The Texas Rangers entered this offseason with a clear need in their starting rotation. It was evident this past year that behind aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish the Rangers did not have much to offer. Many figured the Rangers would have issues making a run in the postseason given guys like Martin Perez, AJ Griffin and Colby Lewis were making up the back end of the starting staff. Ultimately both Hamels and Darvish struggled in their playoff series against the Toronto Blue Jays, but that does not erase the fact that the rest of the rotation needs a tuneup.
Well, it appears the team has found a new number three. Reports are that the team is closing in on a one-year deal worth 10 million dollars with free agent Andrew Cashner. Cashner will bring a 30-year-old right-handed arm to the Texas rotation, coming off a down season. Cashner is a former top prospect with the Chicago Cubs who has shown some upside in the Majors but has never truly reached his ceiling.
Looks like it's done at one-year and $10 million for Cashner…Long been on the Rangers radar screen
— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) November 18, 2016
Cashner comes off a season that saw him spend time in both San Diego as a Padre, and then Miami with the Marlins. On the season as a whole, Cashner went 5-11, had a 5.25 ERA and struck out 112 batters over the course of 132 innings. After being acquired by the Marlins during the summer, Cashner did nothing to impress, as his numbers got worse while he was with the Fish.
So it is clear that Cashner is looking for a rebound year. His numbers in 2016 are far from who he is as a pitcher, and he did spend a chunk of time on the DL. This likely means he came back too soon from his injury and spent most of the season pitching with a lingering issue that ultimately affected his pitching. But DL stints are relatively common for the right-hander, who has made multiple trips to the disabled list in his seven-year career.
When looking at the big picture, this is certainly a deal that makes a ton of sense for the Rangers. They bring in a hungry player who is a former top prospect, still in a prime age. In such a weak starting pitching market, Cashner was certainly one of the most appealing options available, and certainly one with the highest upside. He will immediately step in behind Darvish and Hamels as the team’s number three.
And given the team gets him on a one year deal, it is a very low risk, but a potentially high reward signing. If he is a bust and gets injured again, the team is essentially right back to where they were at the start of the winter without him. When he is on the mound, he should not be any worse than their current options, unless he’s pitching hurt. And if he takes a step forward, the team is obviously going to benefit from it. If they were not in contention at the trade deadline, he becomes a movable piece. But ideally, if he is going well, so will the team, meaning a playoff birth would be in their sights.
But when you look at this from Cashner’s point of view, you have to scratch your head a little. Sure he is from Texas, and clearly desired to be close to home. But signing a one-year deal signals Cashner’s intent is to build his value back up. He is looking to prove he can be the guy who posts a 3.09 ERA like he did back in 2013. But he has placed himself in a very difficult situation to do just that.
First off, he will be pitching in Texas, which is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the entire league. It is not typically a location a struggling pitcher takes a one-year deal to rebuild value. A place like Pittsburgh or Los Angeles would have been an ideal option for a player in Cashner’s shoes.
On top of that, he now will be moving to the American League. Traditionally, the AL is seen as a harder league for pitchers given they have to face the DH instead of weak hitting pitchers. Cashner has spent his entire career in the National League, with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins. He is venturing into unknown territory and will face a steep climb to re-establish his value for next winter.
I am not saying it is impossible, but it simply is a puzzling scenario for Mr. Cashner. The Rangers have long had an interest in him, so maybe they simply offered the most money, and he took it and ran. But that is not an ideal strategy for a man who is now poised to be back on the open market next winter. The Rangers will hope he can overcome those odds, and parlay it into some extra success. And if he cannot, they will simply sign his 10 million dollar check, and let he walk away next offseason.