The 19 relief appearances that Andrew Cashner made with the Red Sox last year were his first bullpen outings since 2013, but it seems as though more could be in the offing. Cashner has been positioned as a bullpen option in recent conversations with teams, MLBTR has learned.
Shifting Cashner to the ’pen isn’t exactly a new notion. It’s been a widely proposed idea for years, and we even delved into it here last May when Cashner was still enjoying some success in the Baltimore rotation. That he’s now being “pitched” (awful pun intended — sorry) to clubs as a reliever is notable, though. The Athletic’s Dan Connolly noted last summer (subscription required) that Cashner’s preference has generally been to pitch out of the rotation, but it seems he’s now more on board with a ’pen setting — perhaps after enjoying some success in that capacity with Boston last year.
The Red Sox acquired Cashner to plug a hole in their rotation, but he did little to aid the team’s starting staff; over the life of six starts with Boston, Cashner pitched 30 1/3 innings and surrendered 27 earned runs. That pushed him to the bullpen, where he closed out the season with a 3.86 ERA, a 21-to-12 K/BB ratio and one home run allowed in 23 2/3 innings. Cashner averaged 93.6 mph on his fastball as a starter but 95.4 mph as a reliever. His swinging-strike rate saw a similar boost (8.8 percent to 13.1 percent). Taking a broader look, the gap between Cashner’s effectiveness the first and second time through the batting order (.297 wOBA vs. .327) was a fair bit more stark than that of the league-average AL pitcher (.317 vs. .335).
There are clearly some control issues that need to be sorted out, and Cashner’s recent work as a starter has been anything but encouraging. However, Cashner has enough indicators of legitimate interest as a reliever that the shift to the ’pen seems plenty sensible. That’s not to say that teams should be lining up with blank checks, but as a low-cost Spring Training flier for a club seeking bullpen depth, Cashner is one of the more interesting options available in a largely picked-over free agent market.