The White Sox have been listed as one of three teams showing “immediate interest” in the free agent Brandon McCarthy. The interest struck me as a bit strange. Not because Brandon McCarthy is bad – far from it, he’s a quality (but brittle) pitcher who is also a fun and entertaining guy off the field. McCarthy came up with the White Sox, helped them win a title in 2005, and they only parted with him in order to obtain John Danks. Rather, the interest in McCarthy was strange because I had figured the White Sox rotation was pretty much set for 2013.
When the White Sox extended Peavy and picked up Floyd for 2013 it left them with an obvious front four in Peavy-Sale-Danks-Floyd with a few candidates who would likely battle it out for the fifth spot (Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Phil Humber, etc.). McCarthy would make the rotation even stronger, but it just doesn’t seem like an area they should be spending money on if they still need to fill two everyday spots in their infield and if they are actually trying to keep payroll around $95-105 million.
There are a number of possible explanations. The first and most likely is that it is simply a rumor and nothing more. Another possibility is that teams are even more leery of McCarthy’s health than I had expected they would be and the White Sox have identified him as good long-term value that they can acquire cheaply. It could also mean that the White Sox are even more worried about Danks’ health than we’ve realized, and that they want some kind of insurance should his shoulder situation become dire. The most fun option, albeit an unlikely one, is that the White Sox have a higher budget than they’ve been indicating.
The White Sox are currently committed to $98 million in payroll for next year. That number includes the $4 million in buyouts paid to Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, but does not yet include the raises that guys like Gordon Beckham, Phil Humber, and Alejandro de Aza are going to see in their first year of arbitration. Rick Hahn had initially indicated that the 2013 payroll would be in the ballpark of the 2012 figure of $97.5 million. He then worked out the Peavy extension and picked up Gavin Floyd’s option. Given that they’re still going to need someone at third base and at the very least a back up catcher, Hahn is in fact looking at a payroll increase from last year. They have already boosted their drafting and scouting funds, but what if there’s even more where that came from?
In fact, the White Sox may have more money to splash around than they are letting on, as they have spent as much as $121 million (2008) and $128 million (2011) in recent history. Indeed, since 2005, the White Sox have had payrolls above $98 million in all but two seasons (2012 and 2009). What could that mean for 2013 and beyond if the White Sox did have an extra $10-20 million to play with this offseason?
There are a number of conceivable outcomes. It makes it possible to sign a guy like McCarthy to a long-term deal at a low price due to his scary head injury, improving their outlook beyond 2013. Signing McCarthy would also have the effect of making Quintana a bullpen arm, allowing them to deal the expensive Matt Thornton, which in turn frees up more money to sign a 3B or to bring back Pierzynski. It could mean even more zany scenarios are possible, like dealing Gavin Floyd, replacing him with McCarthy or even Dan Haren, or maybe trying to pick up an outfielder such as Shane Victorino or Angel Pagan. Kenny Williams often surprised me as GM, and there are myriad possibilities that I couldn’t even begin to list if I tried.
All of this is speculation prompted by a rumor, but then again, that’s kind of the fun of the offseason, isn’t it?