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Texas Rangers sign Andrew Cashner: Some thoughts

Texas fills a hole in the back of its rotation by signing free agent RHP Andrew Cashner

MLB: Miami Marlins at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers have agreed with Andrew Cashner on a one year, $10 million contract, according to multiple reports. The free agent righthander had a bad 2016 season on the heels of a bad 2015 season, and rather than cashing in on a big free agent contract as he had hoped to capture in a weak pitching market this offseason, Cashner instead is going to be looking to rebuild his value in 2017 with Texas.

This is an interesting signing to me, even though the reaction from Rangers fans largely seemed to range from disappointed shrugs to outright unhappiness. Cashner is a Texas native, and was a first round pick out of TCU in 2008. Texas picked 11th that season, and grabbed Justin Smoak when he slid to them...had he not dropped that far, Cashner was one of the players the Rangers were supposedly strongly considering at that spot.

Instead, Cashner went to the Cubs at #19, and was traded to the Padres in January, 2012, for Anthony Rizzo. The Padres were betting on Cashner establishing himself as a solid #2/#3 starting pitcher...instead, he continued to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen, and while he showed flashes (he had a 2.87 ERA in 298 IP in 2013-14), he hasn’t been able to get things together.

Still, the Rangers have reportedly long had interest in him, and according to T.R. Sullivan, Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail has told the organization he can fix Cashner. Cashner has always seemed like one of those guys that would eventually end up in Texas, and the Rangers have been linked to him from the time A.J. Preller got to San Diego until AJP finally shipped him to Miami last year at the deadline.

We knew the Rangers would be looking for starting pitching this offseason, and we knew the pickings were slim, with the prices high for the top guys. I think we all anticipated that we would be underwhelmed with who Texas eventually landed, hoping for a #2/#3 guy while knowing deep down it was likely to be more of a back-end starting pitcher.

The surprising thing to me is that the Rangers struck early, and made their move in the free agent market, rather than the trade market. I was expecting another Yovani Gallardo-type move, landing a middling guy once much of the offseason dust settled. Instead, we get a pillow contract for an enigma whose results haven’t matched up with his stuff.

What this move does do, I think, is move the issue of starting pitching from a “need” to a “want.” Texas now has Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at the top of the rotation, Martin Perez behind them, Andrew Cashner as a fixer-upper, and then A.J. Griffin and Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez and, who knows, maybe Connor Sadzeck or Yohander Mendez or Allen Webster behind them. Perez/Cashner/Griffin is a pretty underwhelming 3-4-5, but you could probably leave with that at the start of the season, given Yu and Hamels up front.

Texas is still going to be in the market for pitching, but the pressure is off of them signing someone just to get a body to fill a rotation spot, I suspect. They will continue to pursue Chris Archer and Chris Sale, they’ll look at Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly, they’ll probably talk some more with Colby Lewis (though Sullivan tweeted the Rangers haven’t been in contact with Lewis).

One can not unreasonably ask why the Rangers would pass on Derek Holland at $11 million for 2017 (which was really $9.5 million, since they had to pay him $1.5 million to buy out his option), only to give Cashner $10 million, when Cashner has been worse the past couple of seasons. They clearly prefer Cashner to Holland, and my guess is that they think the stuff is there with Cashner to get more out of him, to tap into that tantalizing upside, while they see Holland as someone whose stuff as disappeared as the result of injuries.

The Rangers now can shift their focus, to an extent, to finding a center fielder, while also keeping tabs on the pitching market. I have no doubt they’ll still be aggressive in pursuing starting pitching options. But it appears that the determination by the organization, at this point, is that the prices for the pitchers that would make us all excited is likely to be way too high this offseason, and so the better path is to strike quickly, sign a lesser pitcher with upside to a one year deal early on in the winter, and get that taken care of rather than run the risk of being left holding the bag because demand is greatly outstripping supply in the starting pitching market.

We shall see if they are right about that...