McCarthy, the Opening Day starter for Oakland in 2012, was plagued by injuries throughout the season, which ultimately came to an end after being struck in the head by a line drive against the Angels in September.
A 29-year-old journeyman, McCarthy found his niche as a starter in Oakland. Over two seasons with the A’s, McCarthy posted a 3.29 ERA and 196 strikeouts.
Without McCarthy, the A’s rotation is still one that is both strong and young. In 2012, the Oakland starters had the ninth-best ERA (3.80) while Oakland’s team ERA (3.48) was sixth best as a whole.
McCarthy’s 3.24 ERA was third among them, behind only Brett Anderson and A.J. Griffin.
Along with Jarrod Parker, Griffin and Anderson will look to anchor the top of the rotation in 2013, but McCarthy’s absence leaves a hole in the fifth spot.
Oakland was fortunate with the performance of Bartolo Colon early on last season, but steroid suspensions in August could taint Oakland’s trust in him again.
Similarly, pitchers remaining on the free-agent market post numbers that fail to replicate McCarthy’s. Anibal Sanchez and Joe Saunders both have ERAs well above 3.00 and Saunders is even over 4.00.
The bread and butter of the Oakland staff was its reliance on its bullpen, but these two could prove to be too shaky for the finely tuned Athletics staff.
One free agent that would fit is Ryan Dempster. After finishing the season with the Texas Rangers, Dempster has a familiarity with the AL West and numbers similar to McCarthy’s. Dempster’s 173 innings pitched in 2012 surpasses McCarthy’s career-best 170.2.
Dempster would also feel at home in Oakland’s notoriously deep ballpark. His 0.82 groundout/fly out ratio, including 280 fly-ball outs, plays well with Oakland’s speedy outfielders.
Still, the A’s are sound with pitchers, so spending money on Dempster, or anyone else, could be irresponsible. Instead, an in-house solution could be Dan Straily.
Straily appeared in seven games as a starter in 2012. He may have only averaged 5.2 innings per game, but still managed to get as deep as the seventh inning and as many as eight strikeouts in a game. His 3.89 ERA led him to a 2-1 record.
His numbers are not quite on the level of McCarthy's or some of the names mentioned in this article, but for a player already in the system, Straily could make a decent No. 5 starter in 2012.