The rumor mills are churning, and if Dennis Lin reports that something is about to happen, it’s probably going to happen. Veteran pitcher Trevor Cahill is the most recent name to be bandied about as a rotation candidate for the Padres. Now they’re working out the specifics of a free agent signing that would significantly upgrade the Padres’ pitching staff.
While it seems like he’s been in the league for a long time, Cahill is only 28. He made his debut with the A’s in 2009 at age 21 and has had a bit of an up-and-down career. After three pretty good years in Oakland, he was traded to the Diamondbacks where each of his three years there trended in the wrong direction partly due to injuries. After being traded to Atlanta, his performance was so poor that he was released and subsequently claimed by Dodgers, released again, then claimed by the Cubs. Working almost exclusively as a reliever with Chicago, Cahill resurrected his career, posting ERA+ values of 183 and 147 over the last two years. The Cubs’ pitching staff is starting to receive an influx of youth, so they opted not to pursue resigning a veteran who had been a key contributor to their championship run.
Cahill features a powerful sinking fastball and a changeup that also dives out of the zone as a very effective complimentary pitch. A 12-to-6 curveball is often an “out” pitch for him, and he mixes a slider or cutter in occasionally. While his velocity won’t blow hitters away, he relies on selection and control to induce ground balls at a very high rate. He has the repertoire and experience to be a starter and a recent history as an effective middle reliever.
Whether in the rotation or working out of the bullpen, Cahill profiles as an excellent fit for the Padres. An improved infield defense provides an excellent backdrop for groundball pitchers like Cahill, Clayton Richard, Jarred Cosart, and Luis Perdomo. Early reports suggest that he’ll be signed to an incentive-laden deal with a base near the $1.75 million similar to the contracts of Richard and Jhoulys Chacin. As a starter, he would enter the mix with Richard, Chacin, Cosart, Perdomo, Christian Friedrich, Paul Clemens, Tyrell Jenkins, Zach Lee, Cesar Vargas, and Walker Lockett. While that rotation doesn’t instill much confidence by name alone, there is much more depth and health to this group than there was entering the last two seasons.
If he can re-establish a reputation as an effective starter, the Padres may find Cahill to be a value play similar to Drew Pomeranz a year ago. It’s clear that AJ Preller has targeted former top talent for this group. Cahill was a Top-100 prospect prior to entering the league, as were Chacin, Lee, and Jenkins. These signings aren’t moving the needle much now, but if pitching coach Darren Balsley and his staff can work these talented pitchers up a little, we may have a group of very effective pitchers in their respective primes taking the mound for the Padres this season.