The Braves needed to dump outfielder Matt Kemp and add a veteran to an unseasoned rotation. Their latest trade accomplished both.
In what might still be understated as a surprise, Kemp was traded back to the Dodgers, where he spent his glory days, for several highly compensated veterans. While there was mutual financial benefit for both teams, the Braves added three players who could warrant roles next season.
Among them, starter Brandon McCarthy. The 34-year-old right-hander battled through injuries in his three-year Dodgers career, though his most recent campaign was his most successful.
McCarthy becomes the most experienced arm in the rotation. His job is simple: Eat innings and pave the way for the plethora of pitching prospects ascending through the minors.
Here are five things to know about the pitcher who might be the Braves’ biggest offseason addition:
1. The Bounce back: McCarthy pitched 63 innings across his first two seasons in Los Angeles after earning a four-year, $48 million deal following a stellar season with the Yankees. He required Tommy John surgery in 2015, then battled through a recovery period and hip stiffness in 2016.
He pitched 92-2/3 innings last season and his velocity hit 94 mph when the Dodgers included him on their World Series roster. He finished with a 3.98 ERA and struck out seven per nine innings.
His 3.28 FIP indicated he outperformed his ERA, while his 2.4 WAR would have made him the Braves’ most valuable starter.
However, he only made three appearances between July 20 and the World Series. He was sidelined by a dislocated left (non-throwing shoulder), knee tendinitis and a recurring blister. The latter was a new occurrence despite McCarthy’s wide-ranging list of past injuries.
“The seams, to me, feel humongous,” McCarthy said about his blisters via the Orange County Register. “They feel like high school or college balls. They’re just so high. I never noticed them in the past.”
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, also with the Dodgers last season, expects McCarthy ready to go.
If McCarthy gives the Braves similar results with a heavier innings load, they’d be thrilled.
2. A Twitter about nothing: You’d be remiss to not mention McCarthy’s Twitter personality in a list introducing him.
McCarthy, @BMcCarthy32, and his wife Amanda, @Mrs_McCarthy32, are world-class entertainers on social media.
Days after the trade, his first tweet read “That all the parking spots closest to the gym fill up first is how I know we should be very scared of AI (artificial intellegence).”
He followed that literary masterpiece with “Also, I am a Brave now” and said he’s just as excited to see uber-hyped outfield prospect Ronald Acuna play than anyone else.
Of course, he’ll assume a little more responsibility for Jerry Seinfeld’s mood in the National League East.
3. No option: McCarthy’s $10 million contract expires after the season, and despite reports of a conditional club option, he’ll be free to explore the market.
The reported option was said to have de-escalated from $8 million to $5 million because McCarthy spent more than 179 days on the disabled list with the Dodgers. But the Braves do not hold an option on McCarthy following the season, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
For even average starting pitching, $5 million is an exceptional cost. Such an option could’ve swung the salary swapping trade in the Braves’ favor if McCarthy proved healthy. Instead, he’ll hit the market next winter with a chance to maximize his earning power. McCarthy will be 35-years-old with a lengthy history, making this year a crucial one.
4. Ownership: As of last March, McCarthy is the minority owner of the Phoenix Rising FC, a member of the United Soccer League. The amount of money he invested is undisclosed.
McCarthy viewed it as an opportunity to learn the business side of sports for post-career opportunities.
“I’m too stupid to know right now exactly what I want to do, and I’m too much into this career,” McCarthy told the Los Angeles Times. “I could get out in a few years and realize ownership is for the birds and I’d rather just paint.”
5. Well-traveled: For the Glendale, Calif., native changing teams isn’t anything new.
McCarthy debuted in 2005 with the White Sox, who selected him in the 17th round of the 2002 draft. He was part of a five-player trade that moved him to Texas in Dec. 2006.
His Rangers tenure was plagued by injuries, and the team outrighted him after the 2010 season. He signed with the A’s on a one-year, $1 million deal.
McCarthy rebounded in Oakland, making 20 starts. He added to his repertoire and became the team’s opening day starter in 2012.
But his success was stunted when he took a line-drive to the head from former Brave and then-Angel Erick Aybar. He immediately had surgery after it was revealed he suffered an epidural hemorrhage, skull fracture and brain contusion.
McCarthy recovered and joined the Diamondbacks as a free agent. He struggled with injuries, later being flipped to the Yankees before the 2014 trade deadline.
He excelled in New York posting a 2.89 ERA over 14 starts, which led to his next contract with the Dodgers.