 50/50 whether the following players are dealt: Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Seth Smith, and Gerardo Parra. He puts better than even money on Chris Carter of the Astros (60%), Alex Rios of the Rangers (65%), and Ben Zobrist of the Rays (70%) landing in new uniforms.
Here’s the latest trade deadline chatter …
- Though he has increased his value with a recent string of outstanding starts, Mets hurler Bartolo Colon is not likely to be dealt, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The club is disinclined to sell, says Martino, and expects to have plenty of need for the veteran next year — even with the expected return of Matt Harvey and rise of younger arms.
- Brandon McCarthy of the Diamondbacks could be the ideal buy-low starting pitching target, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. While McCarthy’s results have not been encouraging (5.38 ERA), the opposite holds true of his peripherals (80:18 K:BB ratio, 56% groundball rate). In large part, McCarthy has been hurt by a bloated home run rate and batting average on balls in play. The righty could prove a bargain, says Nicholson-Smith, because he won’t require a major prospect return and Arizona may even need to pay part of his $9MM salary.
- The Phillies may ultimately decide to part with some veterans, but David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News questions whether they will get much in return. Marlon Byrd has a lower OPS and less home runs — and is owed a lot more money — than was the case last year when he was dealt for a less-than-overwhelming return. John Mayberry Jr. has been on the block for some time, and his hot start does not mean he’ll suddenly bring back a haul. And even Cliff Lee is not nearly as valuable as one might think, says Murphy, owing to his significant remaining guarantee and current arm issues.
- We heard recently that the Angels were looking to add a lefty and perhaps a closer to their bullpen. According to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks, the club has or will look into Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, and Jim Johnson of the Athletics. “There are pieces here that are very functional in getting to a good bullpen, and I believe that we’ll get there,” said GM Jerry Dipoto. “But we are going to have to address some of that in July and help this group out.”
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said yesterday that he would be surprised if the club did not swing at least one deal in advance of the trade deadline, in an appearance on 1090 The Fan’s Steve Sandmeyer Show (Twitter links via co-host Jason Churchill). The club’s head baseball decisionmaker also left the impression that the club will be able to achieve some payroll flexibility in weighing acquisitions.
- One club with whom the Mariners are “expected to talk” is the White Sox, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Some or all of Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo could hold appeal to Seattle, Morosi suggests. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets that the M’s, who have scouted the South Siders recently, are intrigued by Ramirez and have had targeted Viciedo in the past.
Though his ERA and win-loss record aren’t much to look at (5.38 and 1-10), Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy is drawing trade interest, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). A free agent at season’s end, McCarthy has about $4.72MM remaining on this year’s $9MM salary — the second year of a two-year, $15.5MM pact he inked in the 2012-13 offseason. Rosenthal notes that Arizona is likely to make multiple trades before this year’s deadline.
While McCarthy’s season looks rough on the surface, there are a lot of factors suggesting that he could quickly turn things around. McCarthy’s .339 batting average on balls in play is 44 points higher than the league average, and he’s sporting the best ground-ball and K/9 rates of his career (55.9 percent and 7.4, respectively). His fastball velocity has soared from an average of 90.8 mph over the past two seasons to 93 mph, and he’s sporting his best swinging-strike rate since 2006 as a result. McCarthy has mostly been plagued by home runs this season, but his fluky 21.7 percent homer-to-flyball ratio figures to come down.
There’s not much question that McCarthy will be available in trades. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports, the Snakes are said to be preparing to put a “for sale” sign on their roster and are weighing trades of multiple veteran players. GM Kevin Towers — who, despite the hiring of Tony La Russa, calls this July business as usual — told Piecoro: “[W]e have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players.”
A fire sale may not be as easy for the D’Backs as it would for most teams, however, Piecoro cautions. McCarthy and fellow veterans Cody Ross and Aaron Hill are underperforming this season, which will hurt Arizona’s potential return in trades. Other movable veterans such as Eric Chavez, Bronson Arroyo and Mark Trumbo are all currently on the disabled list.
One scout told Piecoro that the left-handers in Arizona’s bullpen — Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez — figure to be of interest to other clubs. Both have enjoyed strong seasons to this point. Thatcher is a free agent at season’s end, while Perez, who signed a two-year deal this winter, is controlled through 2015. That same scout said he is intrigued by Gerardo Parra, but noted that the outfielder’s declining speed is a concern.
Towers noted to Piecoro that he would be reluctant to move young, controllable players such as Didi Gregorius and Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed (presumably, Chris Owings falls into that category as well).
TUESDAY, 6:06pm: The Diamondbacks confirmed the agreement via press release.
FRIDAY, 4:25pm: The Diamondbacks have agreed to sign right-hander Brandon McCarthy, John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR in Phoenix reports (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com confirmed that the LSW Baseball client has agreed to terms on a two-year deal pending a physical (all Twitter links). The deal is worth $15.5MM, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports (on Twitter), and ESPN's Jerry Crasnick adds that the contract breaks down as a $2.5MM signing bonus, $4MM in 2013 and $9MM in 2014.
McCarthy missed time with a shoulder injury this past season, but the scariest moment of his season occured when he was hit in the head with a line drive in a game against the Angels on September 5th. The 29-year-old didn't pitch again and had to undergo surgery to treat a skull fracture.
When healthy, McCarthy pitched well, posting a 3.24 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 111 innings. He ranked 32nd on MLBTR's list of top 50 free agents.
Arizona now has enviable pitching depth. McCarthy joins a rotation that includes Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley. Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin represent high-upside options for the number five spot in manager Kirk Gibson’s starting rotation. The Diamondbacks are said to be considering trades involving their young arms as their search for a shortstop continues.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.