Guardians Claim Kirk McCarty, Designate Alex Young

The Guardians have claimed left-hander Kirk McCarty off waivers from the Orioles, according to an announcement from Baltimore. It’s a reversal of a transaction from just last week, when the O’s nabbed him from Cleveland. Mandy Bell of relays a series of additional transactions for the Guardians (on Twitter). They’ve also selected the contract of southpaw Tanner Tully from Triple-A Columbus, placed starter Aaron Civale on the 15-day injured list with a sprained right wrist and designated lefty Alex Young for assignment. Additionally, outfielder Óscar Mercado has gone unclaimed on waivers and sent outright to Columbus.

McCarty has spent the bulk of his five-year professional career in the Cleveland system. A 7th-round pick in 2017, he reached the majors for the first time in April as a COVID replacement. The following month, the Guardians selected him permanently onto the 40-man roster, and he started two of his three big league appearances. McCarty allowed 13 runs in his first 12 MLB innings, and Cleveland designated him for assignment two weeks ago. Baltimore grabbed the Southern Miss product off waivers, but he made just one start for their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk before being taken off their 40-man roster earlier in the week.

Now that he’s been reclaimed by Cleveland, McCarty will resume his role as a depth swingman. He’s been optioned to Columbus, where he posted a 3.77 ERA with a modest 18.7% strikeout rate but a strong 7.1% walk percentage through 43 innings before his first DFA. He’ll no doubt hope to stick on the 40-man for a more extended stretch this time around. McCarty is only in his first minor league option year, so the Guardians can move him between Cleveland and Columbus for the next few years if he holds a 40-man spot.

Tully, an Ohio State product, has followed a similar path. First added to the roster as virus substitute, he was formally selected last month. Cleveland designated the former 26th-rounder for assignment a few days later, and he passed through waivers unclaimed. Tully has been hit hard in five MLB innings, but he’s been a strike-throwing rotation arm in Columbus.

Through 14 starts with the Clippers, the 27-year-old owns a 4.95 ERA. He’s only fanned 16.9% of batters faced, but he has a pristine 3.3% walk percentage and has induced grounders on over half the batted balls against him in the minors. Like McCarty, Tully has all three options remaining. He’ll join a rotation mix that has to navigate an injury to Civale, who left yesterday’s start against the White Sox early with wrist soreness. The club hasn’t provided a firm table for the righty’s return, but he’ll at least miss the next couple weeks.

It’s the second IL stint of the season for Civale, who has had a rough year even when able to take the mound. Through 12 starts, the 27-year-old sports a 6.17 ERA. That’s easily a career-worst and more than two runs higher than the 3.84 mark he put together through 124 1/3 innings last year. Civale’s strikeout and walk numbers are virtually unchanged relative to last season, but he’s seen a marked decrease in ground-balls and given up quite a bit more hard contact.

Young, meanwhile, loses his roster spot after a lone appearance as a Guardian. Cleveland selected the former Diamondback southpaw on July 3, and he recorded an out in a game against the Tigers a day later. He was promptly optioned back to Columbus and now will be made available to other teams. That’s in spite of his strong production with the Clippers, as Young owns a 3.77 ERA through 31 innings of relief. He’s punched out an excellent 35.9% of opponents, walked only 5.5% of hitters and racked up grounders at a 51.4% clip.

That stellar minor league showing could draw Young some attention from other clubs in the next week, as Cleveland will have to deal him or try to run him through waivers. The former second-round pick hasn’t had much big league success (4.90 ERA through 182 career innings), but he’s not yet arbitration-eligible and still in his second option year. Young has been outrighted in his career before, so he’d have the right to elect minor league free agency even if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

That isn’t the case for Mercado, who has never previously cleared waivers nor eclipsed three years of big league service time. He’ll have to accept an assignment to Columbus and hope to play his way back onto the roster before the end of the year. It’s at least a temporary end of a roster flux for Mercado, who’d been designated for assignment three times in fairly rapid succession. He was let go by Cleveland late last month, claimed off waivers by the Phillies, then brought back by the Guardians before being DFA again.

Mercado, 27, is still a strong defensive outfielder, but he’s run into marked offensive troubles since a solid rookie season in 2019. Over the past three years, he has a .200/.258/.330 line in 459 trips to the plate. The extent of those struggles eventually squeezed him off the roster. Mercado is out of options, so he first needed to clear waivers before he could be sent back to the minors. Now that he’s done so, he’ll get his first crack against Triple-A arms this year and try to right the ship.

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