Oakland’s Rotation Fallout from the McCarthy Departure
It always hurts to say goodbye to a player you like and Brandon McCarthy was my favorite player on the A’s these past two seasons. But today, McCarthy signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks (worth $15.5M) and will no longer be with the A’s. In two seasons in Oakland McCarthy had a rebirth finally showing the highly touted prospect material at the MLB level pitching 281 2/3 innings with strong peripherals (6.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9) leading to a 3.29 ERA and 3.22 FIP good for 6.6 WAR in his 43 starts. Always injury prone, his latest injury was taking a line drive off the bat of Erick Aybar to the head causing him to sit out the season’s final month and the A’s playoff run. It was unclear how teams would respond but a robust market clearly developed for the right-hander and the Diamondbacks got him for what looks to be a bargain as even his 1.8 WAR posted in 2012 is worth about $9M. Oakland could have easily signed this contract and kept McCarthy around.
While it would be nice to see McCarthy stay around Oakland, the truth remains he is a replaceable talent. Furthermore in Oakland, pitchers have an easier go of things and there are some intriguing pitching options that likely are within the A’s price range specifically Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Karstens, Shaun Marcum and Carlos Villanueva. The truth is as much as the A’s pitching depth has been lauded, there really are a lot of serious questions when one thinks about it. The rotation seems like it’d be at present moment, Brett Anderson followed by Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Bartolo Colon and either A.J. Griffin or Dan Straily. I personally like Travis Blackley as a swingman and would hope to have him continue in that role but he too could be the fifth starter presumably. Anderson is of course an injury risk the last season he pitched a full year was 2009 – that too was his only season pitching a full year at the MLB level. Parker had a great first full season in Oakland and I have few concerns about him. Milone who had issues on the road in 2012, has some level of concern as many soft-tossers do but again this is a more minor concern. Of greater concern is that Colon is an unknown, how much did PEDs assist his performance in 2012? He is a year older and who knows if he will be able to keep up as he faded down the stretch in New York in 2011 and then last year he possibly missed tiring due to his suspension. Furthermore, Griffin and Straily have a combined for 22 starts at the MLB level and while Griffin pitched well, Straily victimized by the long ball had a pitching staff worst -0.5 WAR owing to is 2.5 HR/9.
Given these question marks I hope that Billy Beane will look at one of those four pitchers. The A’s have depth to weather injuries and such but this depth is sort of deceiving. We as fans, and I myself am included in this, treat Parker and Milone like veterans but realistically they have little more experience than the experience that concerns me with Griffin and Straily. Adding one more pitcher to the mix from those above would give the A’s a lot of flexibility to keep guys down in the minors to get extra reps if need be. Regardless, McCarthy’s loss is a big one, both for the A’s fan base and for the A’s rotation depth.