"It's certainly a possibility," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes told MLBTR at the GM Meetings when asked whether or not the team would have interest in approaching Andrew Cashner about a long-term deal. "I think that, in a market like ours, or really in most markets, when a guy has proven that he has a chance to be a core guy, the early deal makes some sense. There's always risk with that, and we've felt that on certain deals that we've done."
Cashner enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2013, remaining healthy for a full season for the first time in his Major League career. The 27-year-old totaled 175 innings and posted a strong 3.09 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a healthy 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. His fastball velocity — which averaged a strong 94.5 mph on the season — actually trended upward at season's end, and he finished particularly strong. In his final seven starts, the 2008 first-rounder posted a 1.22 ERA with an outstanding 45-to-7 K/BB ratio. Cashner lasted at least seven innings in each of those starts and added his first career shutout in the process. He projects to earn $2.4MM in arbitration this winter, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Cashner won't be the only pitching-related issue that the Padres face this offseason, though, and they'll likely be looking outside the organization to address their need for left-handed pitching. "I think we have to keep all avenues open, including trading for a guy," said Byrnes. "We're feeling good. There's a lot of guys out there we like, whether it's through trades or free agency. It's just a matter of getting one or two."
Byrnes balked at the idea of issuing a multiyear deal to a free agent lefty, noting the rarity of multiyear deals for relievers in his tenure as a GM and stating, "It's probably something I would vote against." Indeed, as MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, Byrnes has guaranteed multiple years to just two relievers: Huston Street and Randy Choate. In the latter's case, he received a mere two-year, $1.3MM extension — certainly not a feasible free agent price on a multiyear deal in today's free agent market — shortly after Byrnes' initial hiring by the Diamondbacks in 2005. Byrnes and his staff will have a strong crop of free agent lefties to choose from, as this year's class is highlighted by Javier Lopez, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Scott Downs and Matt Thornton.
One area of the pitching staff in which Byrnes feels comfortable is its depth. He noted that Joe Wieland is throwing in the Arizona Fall League and Cory Luebke has begun throwing off a mound. On adding that tandem to the starting options he had in September, Byrnes said: "Put them back in the mix… we finished the year with a six-man rotation… and our rotation's best month was September with all six really throwing the ball well. I'd love to go in [to 2014] and say we actually have a surplus, which is possible."
Chase Headley's status with the team will undoubtedly be one of the biggest issues for the Padres this offseason, but Byrnes maintained that there's no real update at this time, and Headley could still be extended, traded or retained through the arbitration process. He was quick to note, however, that the Padres view Headley as more than a simple asset to cash in for future assets, as he's important to their 2014 outlook: "Putting him into a team context… we've worked hard to put a good offense together. Our pitching's caught up, and if our position players are all there, I think we do feel like in 2014, a healthier team that's going to take a real step forward."
That 2014 team will be one that doesn't include former bench coach Rick Renteria on the field staff or special assistant Brad Ausmus in the front office. Each has landed a managerial job in recent weeks, with Ausmus being hired by the Tigers and Renteria being hired by the Cubs. Asked if it was bittersweet to see them go, Byrnes offered high praise for each: "They were two guys who added a lot. It's kind of neat to see them both get opportunities, but it's a loss. And there's probably a chance we'll lose more staff that would go with them. I hate to say 'bittersweet.' We're going to miss them, so that's the bitter part, but for them to fill a career goal, both in great situations, we're very happy for them."