Rumor Mill: Brandon McCarthy To The White Sox?


If McCarthy can take the mound he’s awfully good, but that’s a big if. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Winter Meetings bring with them a blizzard of rumors, although the percentage of those rumors that actually bear fruit is tiny. For ten minutes the other night there was a surge of buzz as a rumor emerged about Cliff Lee being traded for Justin Upton – and then it immediately died when we were informed it was nonsense.  However, sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire, so it’s often worth considering the more plausible-sounding rumors and assessing their potential consequences. Even if a particular deal doesn’t happen, rumors can give some insight into the various paths that a team is considering taking. Yesterday it was announced that Brandon McCarthy had met with a number of teams and that he was willing to take a 1-year deal in order to rebuild his value coming off of his terrifying injury. The White Sox were one of the six teams to meet with McCarthy. What could this possibly mean?

Brandon McCarthy came up with the White Sox and for some time was one of their best prospects, as he posted gaudy K:BB numbers. McCarthy also served admirably as a spot starter in 2005 at the tender age of 21. After an injury-plagued 2006, the White Sox shipped him off to Texas for John Danks and Nick Masset. Unfortunately, since then injuries have been the story of his career. McCarthy managed only 221 innings of roughly league average quality for the next three years before missing all of 2010.

In 2011, Brandon McCarthy re-emerged with the Oakland Athletics and had a brilliant year. Despite a previous career BB/9 of 3.4, McCarthy shaved this down to 1.3, and 1.9 in 2011 and 2012, and over the last two seasons he has simultaneously pushed his GB% over 40. The result has been 281.2 IP of a 3.29 ERA (121 ERA+) and a 4.00 K/BB ratio over the course of 2011-2012.

However, even with these high quality numbers in his age 27 and 28 seasons, he only managed 170 and 110 innings in each of those years respectively. 2011 still featured several of those minor nagging injuries costing him starts here and there, and they were worse in 2012 – even before the catastrophic and frightening line drive that forced him to have life-threatening brain surgery. McCarthy was already an injury risk, and it’s very difficult to know what consequences the head injury may have going down the road.

On the plus side, McCarthy is still in his prime, is willing to take a 1-year deal, and he and his wife are some of the coolest, funniest people on the internet. It would also free up Rick Hahn to trade Gavin Floyd with a bit more confidence, as it would provide another quality right-handed arm for the rotation, although McCarthy is quite dicey as insurance due to his brittle history. Then again, in recent history one of the competitive advantages the White Sox have had over their rivals is Herm Schneider and his amazing training staff.  Perhaps the price tag or injury risk on McCarthy is too high, but these are the types of risks that the White Sox should be taking.

As far as Gavin Floyd is concerned, I’m sure people here are tired of the rumors, although if the White Sox brought McCarthy in it would become much more plausible. Matt already touched on some of the risks of dealing Floyd without having brought someone else in already. It’s hard to find a deal where Floyd would return something that would help the White Sox right away – logically, Floyd being on a one year deal would be attractive to a team that’s trying to win now, and teams that are trying to compete don’t often give away pieces that contribute at the major league level.  Logan Forsythe of the Padres is a guy we’ve talked about as a possibility. The Orioles have frequently been cited as a potential landing spot for Floyd, and they may be able to part with a prospect like Jonathan Schoop – who is considered to be a nice, second-tier middle infield prospect, albeit whose stock is down after last year.  An Orioles writer whom I hold in high regard floated the idea of something like Nolan Reimold, Jake Arrieta, and some quality A-ball arm in exchange for Gavin Floyd, which sounded realistic as well. Between Arrieta and McCarthy, that may be worth pulling the trigger on. As I drafted this, it looks like the White Sox have acquired Jeff Keppinger – a move that deserves its own analysis – but it decreases the need at the major league level and a Floyd move could instead be used to infuse more talent into the minors as a result.

Another potential benefit of this plan is that McCarthy would almost certainly be cheaper than Gavin Floyd for 2013, so you may be able to save money and add talent without losing any quality at the major league level — but it’s risky, and inertia is powerful.  The odds of the White Sox standing pat with Floyd are high – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.