Orioles shouldn't rush into trades for Cashner and Cobb - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles shouldn’t rush into trades for Cashner and Cobb

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Sure, there are no untouchables on a team that lost 115 games. But the Orioles still need to make sure that there’s no repeat of September 2018.

Because of injuries to starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb, former manager Buck Showalter was reduced to using marginal bullpen prospects to start games in the season’s final few weeks.

While it may be tempting to think about trading Cashner and Cobb, there are reasons to resist that thought. With a record of 4-15 and a 5.29 ERA, Cashner has limited appeal on the market.

Cashner is set to make $9.5 million in 2019 and has a $10 million team option for 2020. That option becomes guaranteed if he pitches a combined 340 innings in 2018 and 2019. Because of a knee injury that cost him three final starts in September, Cashner pitched 153 innings in 2018.

In order to guarantee the option, he’ll have to pitch 187 innings, which would be a career high, next season.

The Orioles could certainly listen to trade offers, but with his rough season, Cashner’s value isn’t likely to be great, especially with that $10 million contract for 2019.

If the Orioles want to trade him, they’ll probably have to wait for the July 31 trading deadline and see what they can extract from a team hungry for another starter.

Cobb, whose blister issues cost him September innings, too, has a much more onerous contract. There are three years and $43 million remaining on his deal.

His 5-15 record and 4.90 ERA last season were somewhat misleading because he was 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA in the second half.

Cobb had two truncated starts on Sept. 11 and Sept. 23, but the blister issue isn’t a serious one, and should have healed by now.

If no team other than the Orioles was willing to give Cobb a four-year contact worth $57 million last offseason, why would another one deal for him with three years and $43 million left on the deal?

Cobb had full no-trade protection in 2018 and can block deals to 10 teams for the final three years of his deal.

A new management team could decide to try to shop Cashner and Cobb as they could with Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens, the most marketable players on the roster.

However, they’d be selling low in each of those cases.

They’d also be ignoring the reality that they have to field a team that’s perhaps somewhat more competitive than the team they fielded in 2018.

The new hierarchy’s philosophy will have to be continually explained to an impatient fan base, one that was 464,000 lower in 2018 than it was in 2017. With attendance already at a 40-year low, the Orioles will want their team to be more entertaining in 2019 to avoid further erosion in attendance.

If the Orioles traded Bundy, Cashner or Cobb, the team could  be looking at a frighteningly inexperienced starting staff, one that must play nearly half its games against the American League East.

Even with the three, the staff is full of questions. Getting two starters out of a combination of incumbents David Hess and Yefry Ramirez plus John Means, Luis Ortiz, Josh Rogers and Jimmy Yacabonis seems to be risky.

While Hess and Ramirez combined for 31 major league starts in their rookie seasons, Ortiz, Rogers and Yacabonis started just 11 times. Means came up late in the season for a relief outing lasting 3 1/3 innings.

The Orioles have Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Dillon Tate, who were starters at Double-A Bowie, but none is likely to begin the season in the major leagues.

They also have three promising arms at High-A Frederick, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther and Alex Wells, but they’ll likely begin the season at Bowie.

The Orioles had hoped that Hunter Harvey, their No. 1 pick in 2013, would be pitching in the big leagues by now, but his season was cut short in June and was limited to 32 1/3 innings.

That massive inexperience could well force the next head of baseball operations to delve into the secondary and tertiary free-agent market, searching for thrifty pitchers on one-year contracts who can eat innings and buy the Orioles some time while their young arms continue their development.

That means it’s wise to hold on to Bundy, Cashner and Cobb. If the Orioles traded Bundy next July, he’d have nearly 2½ seasons before free agency, as Kevin Gausman did before his trade to the Atlanta Braves on July 31.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. boss61

    November 7, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I believe that worrying too much about short-term attendance contributed to some poor player personnel decisions in the past. The key to long-term sustainable contention is a youth movement, no matter the near-term consequences in wins and fannies in the seats. I would not block the development of anyone with 30-something guys who won’t be here by the time a return to contention is achieved.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 7:53 am

      Mark, if you closely watched the games in September, you’d realize placeholders, who can be easily replaced, are vital parts of the starting staff.

  2. Orial

    November 7, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Even with a trio of Cobb,Cashner,Bundy injuries will take there toll. Expect each one of them to hit the DL at least once. Adding a James Shields or a Marco Estrada would add experienced depth and still allow Hess,Ramirez,Rodgers,Yacobonis,etc to develope. How about young Astros defensive catcher Maldonado as a FA pickup?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Orial, Martin Maldonado isn’t young. He’s 32. He’d be a welcome addition to the Orioles, but he’ll probably have a number of other attractive options to pick from.

  3. Biff Pocoroba

    November 7, 2018 at 9:34 am

    “If no team other than the Orioles was willing to give Cobb a four-year contact worth $57 million last offseason, why would another one deal for him with three years and $43 million left on the deal?”
    Because it’s one year and $14 million less?
    The Rangers reportedly offered 3 years last winter and that’s why the Orioles increased their offer. So yeah, the remainder of the contract isn’t impossible to move.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 9:37 am

      I would be surprised if a team made an attractive offer for Cobb this winter, Biff. He’s got a lot of worthy attributes that can help a rebuilding club, his work ethic and his ability to adapt.

