Brandon McCarthy Rumors

Olney On Red Sox, Mariners, Smith, Rangers

Most of the top available starting pitchers currently play in the National League, but there’s still lots of trade talk in the AL this summer. Buster Olney provides updates on the junior circuit trade market in today’s column at ESPN.com. Here are some highlights:

  • The Mariners won’t trade Felix Hernandez, but Kevin Millwood, Chone Figgins, Jason Vargas and Brandon League could be dealt.
  • The Red Sox have focused on adding starting pitching. Some executives believe the Rangers will make a big play for the best starting pitchers available.
  • Meanwhile, the White Sox have been asking around about relievers.
  • Teams have called about Seth Smith, but the Athletics will keep him. However, Kurt Suzuki could be available and the A’s will listen to offers for Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour.
  • The Indians figure to pursue right-handed bats and Carlos Quentin could be an option in Cleveland, Olney writes.
  • The Blue Jays plan to assess their chances at the All-Star break, and some rival officials expect Toronto to sell.
  • The Orioles need pitching, but Olney doesn’t expect the team to make a major addition. Similarly, the Twins figure to seek pitching in any midseason trades they consider.
  • Here’s MLBTR’s recap of Olney’s look at the NL trade market.

Athletics Notes: McCarthy, Balfour, Smith, Fuentes

The A's could be gearing up for a sale closer to the deadline, but for now Oakland sits at 37-40 as they enter tonight's game in Texas and may look to see how things play out.  In the interim, the club would like to move left-hander Brian Fuentes.  Here's the latest out of Oakland..

  • In addition to Fuentes, the A's will also be willing to move Brandon McCarthy once he is healthy, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The right-hander has a 2.54 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 through 12 starts this season.  However, Rosenthal notes that his injury concerns could require extra rest from which ever team may acquire him.  Sources add that the A's are under no financial pressure to make moves.
  • The A’s also are open to moving right-hander Grant Balfour, but will seek more in return than they would for McCarthy, Rosenthal writes.  Balfour is under control for 2013 with a $4.5MM club option.
  • A source also tells Rosenthal that outfielder/DH Seth Smith is unlikely to be traded.  Smith makes just $2.415MM this season and is and under club control through 2014.
  • Fuentes politely declined to comment when asked about trade rumors or whether he has requested a trade, tweets Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group.

Quick Hits: Hamels, Athletics, McCarthy, Rockies

Stephen Strasburg looked almost human tonight, allowing two runs in six innings against the Astros to raise his ERA all the way up to 0.95 for the season.  Strasburg still picked up the win in a 6-3 Nationals victory and, as a bonus, got a hilarious new nickname for his curveball, courtesy of MLB Network's Jerry Manuel.

Here are a few odds and ends from around the Majors…

  • Matt Cain figures Cole Hamels' next contract (whether with the Phillies or on the free agent market) will earn the southpaw more than Cain's recent extension with the Giants, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.  "History-wise, lefties have always brought more than a righty," Cain said. "It's just the nature of the game."  Cain said he was happy to sign his extension and remain in San Francisco for the long-term as free agency is "not always a beautiful thing."
  • The Athletics' stadium issue and possible move to San Jose will not be on the agenda at the next owners meetings, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Earlier today, Slusser reported that the A's were pushing to have the issue subjected to a vote of other owners so they could have the issue settled once and for all.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney (via Twitter) thinks the A's could explore a multiyear contract with Brandon McCarthy.  The right-hander has pitched very well in his time in Oakland, posting a 3.24 ERA and a 4.59 K/BB ratio in 28 starts.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes considered McCarthy as an extension candidate in February.
  • The Rockies' starting pitching woes could be solved by three southpaw prospects — Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
  • Also from Renck, he notes that Troy Tulowitzki's six-year extension from the Rockies in 2010 drew criticism at the time, but now could be seen as a bargain in the wake of the mega-deals given to Albert Pujols and Joey Votto.
  • The Reds are one of several preseason contenders off to a slow start, but Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News says it's far too early for fans to panic.


