Potential Phillies Target: Brandon McCarthy


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Brandon McCarthy

2014 team: Arizona Diamondbacks/New York Yankees

Key 2014 stats:  10-15 W-L, 4.05 ERA, 175 K, 33 BB

Midway through 2014, Brandon McCarthy’s career was on the skids. After a promising start to his career with the Oakland A’s, things went wrong after signing a free agent contract with the Diamondbacks prior to the 2013 season.

He was 5-11 with a 4.53 ERA in 2013, and 2014 wasn’t shaping up to be much better. In July, he was floundering at 3-10, prompting the Diamondbacks to give up on him. In a “change of scenery” trade, McCarthy was sent to the Yankees for their own struggling starter Vidal Nuno.

Often times, you’ll see an improvement in pitchers’ numbers when they switch from the American League to the National. But in McCarthy’s case, the opposite proved true. He instantly turned his season around, going 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA down the stretch.

Why he might be a good fit

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Based on advanced statistics (he had a 3.75 FIP and a .325 BABIP in 2013), McCarthy was never quite as bad as his basic numbers indicated. He might have simply  been the victim of bad luck (or bad defense) that turned around after the trade.

His strikeout numbers were strong, and at age 31, he’s young enough that his performance is unlikely to drop off much throughout the course of his contract.

If his second half performance was more indicative of his true ability, McCarthy would be a solid addition to a Phillies rotation that is currently short on established starters.

Perhaps most importantly for a rebuilding club, since McCarthy was traded at midseason, any team that signs him will not have to sacrifice a compensatory draft pick.

Why he might not be a good fit

Is one good half season enough to make us forget about the very bad season and a half that preceded it (even if they might not have been as bad as they appeared on the surface)? The last time McCarthy signed a free agent contract with a National League team, it went poorly, so there’s a high amount of risk in signing him.

Even though he’s far from a sure thing, McCarthy will still probably receive some pricey contract offers. The Yankees will presumably want him to return, and when the Yankees want a player, things tend to get pricey in a hurry.

My take

The more I look at McCarthy, the more I wonder: Is he really much of an improvement over Kyle Kendrick?

McCarthy will likely receive a four-year deal somewhere. And unless you can give a definitive answer of “yes” to the previous question, four years seems like an awfully long commitment.

If they could get him for three years, I’d say they should go for it. But since I don’t see that happening, I think the Phillies would be better off looking elsewhere.