PNC PARK – Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy has the worst luck in baseball. That makes him one of the best trade targets in baseball, and the Pirates are reportedly interested. McCarthy’s ERA minus fielding independent pitching differential (xFIP) is among the greatest in the game. Yes, his ERA is unsightly at 5.11 but his xFIP (2.92) is seventh in baseball. Seventh! It ranks with some of the elite pitchers in the game.
He’s a free agent after the season and he’s owed just $4.5 million the rest of the way. Yes, he has a history of shoulder issues, but I spoke with one scout at the park tonight who just marveled at his fastball command, which is evident in his excellent walk rate. In short, if you need an arm, you should be interested. But do the Pirates need an arm?
On one hand, you can argue you can never have too much pitching depth.
On the other hand, the Pirates are going to have too many starting pitchers when Francisco Liriano comes off the DL , which could be shortly after the all-star break. This scribe’s best guess is that Jeff Locke will be the odd man out since the Pirates are most concerned about protecting assets and he has options remaining.
So on that other hand you ask ‘Do the Pirates even need to make a trade?’
(Let’s rule out David Price who is going to be way too expensive in prospects and dollars to make any sense)
What is not disputable is that every team should always be looking to upgrade its roster, so that leads me to this: what about a McCarthy-for-Vance Worley deal, either directly or indirectly? (Ideally indirectly where you pick up a superior asset for Worley and flip a lesser for McCarthy)
Look, Worley is a great guy who has had a compelling story. The Pirates have done a great job with him. But the 1.74 ERA is not sustainable. He has three years of control left and he was acquired for cash considerations. This would be an excellent time to sell high whether for a rent-a-player – McCarthy or maybe even A.J. Burnett, an idea ESPN Radio host David Todd floated – or for a prospect chip.
While Worley’s ERA is likely to climb, McCarthy’s is likely to sink and he’s affordable. McCarthy is an excellent bet to be a second half bargain.
There might be an opportunity for the Pirates to add an under-valued arm, sell high and trade from depth, all the while improving its 25-man roster It’s probably unlikely tonight’s starting pitchers, Worley and McCarthy, trade clubhouses after the game but it make some sense.
It’s a simple game, really, buy low and sell high.