Extension Candidate: Brandon McCarthy

The Athletics' one-year, $1MM base salary deal with righty Brandon McCarthy turned out to be one of the best contracts of the 2010-11 offseason, as the 28-year-old went on to rank 13th in the American League with a 3.32 ERA.  McCarthy showed an ability to go deep into games, ranking 10th in the league with 6.83 innings per start.  Despite having fewer than 550 career big league innings on his resume, McCarthy will reach six years of service this season.  It's been a long road to traditional free agency.  

McCarthyPrior to the 2005 season, Baseball America ranked McCarthy the 49th-best prospect in the game, though on the White Sox he was outranked by Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney.  In February of that year, manager Ozzie Guillen compared McCarthy to Jack McDowell, adding, "He's going to be something special."  By May, McCarthy made his big league debut, replacing an injured Orlando Hernandez to face Mark Prior.  McCarthy continued to fill in for El Duque periodically as a rookie, but the Sox went with Hernandez on the playoff roster and he came up big as a reliever in the team's World Championship run.

McCarthy spent most of '06 in Chicago's bullpen, and GM Kenny Williams noted he was "very much a part of our future" when July trade rumors swirled.  It seemed McCarthy finally had his full-time rotation spot when Williams traded Freddy Garcia to the Phillies in December of that year, but then the GM shipped McCarthy to the Rangers for John Danks and others in a bold trade a few weeks later.

A blister problem affected McCarthy for much of '07, but a bigger concern was revealed in August when he hit the DL for a stress fracture in his right shoulder.  The injury seemed minor at first, but then elbow soreness surfaced the following spring.  He pitched only 53 2/3 innings in '08 and was sidelined again in each of the '09 and '10 seasons due to the stress fracture in his shoulder.  By November of 2010, Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided to remove McCarthy from the 40-man roster, making him a free agent.

Toward the end of '09, McCarthy began to consider major changes to his repertoire and mechanics, he told Ryan Campbell of FanGraphs.  By the time he was pitching in Winter Ball in what amounted to a free agent audition in 2010, McCarthy had fine-tuned his new approach.  He scored a Major League contract with the A's and won their fifth starter job out of spring training.  That same shoulder stress reaction came back in May, leading to a six-week DL stint.  McCarthy stayed healthy and effective thereafter, earning a total of $1.95MM with incentives.  He received a $4.275MM contract for 2012, an arbitration raise of more than $2.3MM on his '11 earnings.

McCarthy has been a free agent before, but if he impresses again in 2012, this time will be different.  To date, it does not appear the A's have had extension talks with McCarthy.  Their hesitation is understandable, with McCarthy having totaled 229 pro innings from 2008-10.  He hasn't had an injury-free campaign since '06, and the same shoulder problem continues to affect him.

Still, there's a ton to like about McCarthy, who in 25 starts provided over $20MM worth of value last year according to FanGraphs.  Even with the DL stint last year, he tossed 170 2/3 innings over 25 starts.  He's 28 and comes with the pedigree of a top prospect.  He's got excellent command and posted a career-best 46.7% groundball rate last year, suppressing career-long home run concerns.  And for those thinking his success is owed to the Oakland Coliseum, consider McCarthy's 3.40 xFIP away from home last year.

In terms of starting pitchers extended entering walk years, Ryan Vogelsong, R.A. Dickey, Wandy Rodriguez, and Joe Blanton could be comparables, as our extension tracker shows.  Vogelsong and Dickey were feel-good stories who had unexpected success in one season, and both signed two-year deals in the $8MM range with club options attached.  Both, however, were coming off seasons in which they earned under a million bucks.  McCarthy earned almost $2MM last year, and makes $4.275MM this year.  Short of a completely lost 2012 season, he could at least replicate that salary on the free agent market.  He may not feel the urgency to cash in that Vogelsong and Dickey did.  

