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Royals free agent target: Brandon McCarthy

Many of you have brought up this guy as a free agent target.

Rich Schultz

In the search for more starting pitching, since James Shields will almost certainly be leaving the Royals, there are some attractive free agent targets. One of them is Brandon McCarthy. Coming off a short 2 year contract, he'll probably be looking for something more, especially since he just turned in his first 200 inning season in the majors. Despite that, his extensive injury history, lack of "ace" pedigree (like Lester or Scherzer), and the lack of a qualifying offer should keep his price down. MLB Trade Rumors has estimated 3 years, $36M. The FanGraphs crowdsourcing project sees about the same thing. There will be many teams in on him at that price.

Normally, I'd probably do something similar to what I did for Edwin Jackson. However, I don't believe that to be entirely necessary in this case. I'll present the various reasons for signing McCarthy, and then I'll present what I think to be the rebuttal that the Royals would offer against signing him.

McCarthy, over the past 2 years, has been a ground ball pitcher. This is generally a good thing; McCarthy had very good FIP and xFIP numbers in 2013 and 2014. Assuming average luck and defense, McCarthy is a valuable pitcher. However, the Royals don't seem to go after ground ball pitchers. McCarthy's ground ball tendencies will make him desirable by many teams, and the Royals may prefer to pursue a fly ball pitcher elsewhere to maximize the talent of their outfield.

As I mentioned before, McCarthy has had numerous injury issues preventing him from eating innings until this year. With the acquisitions of James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jason Vargas, the Royals clearly prefer starters who have a history of eating innings. A past clean bill of health doesn't necessarily guarantee future health, since all pitchers are injury prone due to being pitchers, but it seems the Royals think it matters. They'll see McCarthy's injury history not as a reason to depress his value but as a reason not to pursue him.

I don't know if this would matter or not, but McCarthy is also an outspoken presence on Twitter and in favor of sabermetrics. The Royals have had a reputation of sabermetric disdain, despite their analytics department, so McCarthy's personality may grate with other players on the team. Whatever you think of team chemistry, the Royals seem to value it. I don't think this would be an issue; Brian Bannister pitched for the Royals. Jarrod Dyson was very outspoken this year, and Salvador Perez is a goofball. McCarthy is a different beast, and the Royals will probably be concerned over how he would mesh in the clubhouse and with Ned Yost.

McCarthy's homer rate was a problem in 2014. Granted, he pitched for Arizona and the Yankees, but he didn't exhibit significant home/road splits in either HR/FB or home runs given up. Other teams might see regression in his future. His HR/FB wasn't really a problem in 2013, and his HR/FB did decrease after arriving in New York midseason. He has showed some homer suppression ability in the past with the Athletics, so it's reasonable to say his homer rate wouldn't be a problem in KC. McCarthy got hit really hard on fly balls and line drives this year but not last year, and his career values don't give me pause here. I think McCarthy is due for regression on both his homer rate and production allowed on contact, and the Royals' defense would help in this area. There really shouldn't be a rebuttal here.

Overall, McCarthy is a 31 year old ground ball pitcher with injury issues (though the line drive to the head was of the freak and scary variety) and possible regression. Steamer projects a 3.89 ERA and 3.75 FIP. I'd probably drop the ERA a bit with the Royals. Some teams will balk at the injury issues. Other teams will bet on the ground balls and regression. Some teams will see his strong performance with the Yankees as either a small sample size or evidence that he found something, or rediscovered something, after coming to the Yankees. He doesn't fit the Royals' MO due to his ground ball tendencies and injury issues, but the Royals should absolutely check in with his camp. I liked McCarthy at his previous contract, which was 2 years/$15.5M. I'm not sure I like him at 3/$36M, but that seems to be the consensus. McCarthy would have to give around 6 wins or so during those 3 years, and at a 2.5-2-1.5 decline, he gets there. McCarthy is an interesting option, and I'd like to have him for the right price. You could say that about roughly everyone.