Brandon McCarthy has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for and more since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Vidal Nuno in early July. McCarthy has given the Yankees quality innings each time out and is 4-0 since the trade. Last night he outdueled reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Tigers, leading the Yankees to a 2-1 victory while going 5 2/3 innings and yielding only one unearned run. The four wins in five starts for the Yankees has already surpassed the win total McCarthy had in 18 starts for Arizona. If McCarthy can keep up this pass down the stretch and help the Yankees make the postseason, he might be set up for a big contract when he becomes a free agent this fall.
McCarthy is proving himself worthy of a push by the Yankees to sign him to a multi-year deal this fall. Over the course of his career, McCarthy has been somewhat injury-prone, but many were the result of freak injuries such as his being hit in the head by a comebacker in 2012. McCarthy is showing right now that he is healthy and capable of pitching in the spotlight illuminated by the biggest market in the country. McCarthy is also a devout sabermatrican, which is something that the Yankees have embraced under the leadership of Brian Cashman. When one looks at the “stats behind the stats” McCarthy has been a very effective starter for the past few years, despite his mediocre win-loss record.
The Yankees will almost certainly be in the market for starting pitching this fall. It is unknown whether CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova will be ready to start the season and the Yankees are still waiting to hear about the future of Masahiro Tanaka. It is also likely that Hiroki Kuroda will retire. It would be fair to say that the Yankees will make a big push to sign one or more of big three free agent starters set to hit the market in a few months (Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester). However, it will take more than one big time signing to keep this rotation afloat in 2015. One pillar that would certainly help them next year and beyond would be a sinkerball/cutter pitcher like McCarthy.
McCarthy’s stuff is unlike any other starter the Yankees have and will be able to give opposing lineups another perspective as they prepare to take on the Bombers. While counting on him to be the ace of your staff would be foolhardy, in the middle or back of the rotation, he would be a terrific addition to nearly any staff outside of Detroit or Oakland. The only real question about resigning McCarthy will be his price tag. Since McCarthy was traded mid-season the Yankees cannot tender him a qualifying offer, which will increase the number of bidders on the right hander. He is making $10.25 million this season in the second year of a back loaded two year deal. On the free agent market he will like cost between $12-$15 million a year for about 3- 5 years. This is were it gets tricky as signing a 31-year-old pitcher with a detailed injury history to a five-year deal seems crazy. If I were the Yankees, I would try to get McCarthy to sign a shorter deal for perhaps a bit more money, maybe a $45 million, three-year deal with an option based on number of innings thrown. McCarthy would then effectively be replacing Kuroda in the rotation as well as in the budget as the 39-year-old will make $15 million this season.
The off-season is still a long ways away, but not even the Yankees can afford to not look ahead to the future. For the Yankees, signing McCarthy to a new contract before he can negotiate with other teams should be a priority. Without the black cloud of a qualifying offer hanging over his head it is likely that a team or two will severely increase the bidding for McCarthy. Pitching is always at a premium. It was only two years ago that Edwin Jackson got 4 years and $52 million from the Cubs. The price for McCarthy will only continue to climb the better he pitches.