Late last evening news broke that the Pirates had inked Trevor Cahill to a one year deal worth 1.5 million dollars plus up to 1 million in performance bonuses.
Let’s be clear here before I dig in, I’m not a huge fan of this signing. It’s not that I have any personal dislike for Mr. Cahill, it’s more just not understanding where he fits and who he causes to not make the club.
That’s my initial take, this is not a needed move, and even if I manage to make sense of it while I write this out I figured I should just be up front about how this struck me initially.
So let’s dig in and see everything this does and how it effects my feeling on the move.
Can Cahill Still Help?
I mean, sure he could. He’s a career 11.6 WAR player and last year in the shortened season with San Francisco he put up pretty strong numbers splitting time in the bullpen and starting, producing a .5 WAR and a WHIP of 1.200. That’s not even close to bad.
Yeah, Trevor can still help. I happen to see him doing more in the pen than in the rotation, especially since he just signed and after going through protocols will most likely only get an outing or two before the team heads north.
He’s been for the most part a bullpen arm with spot starting capability since 2013, assuming that’s the role he’s asked to fill here in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to say this wouldn’t benefit the club in any way, and that’s not pretending he’ll replicate his numbers from 2020. His overall picture and abilities make him a viable upgrade possibility over some of the Pirates current options.
Who Does This Block?
Well, block is a strong word. First thing to keep in mind is that they’ll need a ton of pitchers from AAA as this season progresses. It will at least make it hard to envision some players making the club out of camp though.
As good as he’s been, Miguel Yajure probably just lost his path. He had an outside chance at landing in the Bullpen as a long man or possibly the 5th starter, but I can’t see that now. Wil Crowe is another who will almost assuredly start in AAA. Potentially even JT Brubaker who in my eyes more than proved himself last season could be a casualty.
Those are the starters. Now let’s head to the pen where I really think he’ll live. It’s best here to start with talking about who they have options with and what this could mean.
OK, so Luis Oviedo has to make the club. He is, as you might remember, the rule five draft selection the Mets made and the Pirates traded to acquire. That’s a lock if he’s healthy.
Duane Underwood Jr. has no options and will almost surely make the club. I say that because clearly the Pirates were worried other teams were in on him or they wouldn’t have traded for him, they would have picked him up off the waiver wire. See the Pirates were in the first position to get it done but they must have not believed he’d get there without someone dealing for him first.
Chris Stratton and Michael Feliz have no options and will probably make the club, I’d expound here but you know these guys.
David Bednar has 2 options, but man I don’t know how you could send him down and pretend in any way the best you have made it.
Chasen Shreve is an NRI so the team would have to clear a 40-man spot for him to make the club, but based on his numbers last season and his experience it’s hard to see him not making it.
Richard Rodriguez has 3 options, but he’s not going anywhere (well, not within the organization anyway)
Kyle Crick has one option left and this one my friends is the most likely I see as a direct slot swap for Cahill.
Did I leave out some names you thought had a real chance or even a strangle hold on a position? Edgar Santana comes to mind. Cody Ponce, Clay Holmes, Sam Howard, Geoff Hartlieb. I mean, I get it, depth. But I can’t get past the feeling that this effort to add to the depth has also created a situation where the best the Pirates have to offer isn’t going to make the club right out of camp.
I’ve also heard the possibility of piggybacking quite a bit, and they certainly employed that last season a bit, but piggybacking also eats arms that hold a spot in the pen that you can’t use. So if the plan is Brault/Cahill and Kuhl/Brubaker or whatever combination you’re envisioning, that’s two spots in the pen that just sit there. It’s like having a 7 man rotation with six relievers, which you can obviously see becoming unsustainable. Bottom line, if this is the plan, it won’t be for long.
Maybe This is Foreshadowing for a Trade or Two
Sure, that’s a possibility. We’ve all heard Richard Rodriguez and Chris Stratton mentioned all the way back to last season as trade chips, and that could certainly happen. It doesn’t matter that there have been no rumors of note, these are rather low level relievers, you’re not going to hear Jon Heyman talking any of them into a move to LA.
We certainly know that moves will still be coming, so I can’t discount the possibility something is in the works although I will say, if they were actively talking I’m not sure we see any of them pitch and we have, so I don’t think anything is imminent.
Still, when they do, they’ll have a very nice safety net in the minors waiting.
So Where Did I Land?
I still feel it wasn’t needed. I’d be much more comfortable if this was an AAA signing, but I recognize holding out for that is probably why this signing just happened on March 11th.
If they can manage to work him in without it altering the path of Brubaker in particular, I’m more ok with it, but honestly, I’d much prefer watching Wil Crowe or Miguel Yajure do what Trevor will most likely be tasked with.
It makes sense that they’d want more depth, it really does. We all complained last season as we watched the club parade the likes of Miguel Del Pozo and Dovydas Neverauskas to the mound to repeatedly get their brains beat in, so it’s hard to complain when they seemingly add too many pitchers to the mix.
Moves like these happen all over the league every season and I’d imagine the fans spend more time looking at the player just signed than the fallout the signing causes, but this is Pittsburgh, we don’t see things like this. At least we haven’t, until now.
All in all, any reaction positive or negative to this move by me or anyone else for that matter is probably an overreaction if we’re honest. Because Trevor Cahill simply isn’t an impact player, he’s depth, depth that happens to have to make the club instead of waiting in the wings.