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.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.