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Trevor Cahill: taking a risk for a bargain

The A’s benefitted from a reduced market on Trevor Cahill. Could that happen again for another team?

Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Rewind back to last March. The A’s were rounding out some final roster spots in preparation for the start of the regular season. They ink an non-notable minor league deal late in Spring Training with just turned 29-year-old veteran Trevor Cahill, who was probably coming off the worst stretch of baseball of his whole entire career.

After a stellar first half with the Padres in the 2017 season, Cahill looked like he was well on his way to making some money in the offseason. That is until a midseason trade to the Royals timed up with an ugly collapse to his season, perhaps with injury being the culprit. All of that future money that he had earned earlier in the season was washed away. His next stop for 2018 looked like Triple-A.

After Cahill had joined the A’s organization for the second time, he prepped to join the Nashville Sounds rotation down in Triple-A. He looked well-recovered from a good offseason of rest, going for a 2.63 ERA in three starts and striking out 17 in 13 23 innings. This earned him another stop in the major leagues, a stop that didn’t look so sure at the conclusion of the previous season.

21 appearances later, Cahill had given the A’s a bargain deal— One that paid huge dividends throughout the season, contributing to the A’s first postseason appearance since 2014. Among 128 starters with at least 100 innings, Cahill’s ranks were...

  • ERA: 56th
  • FIP: 26th
  • xFIP: 39th
  • SIERA: 59th
  • GB%: 5th

As usual, Cahill got most of his work down with his signature curveball. Hitters hit .158 with a .261 slugging percentage on the offering, good for a .208 wOBA, a mark that ranked in the top fourth of baseball.

Now a free agent again, fair concern of injuries and inconsistencies will keep Cahill from a sizable contract once again. However, unlike last year, the performance level of Cahill didn’t plummet, almost assuring that Cahill will at least have a spot on a major league pitching staff to start next season. MLB Trade Rumors pinned Cahill’s contract at two-years and $22 million, a bargain if you consider his performance from last year. It becomes even more of a bargain if you consider Cahill’s 2019 projections. Among 37 free agents projected for at least 80 innings next season, Cahill ranks...

  • ERA: 10th
  • K/9: 5th
  • FIP: 7th
  • fWAR: 11th

The six free agent (or former free agent) starting pitchers projected to have a lower FIP than Cahill in 2019 are Patrick Corbin, Charlie Morton, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi.

The fits for Cahill are endless too. He should be well within price range for most contending teams, while he also figures to be a versatile arm, having experience with starting and filling numerous bullpen roles. He could help round out rotations for teams like the Indians, Angels, Rays, Nationals, or Twins. And perhaps if his market falls down a bit, he could be a fit in a swingman-like role for teams like the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, or Astros.

Cahill came at a very cheap price last season, much to the benefit of the A’s. He’ll come at a more significant price this offseason, but his performance suggests possible surplus value here. The injury history and inconsistent past relating to it will always leave a risk, but with a possible bargain at hand, the risk could be worth taking.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.