Blanton and Rodriguez had provided innings and made decent money going year-to-year through arbitration.  Blanton, the lesser of the two, had his free agent years valued at $8.5MM apiece.  I don't think McCarthy can get to that level right now, but he's probably worth more than Vogelsong, who gave up a free agent year for $5MM.  $12-13MM over two years would be a reasonable risk for the A's on McCarthy, if they're OK with the condition of his shoulder.  Otherwise, McCarthy will be pitching with free agency on the horizon and the possibility of becoming one of several solid options for teams unable to afford what's left of Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, and Anibal Sanchez.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here.  Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing.  Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints.  Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:

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Athletics Rumors: Crisp, DeJesus, Harden

The Athletics currently project for the ninth pick in next year's draft, though that could change by the end of Wednesday.  The latest A's info, courtesy of Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:

  • Coco Crisp's agent Steve Comte agreed with Matt Sosnick's comments about the Athletics' offseason spending hinging on MLB's decision on the team's new stadium.  Comte hasn't spoken to A's GM Billy Beane recently, but noted the long-term impact of the stadium issue was apparent back in Spring Training.  Nonetheless, Crisp and his agent will keep an open mind and "see what the market brings."  Crisp, 31, has a .267/.317/.384 line in 575 plate appearances, with 48 steals in 57 tries.  It's been Crisp's healthiest year since '07, but he's posted his worst walk rate since '06.  UZR suggests his defense was slightly below-average this year, but Crisp's ability to simply play a passable center field regularly makes him valuable.  Given the state of the free agent market at the position, I think a two-year deal is probable.  Slusser's sources expect the Giants to be interested.
  • Signing Brandon McCarthy for a $1MM base salary was one of the best moves of the offseason, and the 28-year-old righty considers his season a successful comeback.  For less than $2MM in total, he's provided a 3.32 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 0.58 HR/9, and 46.7% groundball rate in 170 2/3 innings.  His ERA ranks 13th in the American League and his five complete games tie him for second.  The cherry on top: McCarthy is arbitration eligible for 2012 and should be affordable again.
  • Slusser talked to A's outfielder David DeJesus, who said, "This year wasn't me.  I want to break things down and understand what went wrong."  DeJesus, 31, slipped to .237/.321/.374 in 502 plate appearances and may have been affected by losing his status as an everyday player.  Slusser expects the Padres to be in the mix for the bounceback candidate, who will become a free agent shortly.
  • Righty Rich Harden said he'd "definitely be open" to returning to the A's in 2012.  The 29-year-old made all his starts since his July 1st season debut, posting a 5.12 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.85 HR/9, and 31.5% groundball rate in 82 2/3 innings.
  • Hideki Matsui is not really proud of his numbers this year, the designated hitter told Joe Stiglich of the San Jose Mercury News through a translator.  Matsui, 37, hit .251/.321/.376 in 576 plate appearances.
  • In our latest Elias Rankings projections, Crisp, Harden, and Matsui projected for neither Type A nor B status, while DeJesus projected for Type B.

Starting Pitchers Among Best Low-Risk Pickups

Bartolo Colon didn’t pitch an inning in the Major Leagues last year. Neither did Erik Bedard, or Brandon McCarthy, or Ryan Vogelsong. Halfway through the 2011 season, each one of them has already made a difference at the highest level. The quartet of reclamation projects has combined for 309 2/3 innings of 2.88 ERA baseball this year with three times as many strikeouts (257) as walks (77).

Vogelsong

A year after splitting his time between two Triple-A teams, Vogelsong (pictured) is a key contributor on one of baseball’s most effective pitching staffs. His 2.09 ERA leads a San Francisco rotation that includes the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

Yet there’s no denying that the same issue that kept the others off of MLB mounds in 2010 – health – persists. Colon could return from the disabled list this weekend; the Mariners placed Bedard on the DL today; McCarthy has been on Oakland’s disabled list for more than a month.  

But before their respective teams placed them on the disabled list, their contributions surpassed all expectations. It’s been six weeks since McCarthy toed the rubber, yet A’s fans probably haven’t forgotten the 3.39 ERA and 37K/10BB ratio he posted through 63 2/3 innings.

The Yankees will be hoping for more of the same from Colon when he returns from the DL. The former Cy Young Award winner has tremendous numbers in 2011: a 3.10 ERA with a 72K/18BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.

Two years after Colon won his Cy Young, Bedard posted a 3.16 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 en route to a top-five finish for the award. If the lefty’s 2011 numbers look familiar, it’s probably because Bedard was pitching as well as ever before hitting the DL. He has a 3.00 ERA with an 85K/26BB ratio 90 innings into the season.

Don’t forget that the Mariners signed Bedard for just $1MM. McCarthy signed with Oakland for the same amount and the Yankees’ deal with Colon is worth just $900K in base salary. Like Colon, Vogelsong signed a minor league contract in January.

