Tigers Potential Free Agent Target: Brandon McCarthy


I’ve outlined the need the Tigers have for starting pitching depth yesterday. That need especially becomes clear if the Tigers do not re-sign Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez looks like he might be a difficult get, as a bunch of teams have expressed interest. Whether or not they will meet his price, that is another story.

The potential the Tigers could be without Sanchez for the upcoming season has me scouring the free agent market, looking for viable replacements, that could not only provide depth, but be a viable member of the rotation.

That search has led me to Brandon McCarthy.

September 5, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy (32) leaves the field with a trainer after being hit in the head on a line drive by Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar (not pictured) during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

The one time Chicago White Sox farmhand hasn’t had the easiest of careers. It’s been a career that began with some significant hype as a 21 year old who made his debut with the White Sox, only to fall short of expectations in Chicago and get traded to the Texas Rangers. Since then, McCarthy’s other big issue has been staying healthy and staying on the field. McCarthy has never made more than 25 starts in any major league season, which was two years ago with the Oakland A’s. Injury trouble struck again in 2012, and very literally, when McCarthy was hit in the head with a line drive that was gruesome to watch.

Nobody likes to see a guy get hit with a line drive to the head, but that was especially unfortunate for McCarthy. You see, he was having himself a tremendous 2012 before that happened, and it was his second straight year statistically that put him at the very least in the 2nd or 3rd starter category. McCarthy stood to make some money in 2013 if his year continued undeterred.

In McCarthy’s 18 starts last season, he posted an ERA of 3.24. This, a season removed from posting an ERA of 3.32. Those are definitely nice numbers, but we do have to take into account that he put those numbers up in pitching friendly Oakland. His peripheral numbers, his BB and K rates are similar to those of Rick Porcello. He is somewhat a similar pitcher, but from personal observation, I believe his secondary pitches are a little stronger than Porcello, and he spots his pitches better as well.

But this isn’t a referendum on what Rick Porcello can’t do. It’s what can McCarthy potentially bring to the Tigers.

I do believe that McCarthy is one of those guys that has just begun to figure out the art of pitching. Sure, he has been helped by pitching in Oakland, but I believe that McCarthy is more Doug Fister than Rick Porcello. Fister made the move from a pitching park in Seattle and hasn’t missed a beat. I believe McCarthy could do the same.

If you look at his career numbers in Central Division ball parks, he seems to be very mediocre. But let’s not forget a lot of that came from when he was a young 21 and 22 year old pitching for Chicago. 2012 tells a different story. At least in Kansas City and even Chicago where he pitched well. His one start against Cleveland went well, and the only Central team he struggled against was the Twins. In 2011, McCarthy was strong against all the Central opponents.

Do I think there would be a regression in McCarthy’s numbers if he pitched for Detroit? Yes, but I don’t think it would be that drastic. Even if McCarthy gave up a half a run more on average, we are still talking a sub 4.00 ERA pitcher, and that is an improvement over the Tigers fourth and fifth starters at this point.

The biggest question mark in signing McCarthy is going to be that line drive. Nobody knows how he is going to react when he gets back on that mound. But what it does do is probably limit the number of years and salary a team is going to invest. That is a harsh reality for a pitcher that was heading for a bigger pay day in free agency this year.

In 2013, McCarthy will have to spend the season building his value for his next free agency season, why not do that with a team like the Tigers who, at least on paper, seem destined to be a playoff team?