Thoughts on Orioles' signing of Andrew Cashner - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Thoughts on Orioles’ signing of Andrew Cashner

Photo credit: Joe Nicholson/USA Today Sports

Here’s my take on the Orioles’ signing of 31-year-old right-hander Andrew Cashner to a two-year, $16 million deal that could, ultimately, grow to a three-year, $41 million deal if Cashner hits innings pitched/starts incentives and does not opt out of a third-year option.

They obviously needed to do something

This first point is pretty simple, The Orioles only have two rotation spots filled: Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. And it is mid-February and pitchers and catchers have already reported to Sarasota. By adding Cashner, they’ve acquired a veteran who has pitched in 230 big league games and made 137 starts. In comparison, the possible five the Orioles could run out in their 2018 rotation without Cashner – Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro, Mike Wright and Gabriel Ynoa – have combined for 333 MLB games and 177 big league starts.

Cashner’s a solid call – given the money and years

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Free agency is a crapshoot, especially when you’re dealing with pitchers. The Orioles need at least two veteran starters for 2018, and Cashner fits when you’re looking at it from a standpoint of money and years. The Orioles did not want to go beyond three years for a starter, and, in this deal, they get Cashner for 2018 and 2019, and potentially for 2020, when a vesting option kicks in if he pitches a combined 340 innings in the first two seasons. Cashner made $10 million in a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers last year in which he was 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts. So, it’s actually a paycut as far as annual value is concerned (though there are some easy performance incentives to surpass $10 million each year). The contract is even more club friendly considering that only $5 million of the deal is on this season’s payroll. In other words, the Orioles were looking for an affordable, veteran starter and believe Cashner can be it.

So how does Cashner fit on this team?

On the surface, solidly. He induces ground balls, pitches to contact and doesn’t give up many homers. He usually throws strikes, though his 64 walks in 2017 were the most of his career. The real red flag, though, is that he had 86 strikeouts in 166 2/3 innings – 4.6 per nine innings — by far a career low. In his nine-season career, he averaged seven strikeouts per game. And that makes you wonder if the propensity for contact is going to really hurt him in Camden Yards, especially if the Orioles’ defense continues to slip. The other negative is that he has not been particularly durable during his career, and the Orioles need innings eaters. His 184 2/3 innings in 2015 for the San Diego Padres is his career high – by nearly 10 innings. At 31, you can ‘t count on him far-reaching his previous innings totals, though there are incentives for him to do so.

The incentives make the contract intriguing

If Cashner meets all the incentives, he’s going to make a ton of money. And the Orioles will be exceptionally happy. Although the contract is a little complicated, the basics are this: Cashner will get $16 million over two years for the Orioles no matter how he pitches. That’s $5 million in 2018, $8 million in 2019 and the rest in deferred payments. If he combines for 340 innings in those first two years, a third season will kick in for $10 million. If he combines for 360 innings in those first two seasons, the option goes from vesting to a player-controlled one. Meaning Cashner can opt out of that third year to test the free-agent market if he believes he can get more than a one-year, $10 million deal. Now, Cashner also has inning and start incentives for each of those three years which can earn him as much as $5 million per year. To get to that $5 million cap, each season he must make 30 starts and 200 innings. What’s more likely is that he can get $3 million extra per season by starting 20 times and reaching 150 innings. All told, the deal could be worth $41 million over three years, but it likely wouldn’t get to that point. If Cashner hits 200 innings and 30 starts in two consecutive years, you’d have to think he’d turn down the player option and become a free agent before the 2020 season.

What does this mean for the team going forward?

Well, there is one less spot to fill in the rotation, and that’s important. They also didn’t break the bank – so they should still have money to spend. But here’s my gut call: I believe this is their big-ticket item. The only three starting pitchers that are likely to get more than Cashner moving forward are Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. The Orioles have not been serious players with either Arrieta or Cobb, so you can scratch them off the list. And although they’ve expressed interest in Lynn, it would be at a reduced price (and years). My guess is they’ll be far outbid for his services. Given that the Orioles have two starting candidates without minor league options remaining and a couple Rule 5 guys in the rotation mix, my guess is the Orioles feel they only have one other open rotation spot available now that Cashner is in. That could be a for a lefty like Jason Vargas or for previous staff ace, right-hander Chris Tillman. So, I think the Orioles can still add a rotation arm, but it’ll be on a deal lesser than Cashner’s.

What makes the most sense going forward?

I’d make big league offers to Tillman and Vargas now. Legitimate ones that take the market depression in consideration as well as club’s holes and the need to get these guys into camp quickly. The waiting has helped bring the dollars down, but now it is time to make another move or two. Solid, one-year big league deals should get it done. Wait and mess around with minor-league deals and both will be off the table soon enough. If you sign both, great. You can use them. If you only get one, OK, you are still better than you were in 2017. And then I’d spend some more money for a left-handed-hitting right fielder. Jon Jay is still the guy I’d target.

What’s the sense on Cashner in Camden Yards?