The pursuit of high-risk, high-reward arms does not guarantee success by any means. Brandon Webb ($3MM) and Rich Harden ($1.5MM) signed for more than any of the pitchers above and neither has thrown a pitch in the majors this year.  

Naturally, that won’t stop teams looking to gamble on seemingly injury-prone pitchers this offseason. Someone – Ben Sheets, Jeremy Bonderman or 48-year-old Jamie Moyer perhaps? – will return from the discard pile after a year-long absence and make an impact, whether it's for a handful of starts or an entire season season. It’s just a question of who will resurface and which team will sign him.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


Should They Have Been Non-Tendered?

On November 2nd of last year I listed 85 non-tender candidates, most of whom were indeed cut loose.  Almost five months have passed since the December non-tender deadline, and I'd like to revisit five of those decisions.

  • Kevin Kouzmanoff, tendered a contract by the Athletics.  The A's certainly shopped around for third base alternatives after tendering a contract to Kouzmanoff, which ended up being for $4.75MM.  So far the third baseman has again been part of the problem, though he's not alone as the team ranks 11th in the AL with 3.63 runs scored per game.  There weren't many alternatives for the A's this offseason, but they probably should have saved Kouzmanoff's money for a trade deadline addition.  They'll still be able to pursue someone, though.
  • James Loney, tendered a contract by the Dodgers.  Loney is already on notice with the Dodgers given the arrival of Jerry Sands.  Loney settled for a predictable $4.875MM salary for 2011.  Sands doesn't actually project to do any better than Loney, but the two are close enough that the Dodgers probably should have traded Loney and used the money elsewhere.
  • Russell Martin, non-tendered by the Dodgers.  According to Yahoo's Steve Henson, Martin wanted a guaranteed $5.5MM rather than the Dodgers' offer of $4.2MM.  GM Ned Colletti made the difficult decision to non-tender Martin, but kept the offer on the table while suggesting a possible super-utility role.  Martin ended up taking less guaranteed money to start at catcher for the Yankees, and he's off to a great start.  The Dodgers could have forced Martin's hand by tendering a contract and arguing for a pay cut through arbitration.  That would have been a risky choice, and Martin's health was a concern at the time, so I can't fault the Dodgers for non-tendering him.
  • Bobby Jenks, non-tendered by the White Sox.  Non-tendering Jenks was the right move given his $7.5MM salary, and the pitcher understood that decision according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin.  However, Jenks and the Sox were not on the same page about the team's desire to retain him and confidence in his abilities, so he signed with Boston.  The White Sox lead baseball with six blown saves, but it was still best for them to part ways with Jenks.
  • Brandon McCarthy, outrighted by the Rangers in November.  If they had retained McCarthy, the Rangers probably would have had to pay him something similar to last year's $1.3MM salary rather than the $1MM he received from the A's.  McCarthy has looked good so far, though it's only been three starts.  The Rangers are second in the AL in starter ERA without McCarthy.  Still, given the strong offseason interest in him I think it would have been best to tender a contract and shop him around.

Odds & Ends: Pavano, Red Sox, McCarthy, Lawrie

More links for Monday night, as we wonder when and where Cliff Lee will sign…


A’s Agree To Sign Brandon McCarthy

The A's agreed to sign Brandon McCarthy to a one-year deal, the team announced. The contract guarantees McCarthy $1MM, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter) and the deal includes $1.6MM in incentives, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). LSW baseball represents the right-hander.

McCarthy, 27, could be valuable in 2011 if he's healthy. He tossed 97 1/3 of 4.62 ERA ball for the 2009 Rangers, but the shoulder injuries have continued to slow the former top prospect's progress. McCarthy made three trips to the disabled list at Triple-A Oklahoma City this year, as he battled shoulder problems. When healthy, he was effective, posting a 3.36 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 56 1/3 innings (nine starts). He then made four starts in the Dominican Winter League, so his arm appears to be responding well.

McCarthy became a free agent after the Rangers outrighted him off of their 40-man roster last month. The Astros, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, and Tigers also had interest after he became a free agent. Since McCarthy will have less than six years of service time after 2011, Oakland will be able to retain him for 2012.