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Trevor Cahill Rumors
The Dodgers have agreed to a contract with right-hander Trevor Cahill, reports Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (via Twitter). Presumably, it is of the minor league variety. The John Boggs client began the season with the Braves after coming over from the D-Backs in a late Spring Training trade but was designated for assignment and released after struggling in Atlanta.
Given the length of time that Cahill has been a relatively prominent name in baseball, it seems surprising that he’s still just 27 years of age, but the former Athletics/D-Backs hurler won’t turn 28 until next March. He’s earning a guaranteed $12MM this season in the final year of a four-year, $30MM contract signed with the A’s, but Arizona is on the hook for about $6.5MM of that sum, while Atlanta is responsible for $5.5MM of that sum plus the $300K buyout on his 2016 option. The Dodgers, then, would be responsible only for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time he spends on their active roster. (The Braves, in turn, would be spared that minor portion of the obligation.)
Cahill was a highly effective mid-rotation starter with Oakland and Arizona from 2010-13, averaging 188 innings of 3.72 ERA ball per season to go along with 6.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and the league’s fifth-best ground-ball rate (57.3 percent). A line-drive to the hip shortened his 2013 campaign, though, and in 2014 he saw his control and ground-ball rates both trend in the wrong direction. The wheels quickly came off for Cahill, who has worked to a 5.98 ERA over his past 139 big league innings — a shockingly poor mark considering how recently he was viewed as a cost-controlled rotation asset.
The Dodgers’ interest isn’t entirely surprising, as the team is on the lookout for rotation reinforcements following season-ending injuries to both Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy. L.A. will hope that Cahill can sharpen his control and again find the sinker that routinely racked up more grounders than almost any pitcher in the league, though the D-Backs and Braves have both had similar hopes in the past calendar year and ended up paying significant money to part ways with the right-hander.
JUNE 20: The Braves have released Cahill, according to the MLB.com transactions page. They are still on the hook for the remainder of the $5.5MM in salary they assumed when they acquired Cahill from the Diamondbacks.
JUNE 11: The Braves announced (via Twitter) that they have designated right-hander Trevor Cahill for assignment and selected the contract of lefty Dana Eveland from Triple-A Gwinnett. Atlanta recently signed Eveland to a minor league deal after he opted out of a minors pact with the Red Sox.
Cahill totaled just 26 1/3 innings for the Braves this season, allowing 22 earned runs with 14 strikeouts against 12 walks. He did see his ground-ball rate recover from last year’s dip, posting an outstanding mark of 63.5 percent. However, that did little to help Cahill overcome an increasingly hittable repertoire of pitches and sub-par control.
Acquired late in Spring Training in a trade that sent minor league outfielder Josh Elander to the Diamondbacks (Elander has since been released), Cahill struggled through three starts with the Braves before losing his spot in the rotation and shifting to the bullpen. The Diamondbacks agreed to pay about $6.5MM of Cahill’s guaranteed $12MM, leaving Atlanta with about a $5.5MM gamble on the still-27-year-old righty.
The real value for the Braves, however, was likely in a technically separate but still-connected trade that was announced a couple of days after the Cahill swap. On Opening Day, the Braves traded minor league outfielder Victor Reyes to the D-Backs in exchange for their Round B Competitive Balance draft pick — the 75th overall selection in the 2015 draft. Comp Balance picks are tradeable, but not in the offseason. As such, a separate deal after the start of the regular season was used as a loophole, though reports at the time of the trade immediately linked that swap to the Cahill trade.
The Braves essentially paid $5.5MM to gamble on a rebound from Cahill and to acquire a reasonably strong draft pick, which they used to select left-hander A.J. Minter, who very well could have been selected a good deal higher had he not undergone Tommy John surgery in the spring.
Here are today’s minor moves of note:
- The Diamondbacks have released outfielder Josh Elander, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports on Twitter. Elander, 24, was the player that went to Arizona in the deal that shipped Trevor Cahill to the Braves, meaning that the club really only ended up achieving some salary relief in that swap. Elander had reached the High-A level last year for the Braves, but started out in A ball for the Arizona organization and posted an interesting .244/.382/.289 line over 55 plate appearances.
