The first major domino of the Major League Baseball trade deadline season has fallen, as the cellar-dwelling Baltimore Orioles shipped veteran right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner to the division-rival Boston Red Sox for a pair of low-level prospects, Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero. The Orioles will also send cash considerations to Boston. The trade was announced on Boston’s Twitter account Saturday afternoon.
Cashner signed a two-year contract worth $16 million guaranteed with a team option for 2020 valued at $10 million with the Orioles just before the beginning of spring training in 2018. That option will become guaranteed if he manages to reach 340 innings during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, however, it appears to be a bit out of reach, as he has only thrown 249.1 innings with just over two months to go in the regular season. While the first year of his stay in Baltimore proved to be a bit disastrous, as he pitched 153 innings of 5.29 ERA and 5.32 FIP ball, he has bounced back this season, as he currently sits at 96.1 innings pitched with a 3.83 ERA and a 4.25 FIP.
While it seems as though he could regress a bit based on his .256 BABIP, Cashner has seen improvements in his control and a sharp increase in his slider velocity (84.3 to 85.8) and has stopped using his sinker almost entirely. He threw the pitch 35.8 percent of the time during the 2018 season and has brought it down to 4.5 percent this season. In doing so, he essentially turned it from a secondary pitch that brought with it a -10.5 pitch value, to a very occasional pitch that brings with it an element of surprise, consequently bringing the value up to 1.3.
Cashner seems likely to bump Hector Velazquez back to a long relief role, where he has thrived over the past three seasons. The 30-year-old has thrown 66.2 career innings as a starter to the tune of a rough 5.27 ERA, but has seen much better results over 87 bullpen innings, in the form of a 2.69 ERA. This could serve as a huge boost to both the rotation and bullpen in the second half of the season. The Red Sox are currently in a crowded American League Wild Card race that includes the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and possibly the Los Angeles Angels. Cashner brings some level of stability to a pitching staff that has been mediocre this season, as they own a 4.55 ERA.
The minor leaguers going back to Baltimore are both just 17 years old and will not make it to the major leagues for at least four, or five years. That being said, there’s some level of promise. Prado hit .303/.400/.418 over his first 147 plate appearances with the DSL Red Sox while stealing nine bases, hitting three home runs, and walking 20 times to just 21 strikeouts. He has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions as well.
Romero is a versatile infielder who has seen time at second base, shortstop and third base. While his results weren’t anything special at third base or shortstop, he posted a 5.27 RF/9 at second base over 41 innings. The typical average is anywhere from 4.0 to 4.25. Over his first 123 plate appearances, he slashed .264/.336/.364 with two home runs and 13 RBIs.
At this point, I’d give the Red Sox the edge in this deal based on the fact that they got a reasonably reliable mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter for a pair of lottery tickets. I would imagine that the Red Sox will eat a reasonable portion of the money owed to Cashner, however that is just speculation. The two minor leaguers heading to the Orioles have some potential. That being said, Cashner comes with an additional season of team control, and the Red Sox are currently on the outside of the playoff race, essentially increasing their urgency to upgrade the roster. I think rookie general manager Mike Elias should have gotten a bit more out of the deal. It will be interesting to see how this affects the market in the coming weeks.