It is not exactly a blockbuster deal, but the Red Sox kicked off trade deadline season this year. Needing some starting pitching for the rotation, they acquired Andrew Cashner from the Orioles in exchange for Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero, who are both only 17 years old. The Orioles will also cover roughly half of the $3.35 million remaining on Cashner’s contract. He also comes with a $10 million team option for 2020.
It’s no secret that the Red Sox rotation has disappointed this year. Last year, their starters ranked in the top five in baseball by RA9 when adjusted for league and park effects. This year they fall more in the middle of the pack, which is not terrible of course, but they need to do everything they can to hold on to their Wild Card spot.
Cashner was barely a major league quality pitcher over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, turning in a 5.51 RA9 and -1.4 WAR during that span. However, he had a strong bounce back season with the Rangers in 2017 with a 4.05 RA9 and 4.6 WAR, but his peripherals did not match that performance at all. In fact, his paltry 12.2 K% was the second lowest among qualified pitchers.
Last year, Cashner signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the aforementioned team option that can become guaranteed if he pitches a total of 340 innings over the 2018-2019 seasons, which is possible as he is 90 2⁄3 innings away from that mark right now. It was a curious move from an Orioles team that looked like a long shot to be competitive in 2018, but it was a cheap, low risk move.
Unfortunately, Cashner reverted back to his old self in 2018. He had a 5.71 RA9 and an even worse 6.69 DRA. His struggles with striking out hitters continued, as he only struck out 14.5 percent of hitters faced.
This year, Cashner is continuing to perplex. He has a 4.20 RA9 and 4.62 DRA, as well as already having accumulated 2.7 WAR in part because of the Orioles’ terrible defense. He has even made progress with his peripherals. His 7.3 BB% is over two percentage points better than last year, and his strikeout rate is up to 16.5 percent, though that is still well below the league average of about 23 percent.
The projection systems expect regression, but even if that happens, Cashner will still be a welcome addition to this Red Sox rotation. The team has really not had a fifth starter this year. Nathan Eovaldi has spent most of the season to date on the IL, and since returning has been placed in the bullpen as the Red Sox’s nominal closer. Eight times this year the Sox have tried bullpenning in lieu of a fifth starter, having Héctor Velázquez start things off. They are pretty fortunate to be 5-3 in those games seeing as Velázquez has a 6.95 RA9 in them.
There is not much to say about the prospects included in this trade because they are so young and raw, other than Prado is off to a good start in Rookie ball. If the Orioles end up getting anything from these guys at the major league level, it will be a win for parting with a starting pitcher they did not need anymore. While not exactly a thrilling trade, it works for both sides.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.