With free agency ready to get going in full force, the Minnesota Twins can now begin to address their biggest need-starting pitching. With Scott Diamond looking like the only pitcher assured of a spot in the rotation next season, Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan could reasonably be looking to find four capable starting pitchers this winter. Making a trade or two is a possibility, but taking a calculated risk or two in free agency will be necessary as well.
With that, I present Brandon McCarthy, who has spent the past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics and gone 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA over 18 starts (111 innings) this past season. His 2012 campaign came to an end in September after a scary incident where he took a line drive off his head, but he appears to be recovering well and is on track to be cleared for spring training. That has prompted reports of multiple teams already showing interest in signing him this winter.
Of course any mention of McCarthy has to mention his injury history. He has had multiple stints on the disabled list with shoulder problems, including missing nearly two months in the middle of this past season and never pitching in the big leagues in 2010 as he recovered from shoulder surgery. McCarthy also missed a large chunk of 2008 with a right forearm issue, which at times can be a pre-cursor to elbow issues. Those injuries have prevented him from making more than 25 starts in any of his seven major league seasons, though he did appear in 53 games predominantly out of the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox in 2006.
McCarthy looked on track to become a failed prospect due those recurring shoulder issues, but managed to turn things around in Oakland over the past two seasons. He set career-highs virtually across the board in 2011 by going 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts (170.2 innings) along with five complete games (one shutout). The A’s are reportedly interested in bringing him back for next season, but they will certainly not enter any sort of bidding war for his services.
McCarthy’s market value is hard to gauge due his injury history and overall lack of a track record, but he will definitely get a raise from his 2012 salary ($4.275 million) even if he only signs a one-year deal with Oakland or another team. The Twins should be one of the teams that has some level of interest as long as the price is right, and even with the inherent durability concerns bringing McCarthy in on a one or two-year deal looks to be a fairly low-risk move with solid upside.