  4. willmiranda

    November 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

    I think I’d add Villar and Mancini to the marketable list, although I’m not lobbying to trade them. Bona fide, dependable regulars are not that easy to find. Speaking of which, if the O’s are doing more trading or signing free agents, I’d like to see them go after some proven major leaguers rather than all “prospects.” I think you made the point, but if we trade pitching, we have to get pitching from somewhere. If we trade all our “marketable” pitchers, we should join a tee-ball league.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 10:12 am

      They’re the two most marketable position players, Will, but the demand for them on the trade market would be less than for Givens and Bundy.

    • BirdsCaps

      November 7, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      What would the ’19 birds have to do to qualify for t-ball status. It is hard to imagine the team will have a significantly worse season than ’18. Even most of the “marketable” players played like prospects/bench players.

      • Rich Dubroff

        November 8, 2018 at 7:01 am

        Can’t disagree with you, BirdsCaps.

  5. DevoTion

    November 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I don’t see any reason to trade either of them in the off-season, like you said they would get very little in return. I, believe with a new pitching coach in place these guys should be able to have better seasons. I never liked McDowell as a coach just about every pitcher’s numbers worsened dramatically in his time, he was the biggest reason for our pitching woes in my opinion

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Next season will be the test, Devo.

  6. PA Bird Lover

    November 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Trading Cobb and Cashner would be stupid, in my opinion. To do so guarantees a 100 loss season. Trading Bundy adds to the agony. I’m betting the new “heads” use my reasoning. One other point. Our minor league pitchers haven’t been A+ prospects, so actually counting on them for winning games is absurd.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 7, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Interesting points, PA.

  7. BirdsCaps

    November 7, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Operating under normal conditions (working to improve on-field talent), there is no reason for the birds to trade any of the remaining marketable players. The return would be too low. I agree with Rich that there could be a market for a Cashner or Cobb come the trade deadline. However, with the Gausman trade, how much of a factor is the salary for the two. Instead of holding onto the two in hopes for a decent return at the trade deadline, would the birds offload salary now for no return. Also, would there be a scenario where one of both are paired with a competitive balance pick in exchange for a player to be named later (e.g. Ryan Webb to Dodgers )?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 8, 2018 at 6:59 am

      BirdsCaps, appreciate your comments, as always.

  8. cedar

    November 7, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    I agree that we should be holding on to Cashner, Cobb, and Bundy. As you point out, pitching help from the minor leagues is 2-3 years away. They need to force their way onto the big league roster, not be here because there are no other arms. Let Cashner, Cobb, and Bundy fill the gap while we await the arrival of the young arms.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 8, 2018 at 7:00 am

      Thank you, cedar.

  9. Cmoney49

    November 7, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    They did nothing with the money from the Gausman trade. Hopefully new GM will have a better path to competitiveness. Any ideas on a timeframe for the hiring?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 8, 2018 at 7:02 am

      You’ll know when I know , cmoney.

  10. John in Cincy

    November 7, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    It’s bothersome to read some of the comments about how the Orioles would be well-advised to trade off talent, because it negatively impacts the team both near term and long term.

    And what about impact on the fan base? The O’s certainly don’t need to be getting worse, because no one is going to look at a 120-loss next season and think the club has a clue about rebuilding. Not to mention that some familiar faces on the field is a whole lot better than no one.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 8, 2018 at 7:04 am

      John, I agree with you. If attendance drops markedly again, they’ll face an uphill battle to win back some of those fans when they improve.

  11. Fdog3

    November 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Bundy, Cobb, and Cashner are perfect for a rebuilding team…..throw in Josh Rodgers naybe and another prospect and they are fine….for rebuilding….

  12. Maka

    November 8, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    I agree with you Rich. It is very tough to watch a bad baseball team. We need pitchers like Cobb who understand the art of pitching. All to often we get enamored with guys who throw hard but have no idea how to pitch. No matter where the team is in the rebuild, we need guys that know how to pitch. I vote to keep Cobb and maybe Cashner. Imagine facing Boston and the Yankees with a AAAA staff? If we get rid of Cashner and Cobb, it serves no purpose other dumping salary. And if we trade pitching for prospects, it sets the team back even further as we still have not proven that we can trade major leaguers for viable talent. It is my hope that we keep some semblance of a major league pitching staff by retaining the few remaining major league pitchers in our staff.

  13. Osfaninnc

    November 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    I think Cobb, Cashner and Bundy. Maybe a lower tier FA starter and try the young guys for the 5th spot. Cobb has a decent track record and with full spring hopefully is on track next year. Bundy was solid on ’16 & ’17 and the 1st half of ’18. Wasn’t the same after the base running injury. Hopefully he can be back on track. I don’t have a lot of faith/hope in Cashner but maybe he can eat some innings and at least keep them in games. The big thing they all lacked in’18 was run support. Can only hope it improves next year. So now just ready to get the new front office in place and get started on next year…I’m ready for some O’s baseball

  14. Bhoffman1

    November 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Trading Kevin Gausman for international signing money that they are not using . He should have been the leader to build a staff around. Buck and DD two guys who will never get a job in MLB again .

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