- Brock Peterson has been given his release from the Twins, as the organization’s Triple-A affiliate announced. The 31-year-old first baseman and outfielder made a brief big league appearance with the Cardinals back in 2013, but has mostly worked in the upper minors in recent campaigns. Peterson put up a .186/.289/.351 slash with five home runs in his 114 plate appearances at Rochester, well off the .827 OPS he carries over seven years at the highest level of the minors.
The Padres have “sort of banned the word ‘small-market’ ” in regards to how they both perceive themselves and how they wish to be seen around the league, team co-owner Peter Seidler tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres’ busy offseason and second straight year with a payroll in the $100MM range were made possible by increased revenues from Petco Park and national and local TV contracts. Team president/CEO Mike Dee notes that the Padres’ recent spending “should not be looked upon as an aberration. This should not be looked upon as ownership is going for broke. This should be looked upon as ownership is doing what they said they were going to when they bought the team, which is trying to make this a franchise that operates at a very high level.”
Here’s the latest from around the NL West…
- Archie Bradley‘s promotion to the Major Leagues and to the Diamondbacks‘ starting rotation is all but official, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes. Bradley’s strong performance during Spring Training gave the Snakes reason to explore trading Trevor Cahill, eventually sending the veteran righty to the Braves. “If [Bradley] had needed more work, Cahill would still be here,” Tony La Russa said. “Trevor got the attention of a number of clubs, so we started getting calls from different clubs. It wasn’t a question of let’s trade him at some point. It came to a decision of Archie versus Trevor.”
- Speaking of highly-touted young arms in the NL West, Eddie Butler still has a chance to earn a place in the Rockies‘ rotation after his start today, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Jon Gray, the Rockies’ top prospect and one of the top-ranked prospects in all of baseball, will not be starting his MLB career quite yet, as Groke notes in another piece that Gray will begin the season at Triple-A.
- Brian Sabean’s promotion from Giants general manager to VP of baseball operations will allow Sabean to personally scout new talent, he tells reporters (including The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea). This includes players currently in MLB and also international prospects who could become more available thanks to the expanding Cuban market and the possibility of an international draft being instituted. “The international schedule is moving fast. I don’t see enough of our minor-league teams to draw my own conclusions,” Sabean said. “I hardly see any games before the June draft, which I used to do. Selfishly, I’d like to see some guys who could be in play trade-wise and free agents to be. This allows me to be more places.”
- Though Cahill had an underwhelming 2014 season, assistant GM John Coppolella tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Braves see a lot of upside in the righty. “We saw his last outing, where he showed a real good fastball to 94 (mph) with real good sink,” Coppolella said. “We thought he was kind of a good buy-low, based on the fact he’s still young. He’ll be in a free agent walk year.” Working with noted pitching coach Roger McDowell could also help get Cahill back in good form.
- Coppolella didn’t comment on whether the team had decided to keep either of Eric Stults or Wandy Rodriguez, both of whom can opt out of their minor league contracts tomorrow. The two lefties are battling for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation, and Rodriguez has been announced as part of the staff earlier in the spring, though that doesn’t appear to be a sure thing at this point.
- Acquiring a right-handed starter in Cahill checks one item off the Braves’ preseason to-do list, and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the club is also looking to trade for relief depth and a backup center fielder.
- That backup center field job could still go to an internal candidate, with Joe Benson and Todd Cunningham looking like the top prospects for the job, O’Brien writes. Benson has already earned his way from the minor league camp to being an official non-roster invite to the Major League camp, even though Spring Training is almost over. Benson’s nine-year pro career has only seen him play 21 MLB games, all with the Twins in 2011.
The Braves have acquired right-hander Trevor Cahill and cash considerations from the Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league outfielder Josh Elander. Both teams have officially announced the trade. The D’Backs will send roughly $6.5MM to Atlanta to help cover Cahill’s $12MM salary for 2015, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (Twitter link).
