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.