The Braves and Diamondbacks have officially announced that Atlanta has received SP Trevor Cahill for 24 year old AA OF Josh Elander. Assuming all the medicals have/do check out, the 27 year old Cahill should round out the Braves’ rotation heading into 2015 (and possibly longer). The club had been rumored to be shopping for another SP in recent days as Hart & Company didn’t seem terribly comfortable with the idea of having similar southpaws Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults follow each other in the rotation. While the trade appears to amount to little more than a salary dump for Arizona – they’ll be picking up $6.5 million of the $12 million due the former All-Star this season – it represents another low-risk, high-reward move for the rebuilding Braves that could pay dividends on several levels beyond this season.
Given health (always an issue when it comes to starting pitching), the move allows recent acquisitions Mike Foltyniewicz and Manny Banuelos to take all the time needed to refine their tools at Gwinnett. It also gives the team another quality option moving forward in the event that either Pitcher doesn’t work out as a starter and has to be transitioned to late-inning pen options. Diamondbacks fans had become understandably frustrated with Cahill in 2014 as he lost his rotation spot while his ERA ballooned to 5.61, but a look deeper inside his numbers suggest that he was a bit unlucky (and not helped by a shaky Arizona defense) as his 3.89 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 3.96 SIERA and .350 BABIP reflect. His strikeout rate increased to a career-high 8.51 K/9 and he should certainly benefit from former sinkerballer Roger McDowell’s knowledge and experience. If McDowell can help Cahill bounce back to form his addition could give the Braves an unbelievably deep staff and pen in 2016 if he is retained (the Braves hold a $13 million option for 2016 and a $13.5 million option for 2017) and Foltyniewicz and Banuelos are transitioned to relievers:
SP- Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, Mike Minor and Cahill
RP- Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, Banuelos, Foltyniewicz, Shae Simmons, Jose Vizcaino, Luis Avilan/Andrew McKirahan
Cahill’s addition likely means one of Wandy Rodriguez or Eric Stults will exercise their opt-out clause today since one won’t be in the rotation as camp breaks, although the Braves could conceivably try to convince the one on the outside looking in to stay and pitch out of the pen until an injury occurs (or Minor returns). It also frees up the option of keeping Cody Martin stretched out in Gwinnett for the same inevitability. If he pitches well and is kept, he’d also relieve any pressure to rush any of the Braves’ other high-end SP prospects such as Max Fried, Lucas Sims, Tyrell Jenkins, and Ricardo Sanchez even if Foltyniewicz and Banuelos are utilized in the pen long-term.
Some fans will initially complain about Cahill’s struggles, but the deal is exactly the type of trade the rebuilding Braves have been looking to make all winter – the prospect cost was minimal, the salary cost is minimal, the upside is huge, and (possibly most importantly) there is almost no risk involved since the team can simply pay the $300,000 buyout following this season in the event Trevor doesn’t bounce back OR one of the other options forces his way into the rotation. When you step back and think about things from a management prospective, you realize that Cahill cost the organization $800,000 and a marginal prospect more than what they’d have had to pay to keep Aaron Harang following his unexpected (and likely not able to be duplicated) 2014 season.