The Orioles have yet to address their rotation this offseason despite early offseason claims that it was the team’s top priority, writes MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. While the Orioles were at one point “deep” in negotiations with Yovani Gallardo, they now appear reluctant to part with the No. 14 overall pick to sign Gallardo. As an alternative, Kubatko writes that Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner is a name to watch, as the team has some interest in the free-agent-to-be.
Cashner, 29, was reportedly being shopped by the Padres earlier this offseason, although to this point, San Diego has elected to trade only from its bullpen (Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Marc Rzepczynski) as opposed to parting the three members of its rotation that have been oft-reported as available on the trade market (Cashner, Tyson Ross, James Shields). Cashner pitched a career-best 184 1/3 innings for the Padres in 2015, but he also took notable steps back in ERA (2.55 in 2014, 4.34 in 2015) and walk rate (2.1 BB/9 in 2014, 3.2 in 2015). Last season wasn’t all bad, however, as Cashner’s 8.0 K/9 rate was the highest in any of his full seasons as a starting pitcher, and his fastball velocity actually increased half a mile per hour over its 2014 average — rising from 94.3 to 94.8.
The Padres and Cashner agreed to a one-year, $7.15MM salary earlier this month, thus avoiding arbitration for the final time. Cashner is set to become a free agent following the season and as such would be a short-term acquisition for the Orioles (or any other team with trade interest). Baltimore, of course, has parted with a significant amount of its prospect depth in recent seasons, dealing names like Zach Davies, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley, among others, in deadline and offseason trades. That Cashner has just one season remaining and saw a notable jump in his ERA this past season certainly figures to lower the cost of acquisition, but the fact that Padres were said to be “pushing” Cashner in trades at the Winter Meetings but still didn’t make a deal serves as a reminder that they’re probably looking for a notable return.
Trade talks in general have been difficult for the Orioles as they’ve sought to upgrade in the rotation, per Kubatko, as teams have persistently asked Baltimore for Kevin Gausman, who could be the club’s best shot at having a top-of-the-rotation-caliber starter himself. One alternative suggested by Kubatko is right-hander Mat Latos, who could likely be had on a one-year deal as he looks to rebuild his stock coming off a poor and injury-riddled 2015 season. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote a bit about Latos over the weekend, noting that one NL official felt a strong manager such as Buck Showalter (or Bruce Bochy or Dusty Baker) would benefit Latos, who can be “too outspoken for his own good.” Latos was excellent for the Padres and Reds from 2010-14, posting a combined 3.27 ERA across those five seasons, but a knee injury cost him about half of the 2014 season, and his peripheral stats slipped upon return. Last year, his ERA fell off as well, when he worked to a 4.95 ERA in 116 1/3 innings between the Marlins, Dodgers and a brief late cameo with the Angels.