Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Brandon McCarthy Is An Entertaining Option For the Red Sox

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Now that we’ve been able to digest the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it news that the New York Yankees don’t plan to go full-bore on free agents Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Pablo Sandoval this winter, it’s pretty clear what needs to be done from a Red Sox perspective.

Pee in their pool.

One year after spending $450 million on Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka, all leading to an 84-78, second-place finish, the Yankees are reportedly going to concentrate on keeping a pair of their own free agents this winter, according to the New York Daily News; pitcher Brandon McCarthy and third baseman Chase Headley, who hit .262 with a .768 OPS playing in place of the suspended Alex Rodriguez last season. Pursuing Headley suggests the Yankees indeed envision the 39-year-old A-Rod as a designated hitter when he returns to the team in 2015.

Barring any delusions of grandeur regarding Will Middlebrooks, his tenure at the position is over, leaving the Red Sox in need of a third baseman as well. Boston seems to be setting their sights primarily on World Series hero Pablo Sandoval, who .429 against the Royals in last month’s Fall Classic.

While it’s important to note that Pepén’s source says the Sox and Sandoval “could be arriving” at a deal with five years and $100 million, it’s also fair to assume that the Red Sox “could” move to Millinocket, Maine within the next calendar year. Still, the money and years sound about right, as ridiculous as that may seem, based on what many assume the third baseman can make this winter.

There also has to be a nagging suspicion that Sandoval isn’t going anywhere. He’s beloved in San Francisco, where he’s won three rings. He rejected the team’s qualifying offer, but one gets the sense that negotiations with any other team is just a means to getting maximum dollar out of the Giants. Like when Kirby Puckett toyed with the Red Sox as a free agent in 1992, only to ultimately return to Minnesota. And we don’t use him as an example based on girth alone. Like Sandoval, the late Puckett was coming off multiple World Series wins with the Twins as he entered free agency, but the general consensus was that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Maybe that leaves Hanley Ramirez, an intriguing option for sure, though a risky one with his history of injuries. Ramirez would add some much-needed pop to a lineup devoid of it, though it’s more than a little scary to scan his similar batters on Baseball Reference and note that his top comparison at the age of 30 is old friend Nomar Garciaparra, who hit all of 47 home runs over his final five seasons after the age of 30.

But the fact that the Yankees aren’t (wink, wink) planning on going after either third baseman is probably music to John Henry’s check-writing hand. The fact that New York won’t (nudge, nudge) go after guys like Lester and Shields either means that’s one less suitor for the likes of big-market teams like the Sox, Cubs, Tigers, and Dodgers to deal with as they construct their teams for 2015.

That doesn’t mean the Sox shouldn’t screw with the Yankees anyway.

On that note, doesn’t McCarthy represent a fascinating avenue for Boston to pursue?

After spending two spectacularly unproductive seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks (8-21, 4.75 ERA, including a ghastly 3-10 with a 5.10 ERA in 2014), McCarthy was a Renaissance upon a midseason trade that landed him in New York. He went 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA for the Yankees over 14 starts, with a 3.22 FIP that would have placed him in the top 20 pitchers overall. As it was, his combined 3.55 FIP with both teams was better than Shields (3.59) and Justin Verlander (3.74). It was also the first season in which the 31-year-old righty threw more than 200 innings.

Yes, maybe it sounds risky. Especially when you already have one Clay Buchholz, who needs two? But McCarthy, who has had a history of shoulder problems, would make a decent No. 3 or 4 starter in Boston. The Red Sox could also peacock about how it weakened the Yankees’ rotation. McCarthy was 10-15 last season combined. Prior to 2014, he hadn’t won more than nine games in any season.

He made $10.2 million last year in the final year of the two-year, $18 million deal he signed with Arizona. It might not take too much more than that to sign him this time around. (ESPNNewYork’s Andrew Marchand suggests three years and $30 million, which is still doable.) Think of him as Jake Peavy, without the dreadful inability to pitch in the American League.

McCarthy is also a rare combination in that he’s a no-brainer for both Ben Cherington and Tom Werner to lust after, a player who would dive right into the sabermetric philosophies of the front office, as well as provide a tantalizing addition to the TV show aspect of the Red Sox. McCarthy is keenly aware of baseball’s advanced analytics, which would make him Employee of the Month, six months running if he were to sign in Boston. Not to mention, he’d be the celebrated idol of stat geeks from Sandwich to St. Alban’s.

But his social media prowess would also give NESN a player of interest to market to the degree that nobody will care any longer what @BMcCarthy32 and his wife @Mrs_McCarthy32 have to say. It’d be like the moment you finally figured you were sick to death of Kevin Millar. (Thank God Twitter didn’t exist in 2005.)

Much in the same vein as the Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino signings, McCarthy isn’t the best at his position, but he is a character guy that the Red Sox clubhouse would welcome with open arms. His social media presence is entertaining because it is no holds barred, with commentary that would never fly in a place like 1 Patriot Place. He’s also a Liverpool Football Club fan. There’s a whole show right there.

Of course, signing both Lester and Scherzer (hey, as previously noted, it could happen) might make the Sox a lot better. But McCarthy would make them a bit more fun all the same.

So, too, will be watching A-Rod help implode the Yankees, but we’ll save that glee for another day.

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