The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to make a splash on the open market during the offseason, and Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine reported that they are shopping right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy in an effort to create additional space on the 40-man roster.
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Trading McCarthy Could Clear Room for Hill
Sunday, Dec. 4
Olney noted Los Angeles' 40-man roster sits at 39, which means the team would have to free some space in order to sign free-agent pitcher Rich Hill and other players. Trading McCarthy would help it do just that.
This comes after Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register said the Dodgers and Hill were "closing in on [a] multi-year deal," which could increase the urgency to trade McCarthy or Scott Kazmir, who Olney also noted was being shopped.
It is not surprising Los Angeles is looking to bring back Hill after he posted a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in six starts for the team down the stretch. He also anchored the rotation in the playoffs alongside Clayton Kershaw and finished with a 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in three starts.
It makes sense to trade McCarthy to ensure there's enough space to re-sign Hill, but Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors said moving the righty would be about more than just the roster space. Polishuk said only Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias are locks to be in Los Angeles' rotation in 2017 and that trading McCarthy may force the team to look within at options such as Alex Wood and Jose De Leon.
From other teams' perspectives, trading for McCarthy would come with some red flags.
McCarthy—who has pitched for the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Dodgers since entering the league in 2005—made just four starts in 2015 and 10 in 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. He finished the 2016 campaign with an unspectacular 4.95 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 40 innings.
He has just two seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA in his entire career, and they came in back-to-back efforts in 2011 and 2012 with Oakland. McCarthy will also turn 34 years old during the 2017 season and is likely well past his prime.
It is difficult to envision there will be significant interest in McCarthy from teams unless they see him as a reclamation project who is available as a trade chip for relatively cheap.
Polishuk did say the starting pitcher market is thin in terms of free agency this offseason, so teams desperate for depth could look his way. He did combine for 196 strikeouts in 280.2 innings in 2011 and 2012 with 3.32 and 3.24 ERAs respectively, but that was before the surgery that has limited him in the second half of his career.
There is plenty of risk involved with acquiring McCarthy, which could force Los Angeles to lower any asking price to accelerate a trade.