Well, the groundball/limited-homer thing certainly helps. He’s pitched there twice in his career and has a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. Way too small of a sample size to get a clear read. But he did spend a year pitching in hitter-friendly Arlington, Texas and had a 2.72 ERA in 14 games there in 2017.

What about his trademark beard?

It likely will have to go. The team rule has been neatly trimmed facial hair only. That really shouldn’t be a concern, though. The Orioles need to be more concerned other things, like adding pitchers that can get major leaguers out.

Bottom line

Cashner improves the Orioles’ rotation. And it’s not a ton of money, relatively speaking. But there are obvious warts, like a declining strikeout rate and no 200-inning seasons logged. This move makes the Orioles better. But they need two more acquisitions – including at least another in the rotation – to give the sense that this club isn’t going backward.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. karks

    February 15, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I’m happy with the move overall. Cashner is solid and, if he holds to form, will be better than Miley/Ubaldo/Tillman were last year. But Dan, I hope this isn’t their “big splash” in terms of pitching. I’ve got some pipe dream of Lance Lynn coming aboard (I know, I need to face reality). But if they’re going to compete, bringing in a pitcher that has a record of success would seem like the way to do it. They’re either in or out – you can’t do it halfway.

    I also wouldn’t mind seeing Tillman come back for a year and see if he still has “it”. Maybe he doesn’t but there’s such a good track record there that I would want to see him get the chance.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      I just don’t see Lynn. It would have to be a bigger drop in price than anyone expects. Remember, Os don’t win pitching wars when all things are equal. And I just feel like there will be a lot of competition for him when all is said and done. But I’ve been wrong before.

  2. Orial

    February 15, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Watched Intential Talk(an obnoxious show in MLB Network) where Kevin Millar kinda liked the signing but Chris Rose after a pause said “poor Orioles fans gonna be a long year”. All he could say. Kind of says a lot about persona being shared about O’s. I liked signing,long overdue. I don’t share the doom and gloom. Like the list of younger pitching candidates earlier mentioned. Add Vargas,John Jay and other than the dreadful fact that we still reside in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox let’s give it our best.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      It’s not a difference maker for sure. But with a couple more moves, could make this team competitive without counting on everything going right.

  3. OsFanStuckInNY

    February 15, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Why do you think Tillman should get a MLB contract? Who else wants him? If the O’s have seen what he’s tossing right now, the fact he isn’t already signed makes me think he’s no better than his abysmal 2017 numbers.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Let’s just say I disagree. We’ll see how it plays out. But if he gets a major league deal, you owe me a fake beer

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      February 15, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      I hope you’re right and he has a great comeback! In which case, I’ll owe you a real beer.

  4. DPG0124

    February 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    I just wish they’d sign Lynn or Cobb because if Cashner is the 4 starter and tillman/mike wirght/castro/rule 5 guys are your 5th starter that’s not the worst rotation ever, but I know it’s probably a pipe dream. I’d rather go all right-handers than pigeonhole Jason Vargas cos he’s a lefty. He’s a flyball pitcher who tops out at like 88 in Camden Yards coming off a season where he outperformed the back of his card in the first half and was the same below average pitcher he has always been in the 2nd half – it would be Ubaldo/Yovanni 2.0. If the Orioles want to contend they need to sign a guy like Lynn or Cobb and if not they should have just re-signed Wade Miley on a minor league deal because Cashner does not make this team significantly better.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      There has been no indication that the Orioles are seriously pursuing Cobb. He remains out of what they believe is their price range. Lynn is too, but, again, if prices fall.

  5. Dblack2508

    February 15, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    As I stated earlier one free agent pitcher and Tillman will be 4 of our 5 starting pitchers. I like the deal, I hope he hits every incentive in the contract. The 5 spot is going to anyone’s guess, Btw , when I get back in town I will join you guys in York. if you haven’t seen Bruce on Broadway it’s a must!

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      I haven’t. And I would love to. He’s my all-time favorite. Several friends have gone and rave about it.

  6. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    February 15, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    I like the move. He improves the starting rotation. The Orioles should be able to sign Jamie Garcia probably for less. He is a left hander and is younger with more upside potential than Vargas. Lynn and Cobb will cost them a draft pick as well as big contract dollars. So I think they are off the table unfortunately.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 15, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Garcia reportedly signed a one-year, $8M deal with the Blue Jays.

    • PA Bird Lover

      February 16, 2018 at 12:05 pm

      I only like the signing because it proves DD is alive. But, in reality he’s somewhere around 24 under 500. Ubaldo was 2 over and look at what we had. Tillman at least has a solid record and last year played hurt. We give other players a chance to bounce back. Money can’t be the issue for not signing someone like Cobb. After subtracting players gone via FG the club is saving $43 mil. Even with a Cobb, Lynn or even Areatta this team is headed to the bottom.

