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D-backs gain flexibility with McCarthy

12/7/2012
Brandon McCarthy got two years from the Diamondbacks, months after a frightening head injury. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Brandon McCarthy would likely have been in line for a three- or four-year deal, the kind we expect Kyle Lohse and Anibal Sanchez get (although we haven't seen any such deal handed out to a starter so far this winter), had it not been for the comebacker that ended his 2012 season. He signed a reported two-year, $15.5 million deal today with Arizona.

McCarthy is a groundball/control guy who misses just enough bats to be an above-average starter, and he works better when he's got a good infield defense behind him, something that was true through his two years in Oakland. The Diamondbacks don't have a good glove at third, but could have above-average defenders at the other three positions if they stick with Cliff Pennington at shortstop. McCarthy's ability to sink the ball had to be appealing to the Diamondbacks given their home park's habit of increasing home run rates, but he'll have to be able to keep the cutter and sinker down in the zone more than he did in 2012, especially before his midyear DL stint for shoulder soreness. He's likely to be worth 2-3 wins if he throws 160-170 innings this year.

The move leaves the Diamondbacks with a modest pitching surplus that they could use to make a trade. Their Opening Day rotation includes McCarthy, Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, and likely one of three youngsters, rookies Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer and sophomore Patrick Corbin. Bauer seems to have fallen out of favor in the organization and seems the most likely to be traded, although his stock just eighteen months after he was the third overall pick in the Rule 4 Draft is probably still pretty high. Corbin's stuff played up in his handful of relief appearances, so while he's the most experienced and could be a fifth starter, the ideal alignment of pitchers might have Skaggs in the rotation with Corbin as a long man, ready to move into the rotation if there's a need between Opening Day and the return of Daniel Hudson.

As for McCarthy, this has to be a happy outcome given the uncertainty at the end of September over whether he'd continue to pitch or even suffer permanent damage from his head injury. He's now guaranteed more than $15 million over the next two years, which speaks both to how good he was right up to the point when he was hit and to the rapid salary inflation in this offseason's free agent market. Lohse, Sanchez, and Edwin Jackson have to be pleased to see that a pitcher with McCarthy's risk factors can get $7.75 million guaranteed per year.