Earlier this week my colleague, Scott Alfano, made an argument for why the Yankees should resign impending free agent, starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks before the July 31st trade deadline. McCarthy has pitched well since coming over to New York in exchange for Vidal Nuno, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.30 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 7 starts. He’s been great and has been exactly what the Yankees need in a year like this, where the pitching staff has been riddled with injuries. While many would say “He deserves another contract” I do not see it this way and I’ll tell you why.
The free agent market is deep and it’s especially deep in the starting pitching department. With money coming off the books, the Yankees will likely be targeting one of the three prime time starters in Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. If you were betting on free agency with your buddies (It’s fun! Try it!) the safe money would be on the Yankees grabbing up one of these guys. With Michael Pineda back from the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka making significant progress in his return, Ivan Nova coming back a few weeks into 2015 and the emergence of rookie starter Shane Greene, the Yankees should have a strong Opening Day rotation come 2015 but it still has some problems.
Hiroki Kuroda is almost definitely not returning next season, nobody knows if Sabathia will be healthy but even if he is, his days of being a valuable starting pitcher are over and who knows if Greene can keep up his impressive pitching. The Yankees don’t need someone like McCarthy to pitch at the back end of the rotation. But, a front end caliber pitcher like Shields or Lester or Scherzer would make this rotation one of the strongest in baseball. All three of those pitchers have also displayed durability and consistency throughout their careers. Tanaka, Lester/Scherzer/Shields, Pineda, Nova and Greene looks a lot better than Tanaka, Pineda, Nova, Greene and McCarthy. It’s a lot deeper and a more proven rotation.
We’ve seen this story before. A player comes over in a trade, puts the Yankees on his back and everyone and their mother thinks he’s New York’s saving grace. Oh boy! Let’s make a movie out of it! We saw it last year and the player’s name was Alfonso Soriano who came over in a deal with the Cubs and was one of the best hitters in baseball during the last months of the season. Going into 2014 we all expected him to be a force in the Yankees lineup. It didn’t happen. He swung at anything and everything, struck out almost every at bat, failed repeatedly in the big situations that he excelled in last year. The Alfonso Soriano we knew in 2013 was gone and eventually so was the 2014 version.
We released him and he’s sitting at home as a free agent right now. Were we fooled? Yeah! We were fooled big time. I hate to say it but if the Yankees resign McCarthy they are setting themselves up for the same letdown. McCarthy never came with the track record of Soriano either. These seven starts with the Yankees could be a fluke and McCarthy could fall off the cliff at any moment. Could I be wrong? Of course I could! McCarthy could win the Cy Young Award next year for all I know! But if he is signed it should only be if Shields, Lester and Scherzer go somewhere else and only a one year deal.