It’s been a really long time since the Chicago Cubs signed anyone to a minor league deal. There was that flurry just after the lockout started, and then there were the Eric Yardley and Matt Dermody signings semi-recently. Now there’s another reclamation reliever type to add to the mix: Kevin McCarthy.
The 30-year-old righty totally fits the prototype of a Cubs minor league pitching signing in the recent era. Previous big league success? Check (McCarthy was a solid middle reliever in the Royals’ bullpen from 2017-19, with a 3.65 ERA and 4.01 FIP). Has fallen on hard times recently due to injury or underperformance and thus is available on a minor league deal? Check (McCarthy struggled in the pandemic year as his velocity has been leaving him, and then got lit up in the minors last year for the Red Sox and White Sox). Does something weird and extreme that could be the basis for molding something even better? Check (McCarthy is an extreme sinker-baller – groundball rate near 60% – which is something the Cubs have had a lot of success with).
The other very weird and extreme thing for McCarthy is that he’s the rare pure-contact-managing reliever. He will strike absolutely nobody out, walk very few, but ALSO gives up almost no barrels. That tells me, when he’s right, that the pitch profile moves enough late to stay off barrels, but not enough to generate whiffs.
A quick look and I don’t really see anything too funky in the delivery like a super low release point or huge extension, but that sinker sure does dive a LOT:
McCarthy will compete for a job in the big league or Iowa bullpen in Spring Training, together with the 40-man guys, Connor Menez (minor league Rule 5), and the other minor league deal guys: Eric Yardley, Locke St. John, Stephen Gonsalves, Mark Leiter Jr., and Jonathan Holder.