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Trading Trevor Cahill: the aftermath

So long. Trevor Cahill. You arrived, carrying so much hope on your back. You leave... Just another failed Kevin Towers trade.

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

"We feel very fortunate to add a young, talented started like Trevor to our rotation and an extremely durable and successful reliever like Craig to our bullpen. It’s never easy to part with a prospect, but we feel like the surplus of talent that our scouting and player development staff has generated puts us in a position to build on what we accomplished this season and truly improve our team in 2012 and beyond."
-- Kevin Towers, December 2011.

Cahill's time in Arizona

Trevor Cahill was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Athletics on December 9, 2011. Oakland also sent Craig Breslow and cash to Arizona and in exchange, received Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker. At the time, the SnakePit was generally on-board with this one: in our poll, 64% rated it as good or great, compared to only 15% who said it was bad or terrible. The reaction in Oakland was similar, 69% of their fans not happy with the trade. Fascinating to read the comments, from a time when the team was the reigning champions in the NL West, and looked to exchange future potential for an immediate rotational upgrade

But let's balance the books on this particular trade.

  • Trevor Cahill: cost $23.2 million, production 1.8 bWAR
  • Craig Breslow: traded to thr Red Sox at the 2012 trade deadline for Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik. Pro-rated, Breslow cost us $0.9 million, gave us 0.8 bWAR.
  • Podsednik bailed on the D-backs. Albers gave us 0.4 bWAR for about $540K the rest of 2012, then was a tiny fragment of the trade for Didi Gregorius. Let's draw a line here though, shall we?
    TOTAL IN: 3.0 bWAR, cost $24.6 million
  • Ryan Cook: cost $1.5 million, production 4.4 bWAR
  • Collon Cowgill: cost $482K, production 0.4 bWAR. Dealt by Oakland at the end of 2012 for a minor-leaguer.
  • Jarrod Parker: cost $1.5 million, production 5.7 bWAR. Missed all of 2014 after Tommy John surgery, but still under Oakland control through the end of 2017
    TOTAL OUT: 10.5 bWAR, cost $3.5 million

Ouch. How wrong we (mostly) were. Even discounting entirely any future production from Parker etc., this is already a quite terrible trade. Their wins cost them about $350K each; ours cost Arizona $8.2 million per win. Still, it might have been worth it if Cahill's presence here had helped the team to follow up 2011 with some more playoff baseball: but instead, we got two seasons exactly at .500, followed by the worst record in the majors. Meanwhile, the more Cahill was paid, the worse his performance got. By bWAR, there have been only three worse seasons in team history than his 2014. What began in so much hope turned into ashes and vinegar in our mouths.

The impact

The deal will save Arizona about $5.5 million in 2015, along with a token $300K in 2016, but there's no apparent indication that the team will look to spend the money this season in another area. They could now afford to acquire catcher Dioner Navarro, due $5 million this season: Dave Stewart publicly quashed team interest on March 23, saying the salary didn't fit. It could do so now, with the projected payroll for 2015 now apparently sitting at $85.5 million, but the team has left everything very late in the day if so,

As an aside, the team now has an awful lot of salary flexibility next winter, with less than $32 million in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2016. Due to arbitration deals, payroll will naturally be a good deal higher, but the current estimate, without any options being exercised, is $76.8 million [While you never know, the options for Cody Ross and Bronson Arroyo seem unlikely to be exercised, leaving just Brad Ziegler's $5.5 million as a possibility] As 2016 will also see the new local TV contract come into play, adding perhaps another $25-40 million in revenue per year, we should definitely be able to make a play for a couple of big free agents next winter.

While there has been no official confirmation at this point, all signs seem to indicate that Archie Bradley will move into the rotation to take over Cahill's spot. Looks like we can chalk up this as another example of Dave Stewart speaking with forked tongue, since it was only a few days ago that he was stating - for some purpose, which remains obscure - that Archie Bradley was "not ready" for the big leagues. More charitably, perhaps the last couple of outings for Bradley proved otherwise? Or maybe the chance to get rid of Cahill while only having to pay half his salary this season, was just too good to pass up?

The reaction

"We thought he was a young pitcher with good stuff. We saw him four different times this spring and liked what we saw.... He's going to give us a good shot to get us where we want to be."
- Braves assistant GM, John Coppolella

There's no doubt that the majority of Diamondbacks' fans on social media appear to be overwhelmingly happy to be rid of Cahill. I can't say I'm entirely in agreement. This seems like another case where we've sold a player at the lowest possible point of value. Cahill has certainly looked better this spring, generating ground-balls at a good rate, and keeping the ball in the park. For reasons previously discussed, I don't think he would be as bad as 2014, and that's largely discounting the mechanical adjustments apparently made this off-season. I'd have liked to have seen what those meant in actual games. If they worked, fine; if not, it's hardly going to reduce Cahill's asking price.

The reaction elsewhere in the baseball world appears to have been a collective "meh" - I couldn't even find any mention of the trade on ESPN's MLB front-page this morning. Our siblings over at Talking Chop seem to like the deal, calling it "sneaky good", and theorizing that they may be able to flip Cahill to a contending team at the trade deadline for some useful prospects. I'm not certain why the Diamondbacks couldn't have done that just as well, though I suppose there are about 5.5 million reasons why not.

We face the Braves June 1-3 and August 14-16 thus year: let's hope Cahill doesn't pull a Yusmeiro Petit and suddenly turn into a destroyer of Diamondbacks worlds! But let's not have our final memory of Cahill be a bad one. Below, find the video of his best start as a Diamondback, a complete-game shutout of the Padres from June 2012.