Trevor Cahill

A’s taking a big chance in trading Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks

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Trevor Cahill won 18 games as a 22-year-old for the A’s in 2010. Now he’s a goner, having been sent to the Diamondbacks along with left-handed reliever Craig Breslow in exchange for right-hander Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill and right-hander Ryan Cook.

It’s a deal that would make a lot more sense for Cahill if he were about to become really expensive. However, he’s owed a pretty modest $28.7 million over the next four years. His contract also includes options for 2016 ($13 million, $300,000 buyout) and 2017 ($13 million, $500,000 buyout) that could be well under market value if he goes about establishing himself as a No. 2 starter.

That’s what Cahill should become. His peripherals didn’t justfy his 2.97 ERA in 2010, but his strikeout rate took a nice step forward last season, even as his ERA increased along with it. He finished the year 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA, but his overall outlook seems just as positive as it was a year ago. He’s never been hurt, and as a big-time groundball pitcher, he’s a great fit in an hitter friendly ballpark like Chase Field.

In return, the A’s get a premium pitching prospect, but one who has been hurt and who struggles with command. Back from Tommy John surgery, Parker went 11-8 with a 3.79 ERA in Double-A last season. He finished with a 112/55 K/BB ratio in 130 2/3 innings. Parker is actually just eight months younger than Cahill, and while he is a harder thrower with greater strikeout potential, he’s not a great bet to succeed right away, not when he’ll likely be walking at least four batters per nine innings.

The A’s also get Cowgill and Cook. Cowgill, 25, never received enough credit as a prospect coming up through the Diamondbacks system, largely because he’s 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. While he’s a career .299/.383/.490 hitter in the minors, many believe his power won’t translate into the majors. And if they’re right, then he’s a good fourth outfielder, nothing more. The A’s, though, figure to pencil him right into their 2012 outfield.

Cook, 24, had a 2.21 ERA and a 62/22 K/BB ratio in 61 innings between Double- and Triple-A last season. He’s an unexceptional relief prospect, and he doesn’t add much to Oakland’s haul here.

Breslow is the other player in the deal. The veteran left-handed hitter was viewed as expendable and might have been non-tendered if not traded. His ERA has gone from 2.60 in 2009 to 3.01 in 2010 to 3.79 last season, and his strikeout rate also took a big dip last season. The league-switch might help him, though.

Overall, this looks like a loser for Oakland. The A’s must be convinced that Cahill will never return to 2010 form and that his 2011 performance will be the norm going forward. It is a possibility, and if so, they were smart to sell when they did. But from my view, Cahill is a better bet than Parker going forward and Cowgill isn’t nearly promising enough to make up the difference. Score one for the Diamondbacks.

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.