So Long, and Danks for All the Fish
I do think that Kenny Williams was thinking about McCarthy's future in the rotation when he dealt Freddy. But I also think he was blown away by the chance to add Danks, and to a lesser extent Nick Masset, and decided to change plans. Williams has always, above all, been about adding value. And, he won this deal.
I've never been fully sold on McCarthy. I think he has tremendous potential, but for now he is far too prone to the gopher ball to be any one's ace. For his career he's given up 1.3 home runs per nine innings in the majors. That number is consistent with his minor league numbers, and with scouting reports that he is too prone to making mistakes with his fastball and curve ball up in the zone. US Comiscular is a tough place to pitch for a homer-prone, fly ball pitcher (not that trading McCarthy to Arlington did him any favors on that front). I'm not sure if the rumors that McCarthy was stubborn and refused to work with Don Cooper to address this problem are true, or just post-trade rationalization and spin control by the Sox. But if that is true, then it's a serious warning flag about McCarthy's future.
Danks meanwhile has had home run problems of his own. He put up a mediocre ERA in two levels of the minor leagues last year. But he's Baseball Prospectus's #5 ranked lefty prospect in all of baseball. He's two years younger than McCarthy, and because he's about as good as McCarthy today, probably therefore still has more upside. He has tremendous strikeout per nine and strikeout to walk ratios. Plus, he's less likely to be insulted by starting the season in AAA, which means the Sox can give the 5th starter job to the whoever looks the best among Danks, Gavin Floyd, Charlie Haeger, and Lance Broadway, instead of handing it to McCarthy to soothe his ego. Add in Masset's value, and the Sox win this trade.
At the end of the day, the Sox now have two of the top-10 lefty prospects in the league, with Danks and Gio Gonzalez, acquired from Philly in the Garcia deal. Gonzalez was only 20 last season, and like Danks he strikes out more than a batter an inning thanks largely to a curve ball that can put batters away at any level. Danks, Gonzalez, Broadway, Haeger, Floyd, and McCulloch give the Sox impressive young pitching depth, which can be used to protect the team against the absurd, spiralling cost of league average pitching (see Lilly, Ted), or to acquire established players at positions of need (see Field, Out).
I'm excited to watch the young guns duke it out for the 5th starter slot next season, and vie to establish a future pecking order over the next few years. Plus, honestly, I was starting to worry that the Sox were built for a dramatic fall within a couple of years. Now, they may still experience a fall, but they're built to sustain long-term success. And that's an exciting new position to be in.