But the talented young right-hander still had to feel as if he was part of some weird dream when he heard the news coming from White Sox general manager Ken Williams on the other end of the phone.
Williams informed McCarthy, 23, that he had been traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for top pitching prospects John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner. A similar form of this trade was rumored as close to taking place back in November, but Jon Garland was the White Sox starter involved instead of McCarthy.
In fact, talk of Williams moving a second starting pitcher from his deep rotation this offseason usually centered on Garland, Javier Vazquez or Mark Buehrle. McCarthy's name was hardly ever mentioned, unless in the context of trades the White Sox turned down in order to maintain control of the talented young right-hander.
McCarthy won't become a free agent until 2011, and it was just a few weeks ago when Williams was talking about making room for McCarthy in the rotation after trading Freddy Garcia to the Phillies. On Saturday, though, an apparent White Sox untouchable had his status changed by a deal too good for Williams to turn down.
"When I talked to Kenny, he said he got bowled over by a deal," McCarthy told MLB.com shortly after he was traded and an hour before his first conference call with the Texas media. "It was going to take something he really felt comfortable with to make it happen, and he felt comfortable with this one.
"It was weird to see it happen that fast. After two years of trade rumors, it finally happened, and I hadn't heard a rumor about this one at all."
Williams echoed McCarthy's thoughts as to the impressive pool of talent needed to pry away his coveted right-hander.
"For the right deal, I think you can find a match for anyone," said Williams during a Saturday afternoon conference call. "So you never want to use the word untouchable. We have guys close to being untouchable, where we have to be bowled over to make a move. In our minds, we were bowled over.
"It was an obvious decision for us to make, just as it was an obvious decision for Texas to make. In the present, we think we are equally as strong with whoever emerges for the fifth spot. In the future, this gives us more pitching to add into the mix and add to our overall plan."
There was little doubt as to Williams' overall game plan going into the current offseason. Along with improving the bullpen, a group which struggled mightily during the 2006 campaign, Williams was determined to receive young pitching talent in return for any of the surplus of veteran hurlers traded. He wanted to stay strong in the present and stay equally strong in the future.
This offseason plan initially was addressed with the addition of David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez from the Cubs, in exchange for Neal Cotts, and it seemed to be punctuated by Garcia's trade to Philadelphia for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. The White Sox also picked up hard-throwing left-hander Andrew Sisco from the Royals for utility player Ross Gload.
When the high-priced free-agent market settled, with pitchers such as Barry Zito, Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder picking teams, the White Sox appeared to be a destination once again for pitching-depleted squads. Then again, Williams is not a man who waits for the action to come to him and also was abundantly clear during the Winter Meetings how trades would not be random and possible deals already had been sufficiently researched with targeted teams for quite some time.
Saturday's deal had talks going back as far as one year, according to Williams, with scouts and even a video crew sent out to watch the Rangers' young arms in action. Ultimately, the deal had less to do with getting rid of McCarthy as it did with the White Sox return on their investment.
|"For the right deal, I think you can find a match for anyone. So you never want to use the word untouchable. We have guys close to being untouchable, where we have to be bowled over to make a move. In our minds, we were bowled over."|
|-- Ken Williams|
"When you are dealing with prospects like we are, these are just good baseball deals," Williams said. "It has nothing to do with money or, in this particular case, with one club losing confidence. I have the utmost confidence in Brandon McCarthy.
"I had so much confidence in Brandon that I ended up trading Freddy to put him at the front of the line to challenge for the fifth spot. The whole makeup of our club made Brandon expendable, as we believe there are other equal options for the fifth spot. But we also get stronger for the future."
McCarthy's vacated fifth spot will be filled through an open Spring Training competition, which will include knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, Floyd, Danks, Masset and possibly even Lance Broadway. Sisco will start in long relief with the White Sox, with a chance to work on all of his pitches ultimately leading to a return to the rotation.
Danks, 21, pitched for both Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma during the 2006 campaign, finishing with a 9-9 record, 4.24 ERA and 154 strikeouts over 140 innings and 27 games (26 starts). The southpaw posted a 4-5 mark and 4.33 ERA in 13 starts for Oklahoma, finishing with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings between the two stops. He was Texas' first-round selection (ninth overall) in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.
Masset, 24, spent time with Frisco, Oklahoma and Texas in 2006. He made three relief appearances with the Rangers, allowing four earned runs in 8 2/3 innings. Masset was part of Frisco's starting rotation but made only seven starts in his 24 appearances for Oklahoma. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder was the closer this winter for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League, finishing with a 2.61 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings and a league-leading 15 saves.
By Williams' estimation, Masset is just a notch below closer Bobby Jenks in regard to velocity and movement on his fastball. Masset employs a power slider, as opposed to Jenks' power curve. If Masset falls short in the fifth-starter competition, he could give the White Sox a sixth power arm in a young and talented bullpen.
Losing McCarthy clearly was a tough decision for the White Sox, with Williams spending parts of the last two years denying trade rumors involving the right-hander that included a deal for Alfonso Soriano at last year's non-waiver trade deadline. It was an equally tough parting for McCarthy, who grew up a White Sox fan, thought of Chicago as home and figured he had a strong chance to start for the South Siders after the Garcia trade.
Then again, some deals are too good to pass up -- even for a virtual untouchable.
"I was just talking to [assistant general manager] Rick [Hahn] last night and looking at my board," Williams said. "I could not have imagined that things would have worked out so well in my mind. I can't imagine being more pleased then I am now.
"A great deal of the players on that targeted list now are in our organization and a part of our team."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.