Cahill brings the Braves some veteran stability to the pitching staff, as the righty looks to slot into the fourth rotation spot behind Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller. Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez and Mike Foltynewicz are in competition for the fifth spot, as the club was reportedly concerned about the possibility of using southpaws Stults and Rodriguez in consecutive order at the back of the rotation. Mike Minor is expected to eventually be the fifth starter, though he’ll begin the season on the DL with shoulder problems.
Atlanta potentially has two more years of control over Cahill, as the Braves hold a $13MM club option on his services for 2016 (with a $300K buyout) and a $13.5MM club option for 2017 ($500K buyout). Cahill is looking to rebound from a rough 2014 season that saw him lose his rotation job for a large chunk of the year en route to posting a 5.61 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 1.91 K/BB rate over 110 2/3 innings. It’s fair to place part of the blame on poor luck, as opposing batters had a .350 BABIP against Cahill and his advanced metrics (3.89 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 3.96 SIERA) were much more solid.
Prior to last year and an injury-plagued 2013, Cahill emerged on the scene as a promising young arm, averaging a 3.87 ERA and 196 innings per season from 2009-12 with the A’s and D’Backs. He also has a career 54.6% ground ball rate, so Cahill will undoubtedly be thrilled to have Andrelton Simmons behind him in the infield.
Between trading Cahill and Miguel Montero this offseason, the Diamondbacks have cleared $45.5MM of future commitments off their books, including $17.5MM for 2015 alone. That’s not a bad figure for a semi-rebuilding club, as it also opens up a spot in the rotation for top prospect Archie Bradley (as per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic), who has been impressive this spring.
Elander, 24, was Atlanta’s sixth-round pick in the 2012 amateur draft. The TCU product has a .275/.356/.435 slash line and 21 homers over 870 minor league plate appearances, none above the high-A level. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Elander as the 13th-best prospect in the Braves’ system prior to last season, praising his solid adjustment from catcher to the outfield and noting his “quick hands, and a compact right-handed with good bat speed.” An injury-plagued 2014 season, however, dropped Elander’s prospect stock.
Nick Piecoro was first reported that the trade was official, also reporting earlier today that the D’Backs were shopping Cahill, the Braves’ interest and that Elander was involved. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported earlier tonight that a trade was “on the verge” of happening, while MLB.com’s Mark Bowman noted that the Braves still needed to review Cahill’s medicals before making anything official.
Photo courtesy of Brad Mills/USA Today Sports Images
8:55pm: A deal appears close, though the Braves still need to review Cahill’s medical records, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves would be paying a little under $6MM of Cahill’s salary in 2015, and they would also obtain a compensation round draft pick in return. Via last summer’s competitive balance lottery, the D’Backs earned an extra pick between the second and third rounds of the 2015 draft. Braves minor league outfielder Josh Elander is involved in the deal, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
6:04pm: The Diamondbacks and Braves are “on the verge” of sending Cahill to Atlanta, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link).
3:45pm: The Braves are discussing starting pitchers with multiple teams, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). Bowman, who also hears that Cahill has been discussed, says the Braves aren’t comfortable slotting two similar lefties — Stults and Rodriguez — back-to-back in the rotation.
3:39pm: The Diamondbacks and Braves have had discussions regarding Cahill, Piecoro adds in a followup tweet. The Braves have some uncertainty in the rotation with Mike Minor unlikely to be ready for the opener. Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Foltynewicz and Eric Stults have been competing for the final two rotation spot in Atlanta.
Rodriguez has pitched well but has been unable to stay healthy in recent seasons. Stults has a strong ERA (1.89) but has struck out just seven hitters in 19 spring innings. And Foltynewicz, though very well-regarded, has limited experience at the Triple-A level and even more limited experience in the Majors.
