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

28 Comments

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.

Columnist bashes Bryce Harper’s fundamentals, “write it,” says Nats player

Bryce Harper
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column over the weekend about how the 2019 Nats are looking really, really good. And for the most part it’s a column that makes a lot of sense. The Nats added some key pieces this offseason and, because so much of their underachieving 2018 season was based on health, particularly in the bullpen, there is reason to be optimistic this coming year.

There is one weird passage in the middle of the column, though: a swipe at Bryce Harper, his fundamentals and his attitude. The upshot: Boswell is arguing that losing Harper to free agency is addition by subtraction:

Though few mention it, subtracting Harper, while it will cost 34 homers, a .899 career OPS and some amazing hair flips, would help any team improve its attention to fundamentals. When the most famous player on the team can’t go 10 days without failing to run out a groundball or overthrowing a cutoff man by 15 feet or throwing to the wrong base or being caught unprepared in the outfield or on the bases, it’s hard to demand total alertness from the other 24.

“Write it,” one prominent Nats vet said.

The “Write it” is what has me most fascinated.

It could possibly be read in two different ways. One way would be for that to be the non-committal reaction of a player when Boswell bounced his Harper-is-a-slacker theory. Saying, in effect, “you write that if that’s your take.” It seems far more likely to me though, that Boswell is echoing the off-the-record sentiments of Harper’s former Nats teammates and the “write it” is an encouraging plea to give public voice to that which the player has chosen not to.

If it is the latter, this would only be the latest of many anonymously-sourced disgruntled sentiments from the Nats clubhouse over the years. Former manager Matt Williams had a full-scare revolt on his hands that made it into the media. Last year Dave Martinez’s clubhouse had someone saying negative things to the press as well, and it was so bad that GM Mike Rizzo sent off a useful reliever — at a time when the Nats really, really needed a useful reliever — because he was the suspected source. If Boswell is giving voice to some anti-Harper sentiment in Nats camp, it’s just more soap opera from a bunch that, historically, can’t seem to handle their issues in-house.

As for the substance: I don’t watch Harper as much as Nats fans do — and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone describe him as some sort of lazy slacker — but sure, there are players who are more fundamentally sound than him. It’s also the case, though, that Harper has always been judged more harshly for his deportment than a lot of players in the league, so I’m not prepared to totally defer to word of mouth — especially anonymous word-of-mouth — to someone slamming him on that stuff.

It’s still pretty interesting, though, that in an offseason in which the average fan’s take is that Manny Machado is the no-hustle slacker who should be avoided, that Machado’s former teammates have had no complaints about him, while Harper’s former teammates seem to have the knives out for him.