  7. ClyOs

    February 15, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Cashner is a good not great pitcher, but is exactly what the Orioles were looking for in a contract. Low guarantee money for a few years with incentives for eating innings. I don’t think he will pitch 200 innings in one season, but 340 over two is very doable. As for another signing I would really like to see a lefty, but we’ll see. I still think ownership was only willing to sign one starter this year and Cashner was it.

    • Mau

      February 15, 2018 at 9:53 pm

      I think they are thinking they’ll get a solid starter for Manny at some point and you’re right, they won’t spend a dime on another starter until then. I anticipate a similar season as last year. Meanwhile, the Yangs and the Sox rule the AL East for the foreseeable future and beyond. As long as the organization is run by the Angelos family it will be that way.

      The Oriole Way was built on pitching and the farm so they then built a hitters stadium and sold the farm and here we are. It’s New York’s and Boston’s world and the O’s just rent a spot in the bottom tier of the AL East. The rules favor their markets and organizations and the O’s only hope is to find lightning in a bottle. O’s fans should keep hitting the bottle to feel better until they find it.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 2:10 am

      I get the overall sentiment, but keep in mind before Boston’s consecutive division titles there were 5 winners in 5 seasons.

  8. Ezrine Tire Award

    February 15, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Danno re the beard if he can post a 3.40 ERA with us they should let him go Rasputin.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 2:11 am

      Gonna be interesting. That is his trademark.

  9. cowhand214

    February 15, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    This is interesting. Thanks for the nice summary, Dan. Seems like a solid move. He won’t light the world on fire but then he doesn’t need to in order for the team to improve. If he can soak up some innings and pitch to the 3.40 ERA this year I’ll be thrilled.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 2:12 am

      I think everyone would be thrilled with a 3.40 ERA.

  10. Steve Cockey

    February 15, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    I hope I’m wrong, but Cashner looks like Gallardo 2.0 to me.

    Velocity last year was down ~1.5 mph from 2015 and over 4 mph from 2012.

    Of 75 pitchers who threw at least 150 innings last year, Cashner’s 4.64 K/9 was second-worst; his .266 BABIP was ninth-lowest. His 86.4 contact percentage ranked first, and his swinging strike percentage (6.1%) was dead last.

    Allowing that much contact and somehow turning in a top-20 ERA doesn’t seem anywhere near sustainable to me. A regression is coming, and likely a big one. I’m expecting an ERA over 5.

    Good thing I’m usually always wrong about these things :).

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 2:12 am

      There are most certainly some warts here if you are projecting at home.

  11. Sizemo

    February 16, 2018 at 6:04 am

    1st off, a big yes to this deal and if this market remains the same, no reason Vargy can’t be nabbed too on a similar 2yr w vesting 3rd yr or even higher priced 1yr w option for a 2nd and probably slightly less $ than Cashner. I love Lynn but The great thing about Vargy beyond the obvious lefty status is that the rotation really needs a lefty and one as consistent as Vargy would be a considerable upgrade over any of the options currently on the team or even the myriad of bums taking up space at the back of the rotation for quite sometime. Maybe, thanks to this team friendly market, the O’s can pull off one year of magic before the revolving door starts to spin out homegrown studs like a Maytag washer. Would also love to see Jon Jay in right field. If all this happens, and the chips fall right, 3rd place might be the final resting spot, otherwise it’s a race to the bottom again.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 10:32 am

      I agree with most things you said. Except I’m not sure you can call Vargas’ 2017 consistent. It was anything but consistent. And that’s a bit of a concern as is his ERA away from pitcher-friendly Home parks. Still, best lefty available to them.

  12. Fdog3

    February 16, 2018 at 8:32 am

    The Os had the worst rotation ever last year….I would be an improvement…..Davis and Trumbo had down years…Manny hit .259 and has never had 100 rbi. Bullpen was in flux all year long. All this and yet on Sept 1st the Os had the 7th best record in A.L. Five teams make the “playoffs”.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 10:34 am

      All true. (Although they had the worst rotation in their history. Not like history history. There are some rotations that finished with a 6+ ERA.)

  13. willpatten

    February 16, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Berra: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
    We can fill out the rotation with kids, trade Machado for more kids and have fun watching kids this summer or,
    We can sign or trade for another starter, sign John Jay and hope Davis and Trumbo redeem themselves.
    I hope we take the first option. Duquette HAS rebuilt the farm and I like a lot of the produce down there.
    Couple years of high draft picks and we’ll be back in it.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 16, 2018 at 10:35 am

      It’s certainly a viable alternative. Tho I may not be as optimistic as you are on the farm.

  14. Ben1

    February 17, 2018 at 6:30 am

    Only time will tell.

  15. bigdaddydk

    February 18, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I find this to be a good move. Cashner had a solid season last year, despite his 11-11 record. His ERA would have been best on the club too. If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s the team’s archaic facial hair policy. Cashner’s beard should play anywhere.

  16. Ravefan96

    February 20, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Where does Hellickson fit in Dan ? Also it Looks like Arrieta is on Philadelphia’s radar not that we can afford him but I wonder why a pitcher would willingly sign up for a hitters park unless their choices were limited.

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