A Look at the Red Sox Move to Acquire Starting Pitcher Andrew Cashner

The Red Sox kicked things off for MLB trade deadline season by adding some starting pitching depth. Let's take a look at the new acquisition.

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The Red Sox got the ball rolling for MLB trade deadline season on Saturday when they struck a deal with the Baltimore Orioles to acquire right-handed starting arm, Andrew Cashner along with some cash consideration. In return, the Orioles acquired two minor league players, Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero.

This was a name that wasn’t floated around too much in the rumor mill. One name that was tossed around was the New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler who the club was reportedly in the early stages of trade talks for.

Cashner’s a 32-year-old veteran who’s been in the league since 2010. Since then, he’s bounced around to several different clubs such as the Padres, the Cubs, the Rangers, and the Orioles. If you had a word to describe his tenure in the big leagues, it would just be okay.

He’s been up and down throughout the entirety of his career. He’s had seasons where he’s been a very solid option. In 2013 during his time in San Diego, he found his way to an ERA of 3.09, along with a 10-9 record–about what you would get when playing for the Padres–a 1.13 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of .233 in 31 games–26 of those being starts.

And his following season he even saw an improvement in those numbers. In 19 starts in 2014, Cashner finished off the season with a 2.55 ERA accompanied by another 1.13 WHIP.

But again, the consistency hasn’t been there as his career numbers aren’t nearly as solid. His career ERA sits at 4.00 with a 1.34 WHIP in 275 career appearances. This season alone has been a decent one though thus far. In 96.1 IP and 17 starts, he’s built up an ERA of 3.83 with a WHIP of 1.19 and an opponents’ batting average of .234.

Okay, now that we’ve got the statistical portion out of the way, let’s talk about the benefit that this gives to the Red Sox. Did they fair well in this deal?

Overall, the 2019 season has been wildly frustrating for Red Sox fans. The offense has been absolutely fine, so there’s no reason for Dave Dombrowski to make any sort of deal with the idea in mind that he would be enhancing their numbers in that regard. But the pitching has clearly been the downfall of this season where the main objective is to repeat what they did last year.

It goes without question that the starting rotation has been a bit of a letdown and not at all what they had anticipated as they headed into the year. Rick Porcello’s inconsistent ways have been rearing its ugly head once again but not only that, you can’t even rely on the one guy who has been the face of consistent dominance–at least in the first half of seasons–in Chris Sale who currently is sitting on a 4.27 ERA.

Couple those production issues with Nathan Eovaldi’s injury which has held him out since mid-April, it became quite clear that starting pitching depth was a blemish on the roster.

As we now know, upon his return, the Red Sox plan is to stick Eovaldi in the bullpen and make him the solidified closer which does solve probably the most glaring issue that this team’s faced all year. As we sit here on July 14th, the team has blown 18 saves already. That number right there is the difference in you being in legitimate contention with the New York Yankees atop the division. Instead, if the postseason began today, you wouldn’t even be appearing in the Wild Card game.

Aug 26, 2018; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (17) reacts as he walks back to the dugout at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With that being the case, that left a gaping hole in the starting rotation. Being someone who despises bullpen days as it is, the notion that the 2019 Red Sox could survive with having bullpen days was absolutely blasphemous. The bullpen is as trustworthy as a high school relationship, and there were genuine thoughts that they could aid you in chipping away at the division lead by pitching an entire game?

So Eovaldi’s move to the closer roll only meant that the clear motive here at the deadline had to be for a starting arm, preferably a rental and that’s exactly what they got in Cashner.

Well, that’s hopefully what they got in Cashner. Cashner is currently owed another $3.35 million for the remainder of the season per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Boston will be paying a little less than half of that this year. He has a 2020 vesting option based on the number of innings he pitches between this season and the one prior. If he would be able to pitch 340 innings between 2018 and 2019, he’d be given that 2020 season at $10 million. At the moment he’s thrown 249.1 innings meaning that it’s unlikely that he’ll be hitting that mark.

You want a rental for a couple of reasons. First of all, they’re most likely going to be cheap being that you only have acquired that player for a half of a season. The other is because if it doesn’t work out, you aren’t married to a contract now that you traded away assets for except for that one year.

Based on the circumstances and the face of the deal, this was a very solid trade by Dombrowski. It’s tough to be excited over adding a fifth man in the rotation, but depth is the name of the game in today’s MLB, especially come the postseason. May I remind you who Dombrowski went out and traded for last year at around this time? His name is Nathan Eovaldi and he was a key component in your winning the 2018 World Series. Am I saying that Cashner will be that guy? Not exactly. But he fills a hole that you needed to fill if you’re going to have a second half that brings you back to the point where you’re a legitimate playoff threat come the end of the season.

The ideal scenario is that Cashner goes on and continues to build on his recent success which is something that should make Red Sox fans somewhat excited.

Since the start of June, Cashner’s ERA is just 1.41 in five starts which includes one against the dangerous Houston Astros lineup who he held to one earned run over six innings.

Time will tell how this deal works itself out. The area that you needed fixed has had the bandaid put on it. Adding a solidified fifth arm in your rotation now gives you that flexibility to potentially keep Eovaldi in the closer role for the remainder of the season. And Eovaldi entering in the ninth inning will be all of the comfort I need to believe that the bullpen finally won’t be doing the one thing they’ve been consistent with all season–blowing games.