The Arizona Diamondbacks neared a quite reasonable – and potentially very clever – transaction Friday. They agreed to contract terms with Brandon McCarthy, the 29-year-old right-hander who has been unable to stay on the field, but has been effective when there.
McCarthy will make $15.5 million over the next two seasons. Assuming McCarthy passes his physical, the Diamondbacks have invested that much in a pitcher who has endured some shoulder issues and will be coming back from a frightful season-ending injury.
(In early September he was struck in the head by a line drive that fractured his skull and caused hemorrhaging. He was in surgery for two hours.)
In 43 starts over two seasons with the Oakland A’s, McCarthy was 17-15 with a 3.29 ERA. His road ERA was about a run higher than it was in pitcher-friendly Oakland, which is about right.
He goes to Arizona and the Diamondbacks' emerging rotation, which, for all its promise, still was in the bottom third in NL ERA. McCarthy is bright and engaging, and it was no coincidence that McCarthy was around to lead – and then watch – the young A's starters perform into October.
A rough sketch of the Diamondbacks' April rotation would have Ian Kennedy, McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley followed by one of Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin. Daniel Hudson, recovering from Tommy John surgery, could return mid-season.
And that's all fine. McCarthy comes with a veteran sensibility. He brings depth. And he's a good pitcher at a reasonable price.
But, it seems, there's more.
There is a sense the Diamondbacks are setting themselves up for something bigger, and that it may cost them one of Bauer and Skaggs, and that general manager Kevin Towers therefore is building surplus.
Towers' target is a shortstop, perhaps Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, perhaps Texas' Elvis Andrus. He also seeks a front-end starter – the Tampa Bay Rays could move James Shields or David Price – and neither would come cheap. And, numerous reports have the Diamondbacks in numerous and complex trade conversations, many of those involving right fielder Justin Upton.
In the worst scenario, and it's still a good one, Towers has skill and depth in his rotation. In the best, he ultimately thins the depth by a little and gets a terrific shortstop or more. Either way, the signing of McCarthy works.
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