12 June 2014

Claiming Trevor Cahill Makes Some Sense

I have yet to see a really strong case against a team claiming Trevor Cahill.  Not one.  That said, I have seen post after post and article after article noting what horrible fortune has been bestowed upon the Diamondbacks.  Personally, I think the team is engaging in a delicate bet in hoping that no one claims Cahill and he is allowed to work on his starting in AAA.  That bet is hinged on cost.  Cahill is set to earn 7.7 MM this year, so about 4.5 MM is remaining on his deal.  In 2015, he has 12 MM to his name.  After that he has a couple option years that can be bought out for 0.8 MM.

One thing we know about Baltimore is that they have about 4.5 MM left in their payroll to spend based on the incentives structure in place on Johan Santana's contract.  Assuming that Cahill wants the big league life and is perfectly fine with the worst case scenario of finishing the year out in the pen with a few spot starts, that works in terms of this year's payroll.  Additionally, I really do not see how an extra 4.5 MM in space can be spent in a more efficient way to sizably increase the team's win total more than what Cahill might be capable of doing.

Next year, Cahill earns 12 MM, which seems reasonable to me considering the type of career Cahill has had.

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS IP ERA+ BB9 SO9
2009 21 OAK 10 13 4.63 32 32 178.2 95 3.6 4.5
2010 ★ 22 OAK 18 8 2.97 30 30 196.2 138 2.9 5.4
2011 23 OAK 12 14 4.16 34 34 207.2 96 3.6 6.4
2012 24 ARI 13 12 3.78 32 32 200.0 108 3.3 7.0
2013 25 ARI 8 10 3.99 26 25 146.2 96 4.0 6.3
2014 26 ARI 1 6 5.66 19 4 41.1 66 5.4 9.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2014.

Those numbers are basically what you would look for in a first divsion number 3 or number 4 starter.  What kind of starting pitchers were signed on one year deals in the neighborhood of 12 MM last year?
A.J. Burnett 1 / 16 MM; 3.30 ERA (2013)
Hiroki Kuroda 1 / 16 MM; 3.31 ERA
Dan Haren 1 / 10 MM; 4.67 ERA
Josh Johnson 1 / 8 MM; 6.20 ERA w/injuries
When you look at those numbers, one might think that Cahill would fall in the 1 / 8 to 1 / 10 range.  A pitcher who has had good success in the past, but has struggled of late.  Of course, Cahill's current issue does not appear to be one of injury, so some value could still be retained with him in the pen.  In other words, is Cahill as a starter worth the risk place on guys like Haren and Johnson?  Is that extra 2 - 4 MM in salary additional cost or simply the price of insurance for Cahill to serve as a reliever?  How well can Cahill pitch out of the pen?

Cahill has been two different pitchers this year.  The starter has been atrocious while the reliever has been quite proficient.

as Starter049.17417.2251938.71.31
as Reliever123.041523.2229110.32.25
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2014.

That is probably due to excessive splits this season.

vs RHB109221335.242.343.341.684
vs LHB8225129.362.451.536.987
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2014.

What is peculiar is that his split against right handers is right in line with his career average, but his left hander line is about 35% worse than his career line.  Why is this year so difficult for him?

I have no idea.  I have not seen Cahill throw this year, so I do not know if anything is amiss this season.  His velocity is on track.  His pitches have similar movement.  His is getting a typical swinging strike rate.  The only thing that looks different is that left handers are teeing off him.  That tends to suggest that he is not playing his fastball and changeup well off each other or maybe he has lost some command of his change up.

That unknown might contain why Cahill would be a bad pickup.  Four atrocious starts are indeed a small sample size, but god awful can turn a small sample size into something more robust in the decision making process.  More interesting to me is that Cahill for his deal and terms is what a reclaim project on a successful pitcher is worth for 2015.  It makes the 2015 starting rotation something like Jimenez, Chen, Cahill, Norris, Gonzalez, Gausman, and Tillman.  If you believe in Cahill, then you have a couple cheap rotation options that other teams could in interested in a deal to shore up other areas of concern for the Orioles.

However, do not be mistaken for Cahill to be some sort of ace.  He is a mid-rotation to backend arm.  His lives off his two seamer, which may be a good fit for Baltimore.  The major win for Baltimore would be a play to acquire a decent arm on a one year deal and then trade Chen or someone else with one year remaining for other needs on the team.


Ryan Solonche said...

Cahill is an intriguing reclamation project as it looks like a salary dump by ARI. Had some nice years in OAK; as you said though, god awful is a bad sign in any sample size.

Here's a little more "out-there" of an idea: if you took on Huston Street's 3.6mil owed, have him close, shift Britton to SP.

Doubtful they would want to move Britton because he's been so successful, but it could be a huge surplus to his contract, and I wonder if that "new" sinker of his could play a few times through a lineup.

Street is in the midst of an absurd ERA+ 317 and is slightly above career avg's across the board. He's also playing for a SDP team that's basically out of it already. They traded Delmonico last year for K-Rod; I wonder what Street would command come deadline.

BirdsEye View said...

His xFIP between 2012 and 2014 have been: 3.76, 4.11, 3.91. Even if he's still figuring things out, you would think he'd be a great long man option to replace McFarland. Also he has team options in 2016 and 2017 for only $13 million.