3:20pm: The Diamondbacks have discussed right-hander Trevor Cahill in trade talks, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Repbulic (on Twitter). There are clear obstacles to trading Cahill, however, and Piecoro adds that the team may need to eat at least $6MM of the $12MM that Cahill is owed in 2015.
Cahill, still just 27, came to the Diamondbacks in a 2011 trade that sent Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill to the Athletics. He enjoyed a strong, 200-inning season to open his D-Backs career in 2012, and although his ERA barely increased in the 2013 season, there were significant red flags that led to concern. Cahill’s strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates each trended in the wrong direction, and he also missed significant time after being struck on the hip by a line drive.
The 2014 season was a bit of a mixed bag for Cahill, as his walk and ground-ball rates continued to trend in the wrong direction, but he also posted the best strikeout rate (8.5 K/9) of his career. That was partly due to spending some time in the bullpen, but even as a starter, he whiffed better than eight hitters per nine. However, despite the increase in strikeouts, his bottom-line results were the worst of his career overall. Cahill recorded a 5.61 ERA in 110 2/3 innings last year and saw his once-elite ground-ball rate drop to a solid but unspectacular 48.5 percent. A fluky strand rate didn’t help his cause, but there are certainly reasons to be concerned for a soft-tossing right-hander that doesn’t miss bats and is seeing his control and ground-ball capabilities deteriorate.
If — and it’s a large if — an acquiring team were able to correct Cahill’s control and restore some of his grounders, they could have a bargain on their hands, especially if the D-Backs were to eat $6MM+ on this year’s salary. Cahill’s contract calls for a $13MM club option for the 2016 season ($300K buyout) and a $13.5MM club option ($500K buyout) for the 2017 season. Clearly, he’s a project, but given his age, some teams may be willing to dream on his 2010-12 success, knowing that in a worst-case scenario, he could be bought out for a nominal amount next offseason.
There’s reason beyond financial relief for the D-Backs to explore a trade as well. While the team has already named its starting rotation, recent indications have been that top prospect Archie Bradley was impressive enough to warrant consideration in the starting five. Moving Cahill before Opening Day would allow Arizona to slot the highly touted Bradley into that mix.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted this morning that the Diamondbacks have let other clubs know they’re willing to move Trevor Cahill, Cody Ross or Aaron Hill in trades, although that tweet prompted a denial from GM Dave Stewart that he’s had any actual conversations on that trio of veterans (Twitter link).
We can debate the semantics here, but conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that three expensive veterans that have underperformed for a last place team whose president/CEO has previously stated that his club may get “creative” to trim payroll are certainly candidates to be moved. The D-Backs showing a willingness to move them would hardly be a surprise, nor would it be surprising were Stewart’s comments genuine as well. However, the reason for the lack of conversations would likely be a lack of interest, and Stewart or the D-Backs may ultimately prefer to spin it in a different fashion.
What the D-Backs have on their hands are three formerly productive players that are compensated at levels which don’t reflect their recent performance. That’s not to say that none of the three has value, however, should Arizona show a willingness to absorb some salary to grease the wheels on a potential trade. Let’s look at each player and try to determine a few fits.
Trevor Cahill: Somewhat surprisingly, Cahill is still just 27 years old (he turned 27 yesterday, in fact). The right-hander is owed $12.3MM before he’s eligible for free agency next offseason, but his contract does contain a pair of club options at $13MM and $13.5MM. Cahill, until the 2014 season, was generally accepted as a ground-ball inducing machine and a perfectly serviceable mid-rotation arm. From 2010-13, he pitched to a 3.72 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 751 innings, and he’d settled in as a 200-inning horse before injuries struck in 2013. Cahill was struck in the hip by a line-drive that season and missed about six weeks, and a shoulder strain ended his season shortly after.
If he looks healthy and at all like his old self in Spring Training, a team with a need in the rotation could do worse than gambling on him, should the D-Backs kick in some of the remaining guarantee. There’s always the chance that he could regain his form in 2015 and give an acquiring club a rotation piece that can be controlled for another two seasons. Would a team with questionable pitching depth like the Phillies or Rockies be willing to take that kind of risk? The Phillies are rebuilding, but Cahill’s still young, and they have the financial wherewithal to make it happen. The Rangers’ back-of-the-rotation options are questionable (but also plentiful), and the Tigers lack depth beyond their currently projected five starters.
