The Yankees need pitching. That comes as little surprise to anyone because we hear it every year. Continuously. Well, next year is going to be no different. Right now the 2015 rotation is completely up in the air, and while there are some top flight choices due to be out there on the market, the Yankees could also use a mid-rotation guy. Sure, the Yankees should go after the likes of Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, but signing Brandon McCarthy to a one or two-year contract would be a good option too.
Since coming over from the Diamondbacks in a trade for Vidal Nuno, McCarthy has maintained a 2.55 ERA and 3.06 FIP in 24.2 innings, a substantial improvement since his time in Arizona when he was battered around with a 5.01 ERA. Of course, this is all a small sample size, but if you're someone who believes in midseason trades turning into tryouts for next year, McCarthy has to be opening eyes.
The 31-year-old right-hander might be one of the best examples of a pitcher made for Yankee Stadium and the Yankees themselves. He's never walked many batters over his career with a 2.30 BB/9, never going above 2.0 in a single season over the last four years. He gets a good amount of ground balls at 43.2% and had limited home runs to a sub-1.00 HR/9 over the last three seasons before 2014, giving him three specific strengths that the Yankees often look for.
Most importantly, he's recovered from whatever the Diamondbacks did to him. McCarthy began to throw a cutter back in 2011 with the Athletics and it may have been the pitch that revitalized his career after missing all of 2010. Using the pitch for the first time, he put up a monstrous 4.5 WAR and suddenly became known as a big league pitcher again. As we all know, the cutter is used to keep hitters off balance and get them to make weak contact and generate ground balls, so it's no wonder his ground ball rates went from 34.4% in his first five seasons to 45% from 2011 through 2013.
Suddenly, for reasons unknown, Arizona had McCarthy stop using his cutter. He went from throwing it 36.9% of the time to just 10.2% of the time with the Diamondbacks in 2014, that way he could start throwing more curveballs, something that they had been making him do since 2013. Moving away from a pitch that had kept hitters to an 89 wRC+ over four seasons didn't seem like much of a good idea, but it was compounded by the fact that batters have crushed the more abundant curve to a 122 wRC+ these last two seasons. It's no wonder that his platoon splits have essentially reversed from struggling against lefties in 2011 and 2012 to struggling against righties in 2013 and 2014. It's also what likely led to the jump in home run to fly ball ratio to 20% – double his career norms – before his trade to New York.
Now that he's allowed to throw his more effective cutter and diminish the use of his battered curveball, he's been able to pitch more effectively and more like the player he used to be. This is the type of pitcher the Yankees should be interested in bringing back.
At this point, there is not a single pitcher you could say is definitely going to be in the 2015 rotation. Even if everyone is healthy, there's Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. Hiroki Kuroda will be gone, Ivan Nova won't be ready to start the year, and David Phelps should probably not be expected to be in the rotation, so adding McCarthy would be a nice way to bring some stability into a very volatile situation.
Of course, McCarthy isn't known for his durability, so while that is something to keep in mind, it also shouldn't be a deal breaker, especially since it should keep his final cost down. So far he looks better in the Bronx, and if he maintains the rest of the way, the Yankees need to seriously consider him as more than just a rental.