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Andrew Cashner, Texas Rangers potential offseason acquisition

Taking a look at righthander Andrew Cashner, a potential offseason trade target for the Rangers

Thearon W. Henderson

Andrew Cashner, Texas Rangers potential offseason acquisition: We've been taking a look at players that the Rangers could potentially target this offseason, with an emphasis on guys who are short-term options with somewhat limited upside.

Last time, however, I highlighted Cole Hamels, a guy under contract for a while who is a legitimate top of the rotation starting pitcher.  And today, we're going to talk about someone who has a lot of question marks, but who also is viewed as a guy with top of the rotation ability -- San Diego Padres righthanded pitcher Andrew Cashner.

Cashner has almost five years of major league service time, but because he falls just short of the five year mark, he still has two years of team control (and arbitration eligibility) after this season.  Despite spending most of five seasons in the majors, Cashner has just 409.2 IP in the majors, as he spent most of the 2010-12 seasons, and part of 2013, pitching in a relief role.  Last year was the first time he pitched only as a starter in the majors, and even then, he logged just 123.1 IP in 19 starts, as he was dogged by elbow and shoulder issues that landed him on the d.l.

Cashner is from Conroe, Texas, and was taken #19 overall by the Cubs in the 2008 draft out of TCU.  That was the year the Rangers took Justin Smoak at #11 overall, but had the Rangers not taken Smoak, Cashner was somebody who was supposedly on their radar.  There were questions when Cashner was drafted about whether he'd be a starter or be relegated to a bullpen role, and while he started while in the Cubs system in the minor leagues, all but one of his sixty appearances in the majors with Chicago was in a relief role.

Prior to the 2012 season, Cashner was shipped to San Diego for first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and Cashner repeated the same pattern, spending some time in 2012 in the minors as a starter, but then mostly pitching out of the bullpen when he was in the bigs (making 5 starts against 28 relief appearances).  Cashner transitioned to primarily a starting role in 2013, making 26 starts against 5 relief appearances, and all 19 of his appearances in the majors last year were as a starter.

The 28 year old Cashner represents something of an upside play, as his results have not seemed to live up to his stuff.  While he had an impressive 2.55 ERA in 2014 (good for a 131 ERA+), he did that despite an above-average, but not great, FIP of 3.09, and an xFIP of 3.53.  In 2013 he put up a 3.09/3.35/3.62 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash...solid, but not spectacular.  In just about 300 innings over the past two seasons, Cashner has put up a 4.3 bWAR and a 4.0 fWAR.

That's solid work from a starting pitcher, but Cashner's stuff has some observers believing there is more upside there.  Despite throwing 93-96 mph and having a quality slider, Cashner has struck out only about six and a half batters per nine the past two seasons, a below-average rate.  His home run rate has been better than average, but that is due in part to a 6% HR/FB rate last year -- a rate that you wouldn't think would be sustainable.  And San Diego is a famously pitcher-friendly park...Cashner's splits (1.43 ERA/2.56 FIP at home versus 4.31/3.92 on the road in 2014, 1.95/3.09 v. 4.00/3.57 in 2013) has to give you pause, particularly if you are bringing him to the DH league.

So Cashner is a challenging guy to evaluate.  In some ways, he reminds me of another first round pick traded to the Padres, then to the Rangers, who had TORP stuff but not TORP results -- Adam Eaton.  The Eaton trade ended up going down as one of the worst deals Jon Daniels has made as g.m., of course.

The word last summer was that the Padres were willing to talk trade on any of their players other than Cashner, but that was before A.J. Preller took over.  As we've discussed before, Preller being the general manager in San Diego would seem to make it more likely for a deal between San Diego and Texas to take place, both because Preller and JD have a close relationship, and because Preller's familiarity with the Rangers farm system would make Rangers prospects more enticing to him than more unknown prospects.

Its hard to get a handle on what sort of package Cashner would command.  The Padres got two guys in the 40-60 range on prospect lists, Yasmani Grandl and Yonder Alonso, plus a reclamation project in Edinson Volquez and a throw-in in Brad Boxberger, when they dealt Mat Latos to the Reds a few years back, but Latos had more years of control left, as well as, arguably, a better track record.  Matt Garza had a track record of solid results with stuff that suggested there was more upside there when he was traded from the Rays to the Cubs in a deal that brought an impressive return for the Rays, including Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, but Garza also had three years of team control remaining.

Perhaps most similar to Cashner, in terms of control, ability and performance, among pitchers traded recently is Edwin Jackson.  With two years of team control left, and coming off a 214 IP, 4.2 bWAR season, Detroit sent him to Arizona as part of that convoluted three-way trade that brought Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson to Detroit and sent Curtis Granderson to New York.  That, though, doesn't give us much help in evaluating Cashner's value...nor, for that matter, does the Jackson deal the year before that sent him to Detroit for Matt Joyce, given that Jackson hadn't had his breakout year yet.

So its hard to get a sense for what sort of return Cashner would bring.  If the Padres were to shop him, I suspect they'd get a significant return -- not quite the Latos or Garza hauls, but not far off, either -- and whether the Rangers would be willing to part with that sort of talent to get him really boils down to what their evaluation folks think of him.  That being said, we know that this group likes to gamble on the upside, and Cashner would definitely represent an upside play.  And T.R. Sullivan mentioned him as someone who could be a Rangers target, as you know if you read the links this morning, so that's worth filing away, as well.