Cody Ross: The 34-year-old Ross is owed $9.5MM in 2015 and has a $1MM buyout on an option of the same value for the 2016 season. Hip surgery and a calf strain kept Ross off the field for much of last season, but he’s always handled left-handed pitching well, as evidenced by a career .294/.360/.557 batting line against them.
The Blue Jays just added Dayan Viciedo on a minor league deal, but if he struggles in Spring Training and Ross looks healthy, perhaps they’d prefer Ross in the event that the Snakes take on half of his remaining salary or so. The Indians were also interested in Viciedo on a minor league deal, so it stands to reason that a healthy Ross may have some appeal as well, if the price was right. The same could be said for the Reds. Again, the D-Backs may need to eat $5MM+ to make any of these scenarios realistic.
Aaron Hill: Hill will turn 33 later this month and is one season removed from an excellent .291/.356/.492 batting line in a half season’s work. Hill showed no ill effects of the broken hand he suffered early in 2013 upon returning from the disabled list, but that only makes his 2014 drop-off even more puzzling; Hill stayed healthy for most of the season but still mustered just a .244/.287/.367 line in 137 games. And, he dislocated a finger on his other hand at the end of the year.
Hill is the toughest to move because his remaining $24MM over two years is the largest commitment. I don’t know that Arizona would want to eat the type of salary that would be necessary to move him, so it might be in the team’s best interest to, rather than absorb $12MM to move him, just pay him for the first half and hope for a rebound. Multiple teams have been connected to second base upgrades this winter without pulling the trigger on a deal, and there figure to be additional teams in need this summer. The A’s, Orioles, Angels and White Sox could all conceivably find themselves with needs as the season progresses, and one injury to a currently healthy player could open the door for a summer trading partner, if Hill is able to demonstrate production closer to his previous heights than his 2014 decline.
Former Nationals minor leaguer Justin Bloxom transitioned quickly from a stalled playing career to re-joining the organization as a scout, Chelsea James of the Washington Post writes. The eleventh-rounder was part of a productive 2009 draft for the team, which will now hope to extract value from him in a somewhat different manner.
- The Diamondbacks are comfortable with their budget sitting in the low-$90MM range, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Arizona is open to moving more salary but will not sacrifice on-field performance to do so, per Stewart. The most likely avenue to savings, says Gilbert, would be shedding some portion of the large tabs owed righty Trevor Cahill and outfielder Cody Ross.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that it is “highly, highly unlikely” that the team will make a deal involving either of the club’s two biggest stars (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. That is no surprise, of course: there have always been multiple, significant barriers to a deal this offseason, and any earlier momentum seems to have died in recent weeks.
2:14pm: Texas has also engaged the Diamondbacks in talks on starting pitching, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Wade Miley and, perhaps, Trevor Cahill are the likeliest targets, per Grant.
1:45pm: Multiple reports suggest that the Rangers and Nationals have engaged in discussions involving the Nats’ starting pitching. It appears that the sides have mutual interest, but may not see eye-to-eye on the pieces they would like to move.
Texas has inquired about righty Jordan Zimmermann, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports on Twitter. But the club has received indications that the Nationals are uninterested in moving Zimmermann, though they will listen on Doug Fister.
Meanwhile, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears (Twitter link) that the Rangers have expressed strong interest in the D.C. arms. The Nationals, in turn, have asked about 20-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor, with Texas indicating it is not interested in dealing him.
These clubs make plenty of sense on paper as possible trade partners, but it is not difficult to see why negotiations have landed at the apparent standoff described above. The Nationals have little reason to deal away high-end starters unless they can bring back a near-term and long-term solution at second base. And the Rangers will be loath to sell off an up-the-middle player who just hit at a roughly league average clip at age 20.