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12/23/06 7:44 PM ET

Rangers acquire McCarthy from Sox

Texas sends three Minor Leaguers in swap for young righty

ARLINGTON -- General manager Jon Daniels, admitting he is not "terribly encouraged" about being able to sign free-agent southpaw Barry Zito, achieved his goal of adding a front-line starting pitcher to the Rangers' rotation by acquiring right-hander Brandon McCarthy from the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

McCarthy, 23, who pitched out of the White Sox's bullpen last season, was acquired along with Minor League outfielder David Paisano for Minor League pitchers John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner.

Danks, who is from Round Rock, Texas, was the Rangers' No. 1 draft pick in 2003 and one of their top young pitching prospects, while Masset was a candidate for the bullpen next season.

McCarthy, who is 4-7 with a 4.68 ERA for the White Sox in 2006, joins a rotation that already includes right-handers Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla and Robinson Tejeda.

"In our minds, this is one of the elite, young, now-ready, battle-tested pitchers in the game," Daniels said. "As we go along, we've kept a list of the top young pitchers in the game and Brandon has always been at the top of the list."

The Rangers remain interested in Zito and have made an offer that's believed to be in the $75-80 million range. But they have gone nowhere near offering the $100 million that's been thrown out there the past few weeks, and all indications are they aren't planning to do that. That's why it's unlikely he'll be coming to Arlington.

"We're still interested in Barry, but I'm not optimistic," Daniels said. "I'm not terribly encouraged by our chances."

Daniels said the Rangers are still interested in left-hander Mark Mulder, and he continues to have discussions with his agent, Gregg Clifton. But Mulder is still not expected to be ready for the start of the season and would likely be a second-half addition at best.

McCarthy is expected to have an immediate impact on Texas' rotation.

"I'm hoping that's the case," McCarthy said. "That's what I'm looking to do. I've been working hard this offseason -- this is the hardest I've ever worked -- to get myself ready to be in the starting rotation for a full season and be a good one."

McCarthy has been regarded as the White Sox's top pitching prospect and is 4-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 12 Major League starts over the past two seasons.

But last season McCarthy was stuck in Chicago's bullpen while the Sox went with a veteran rotation of Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras.

McCarthy tried to adjust but said relieving didn't suit his style.

"I'm not a guy who can come in, throw 98 miles per hour and blow hitters away," McCarthy said. "I have to set up hitters. I have to be able to use my changeup. I kind of got away from that as a reliever. Being a reliever took me out of my comfort zone. I'm a starting pitcher at heart, that's where I feel I'm at my best."

McCarthy, who was a 17th-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, had a breakout year in 2004. Pitching at two Class A levels and Double-A Birmingham in the Southern League, McCarthy was 17-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts and led all Minor Leaguers with 202 strikeouts in 174 innings.

Baseball America made him a first-team starting pitcher on its 2004 Minor League All-Star team. He split 2005 between the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte, where he was 7-7 with a 3.85 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings. He was 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 12 games, including 10 starts, with the White Sox in 2005.

I feel as good as I ever have about our pitching. We have a starting rotation with some solid veterans and some youth with upside potential."
-- Jon Daniels

"We obviously gave up a good amount of talent," Daniels said. "This is an old-fashioned baseball trade where both teams took risk and gave up a lot of baseball talent. We love John Danks and we love Nick Masset. Both guys are on the cusp of pitching in the big leagues and will have success at the big-league level."

But McCarthy already has Major League experience, and Daniels said that was a significant factor in the trade.

"There's no bigger step in my opinion in professional sports than going from Triple-A to the big leagues in baseball," Daniels said. "We don't have any concerns about John's ability to do that, but there is always the unknown. Brandon having already gone through it at the big-league level, that's big."

Daniels said he expects McCarthy to develop into a pitcher who can fit at the front end of a Major League rotation.

"He has a number of plus pitches, he has true command of the strike zone and he has an advanced feel for pitching that will serve him well," Daniels said. "This is not about John or Nick but about getting Brandon, who is one of the top young pitchers in the game. It's not often you have the ability to get your hands on a pitcher of that caliber."

McCarthy has allowed 30 home runs in 151 2/3 innings at the Major League level, including four in five innings in a start against the Rangers on May 27, 2005, at Ameriquest Field in Arlington. But he came back to Arlington and shut out the Rangers on two hits in 7 2/3 innings in an 8-0 victory on Aug. 30.

Danks was not expected to compete for a spot in the rotation in 2007. Masset was a definite candidate for a spot in the bullpen, but the Rangers still have plenty of candidates there behind closer Eric Gagne and setup reliever Akinori Otsuka.

"The one thing I like is this should give us some stability in our starting rotation for the next several years," Daniels said. "We're not going to be out there every winter looking for two, three or four starting pitchers."

Millwood is signed through 2010, while Padilla is signed through 2009, with a $12 million option for 2010. At this point, McCarthy and Tejeda won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season.

"I feel as good as I ever have about our pitching," Daniels said. "We have a starting rotation with some solid veterans and some youth with upside potential. And we have a bullpen that has a chance to be one of the best in the league if some things fall into place."

Right-hander Kameron Loe and left-hander John Koronka are the leading candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation if the Rangers stay within the organization. Right-hander Josh Rupe, who was used in relief last year, will also be given a shot, along with right-hander Edinson Volquez, who has struggled at the Major League level the past two seasons.

Zito and Mulder appeared to be the only two outside candidates that the Rangers are pursuing right now.

Paisano, 18, appeared in 52 games for the White Sox's Venezuelan Summer League team in 2006 and batted .338 with no home runs and 17 RBIs. A native of Venezuela, he played with Chicago's Dominican Summer League club in 2005 and hit .272 with three home runs and eight RBI in 49 games.

"Our international scouts did a great job watching him the last few years," Daniels said. "He's a big, all-around, very athletic outfielder with tools who has already performed at a level and will get a chance to come over to the United States this season and play."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.