Earlier today, Brandon McCarthy had the following tweet to Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
McCarthy mentioning that he was in Pittsburgh sparked the instant speculation that he might be on the Pirates’ radar. That’s usually how the rumor mill works during the off-season. The smallest thread connecting a player with a team is usually blown up into a full rumor, even if it could be totally meaningless. McCarthy is a free agent, and the Pirates are looking at pitching, but him being in Pittsburgh doesn’t mean he’s talking with them. Looking through his Twitter feed, he mentions the Chiefs several times. It could be that he’s in town from the Monday Night Football game. My point is that him mentioning he’s in Pittsburgh is meaningless. It could mean he’s there talking with the Pirates, or it could just be something totally random that has nothing to do with the Pirates.
That said, the Tweet does allow us to think about how McCarthy could fit with the Pirates. He had good numbers last year, but his season was ended early after being hit in the head with a line drive. He shouldn’t be a buy-low candidate, and his numbers should make him an attractive free agent, but the injury and the strong starting pitching market lowers his value this off-season. That would give the Pirates a chance at signing him if they were interested.
Thinking about McCarthy reminds me of a conversation I had in Spring Training with one of the minor league pitching coaches. This coach mentioned McCarthy and some of the changes he made at the major league level which led to his success. Those changes can be read in this article on FanGraphs. The coach said they were trying to take a similar approach with some of their players in the minors, focusing on maxing out and making the delivery effortless, which leads to velocity, angle, deception, and arm strength. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Pirates would be pursuing McCarthy, but the fact that they use him as a guide for some of their minor league pitchers indicates that they do like him.
Combine that with the Tweet today, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we found out that the Pirates were pursuing McCarthy. However, right now all we have to go on is speculation on some non-specific information, none of which confirms that McCarthy and the Pirates are talking.
UPDATE: According to Susan Slusser, the A’s beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, McCarthy has been cleared to resume all of his normal baseball activities after “20 hours of rigorous testing”. So that explains why he was in Pittsburgh.