Trade talk surrounds pitching wealth
McCarthy's options for '07 hang in balance of rumored deals
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One of the newest rumors making its way around the Swan and Dolphin Resort on Monday involved the movement of White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle via trade to the Mets in return for outfielder Lastings Milledge.
It's a rumored connection between teams mentioned previously during the current offseason, but in its past incarnation, the trade focused more on Javier Vazquez or Freddy Garcia switching to New York. And after hearing White Sox general manager Kenny Williams list pitching as his top priority for upgrading his Minor League system Monday afternoon, despite already possessing up-and-coming young arms such as Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Haeger and Lance Broadway, it's clear no trade will be made without top young pitching coming back in return to the South Siders.
"Pitching. Both starting and relief pitching," said Williams, after first pondering the question to see if an answer would tip his hand too much in regard to potential deals. Williams' belief on winning with a top-notch staff as the team's base already is well known. "All the time. Any year you ask and any time of the year you ask. Seriously."
The White Sox stand as one of the few teams in baseball with an abundance of Major League pitching, a rarity brought into sharp focus by the high dollar amounts being thrown at the elite and the middle-of-the-road arms. In Buehrle, Garcia, Vazquez, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras, the White Sox have five pitchers possessing the capabilities of winning between 15 to 18 games per season and easily surpassing 200 innings.
In McCarthy, the White Sox have a talented right-hander who is ready for the rigors of the Major League rotation. They also have an ongoing issue as to where he is best suited if a trade for one of the current starting five doesn't materialize.
Williams listed McCarthy's two options for the 2007 season as being part of the starting rotation for the White Sox or being part of the starting rotation at Triple-A Charlotte in a conversation with MLB.com last week. Working another season out of the White Sox bullpen no longer was in consideration, according to Williams.
On Monday, Williams reaffirmed such a theory. He also further explained why a second year of relief would not be beneficial for the 23-year-old or the team.
"Listen, we have to do what we have to do for the best interests of the organization, and sometimes, even if a player doesn't think it's in his best interests, it is," said Williams during his meeting with the Chicago media. "In my own particular case, I wish someone would have forced me to go back down to winter ball another year or two, although I wouldn't have agreed with that assessment way back when.
"If I cannot do what's best for the organization to try to win and get that young talent in ... In the long run, one year out of the bullpen, that gives you one year of a teaching tool, a little bit of something you can grow and hang your hat on.
"Two years, now I'm affecting whether or not he will be an effective starter, and that's two years of not using his entire repertoire and keeping the strength and stamina and the core built up to where he's an effective starter," Williams added. "It's not fair to him."
When asked last week about a return to the Minors, McCarthy told MLB.com that the speculated move was "certainly not something that excites me" on the heels of two Major League seasons. When hearing of Williams' concern for his development as a starter being in conflict with pitching another year in relief, McCarthy said it was hard for him to provide a definitive response considering the 2006 season marked his first year out of the bullpen.
Following 53 appearances, including two spot starts, and 84 2/3 innings hurled last year, McCarthy said his arm finished the campaign feeling very strong. He would love to say his arm would react the same way in 2007 and feel the same as he slid right into the rotation in 2008, but he has no past reference to base his analysis.
"That would be one of those things I would have to try and see what would happen," McCarthy said. "I think I could handle it. It would be on me to make sure my arm stayed in shape during the course of the offseason and keep up my end of the bargain. I would never take it lightly."
All of this consternation in regard to McCarthy's status might eventually become a moot point if a package is offered to Williams getting him to part with a starter. Buehrle and Garcia both have one year left on their respective contracts, but Williams begged off a question Monday in regard to contract extensions being broached with either pitcher. It's an indirect approach Williams rarely takes, but he was honoring an agreement made with one of the two pitchers not to talk about the negotiations.
By simply following the Hot Stove news and looking at some of the contracts being signed or rumored to be on the table, McCarthy understands the valuable commodity Williams is dealing with and the inherent pressure to make the right move among the array of offers. But McCarthy now is ready for the news to focus once again toward his efforts on the field, as opposed to continued analysis as to where he might or might not fit as part of the 2007 staff.
"This is all stuff you can't control," McCarthy said. "If someone thinks I'm not a good pitcher, you can take care of it once you step between the white lines. This other stuff, you only hear bits and pieces of the conversations.
"It's like sitting and waiting to hear your own fate. I don't relish it, and I'm looking forward to doing stuff on the field that would more positively affect myself and the team."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.