Blue Jays: The quiet appeal of Andrew Cashner

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 13: Andrew Cashner
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 13: Andrew Cashner /

According to a tweet from Jon Morosi of the MLB Network, the Blue Jays have expressed interest in free agent right-hander, Andrew Cashner. Quietly, he has a lot of upside, especially if he’s being added as a fifth starter to a solid group.

We’re less than a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and it’s not the least bit strange that the Blue Jays are still looking to add to their roster at this stage of the offseason, as it’s generally a busy time around the game. What is strange is that the Blue Jays are among the teams still looking at impact free agents, and there are several still available.

While Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro may not be interested in spending for the likes of a Yu Darvish or J.D. Martinez calibre free agent, it sounds like they’re keeping their eyes and ears open on another solid big leaguer who is still looking for a 2018 home. On Friday, Jon Morosi of the MLB network tweeted that the Blue Jays “have showed continued interest” in former Texas Ranger Andrew Cashner, especially if they could get him on a one year deal.

It’s hard to say if Cashner would agree to just a one year pact, but it may not be the worst decision at this stage of the offseason either. There’s an argument to be made that he may be better off trying this whole free agent thing again next year and hope for a less ridiculous result, but he’s also coming off a pretty good season too, and he and his agent are likely hoping to capitalize on his most recent numbers.

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And those numbers were rock solid last year, despite the fact that he’s an under-the-radar type of arm. He finished the year 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts and 166.2 innings pitched. His WHIP was a reasonable 1.320, he earned 4.6 WAR, and his HR/9 numbers dipped below one again, sitting at 0.8 on the year. The only mildly concerning stat for the 6’6″ righty might be his SO/9 numbers, which were a career low of 4.6. He’s a different pitcher than he was back in 2012 when that number sat at 10.1, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t effective either.

Cashner is one of several serviceable starters left waiting for a new home, and his market could heat up in a hurray if/when Darvish and/or Jake Arrieta sign somewhere. There’s a solid argument to be made that Cashner is the 5th best remaining rotation piece, with Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn still remaining available as well. The difference between Cashner and the other four might be how flexible his contract demands may be, as he’s in a slightly different position.

The 31 year old year old struggled in 2016 in a season split between the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins. He finished the year with a 5-11 record, and a 5.25 ERA in 27 starts, throwing just 132 innings. He’d struggled to start the year in San Diego with a 4.76 ERA in 16 starts, but things got much worse in Miami, where he posted a 5.98 mark in 12 appearances.

If you forget about that season, Cashner’s resume actually looks pretty good. Here are his previous three seasons (all with the Padres), leaving out the 2016 disaster:

2015:   6-16, 4.34 ERA, 31 starts, 184.2 IP, -0.9 WAR

2014:   5-7, 2.55 ERA, 19 starts, 123.1 IP, 1.9 WAR

2013:   10-9, 3.09 ERA, 26 starts, 175 IP, 2.4 WAR

Forget the win-loss column, as there is only so much control a starting pitcher has over that statistic in today’s game. When he’s been healthy, he’s been a pretty effective starter and arguably better than the Blue Jays may even need to round out the rotation. Health has been his ultimate deterrent throughout his career, but he looked as good as ever in that department last season. He’s also the type of arm that could fit in the top four if Aaron Sanchez can’t stay off the DL, or Marco Estrada‘s old back issues pop up again, which is what should add extra appeal for Atkins and Shapiro.

Whether or not he’s going to agree to a one year contract, as Morosi reports the Blue Jays are hoping, is another thing altogether. That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if he could be had on a reasonable 2-3 year deal at most, and with Estrada and J.A. Happ scheduled to be free agents at season’s end, that wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

Andrew Cashner might not be the sexiest name remaining on the free agent market, but for what they need him for, which is to round out the rotation, he could bring a lot of upside with him to Toronto. If it’s on a bargain contract this late in the offseason, even better.

Next: Jays agree to a pair of MiLB deals with relievers