Texas Rangers rumors: MLB free agency has been slow this offseason, and Andrew Cashner, who headed into the offseason with aspirations of a multi-year deal after what, on the surface at least, appeared to be a great bounceback season with the Rangers in 2017, is one of many major leaguers still unemployed as pitchers and catchers prepare to report this week. The signing of Yu Darvish with the Chicago Cubs is expected to cause some movement in the free agent market, but there still are a lot of pitchers out there available, and not a lot of teams looking at doling out long-term deals for starting pitchers outside the top tier of Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.
More and more, it looks like the next group of starting pitchers — guys like Jason Vargas, Jaime Garcia, and Cashner — will be looking at one year deals for 2018. And if Cashner is going to get just a one year deal, wouldn’t a reunion with the Rangers make sense?
Evan Grant mentioned Cashner yesterday as a possibility for the Rangers now that Darvish is off the board, and its the type of deal that would make sense. Texas is still about $25 million below where they said they expected their 2018 payroll to be, so they have money to spend. Cashner has local ties, being from Texas and having gone to TCU for college. He seemed to enjoy his time in Texas last year, and the Rangers went out of their way to target and land him early last offseason.
Moreover, if the Rangers are serious about a six man rotation — and Evan Grant, at least, seems to think they are — Cashner would be a good addition to the mix. Right now, even if Martin Perez, recuperating from a broken elbow in his right arm, is healthy to start the season, there are only five real starting pitchers -- Perez, Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor. A six man rotation would, well, require one more pitcher. At this point, the leading candidates for that sixth spot are Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, and Matt Bush...and that’s not even taking into account the fact that there are serious question marks about all five of the guys already in place in the rotation.
Cashner on a one year deal wouldn’t break the bank — he probably is going to want more than the $10 million he received in 2017 coming off a disastrous season, but he’s likely not getting more than, say, $12 million. While his 4.6 bWAR last year was driven by a 3.40 ERA that doesn’t appear sustainable, given his peripherals (and in particular his 4.6 K/9 rate), he still was worth 1.9 fWAR based on his peripherals. Even if Cashner’s 2018 ERA is in line with his 4.61 FIP from 2017 rather than his 3.40 ERA in 2017, he’s still a good investment at $10-12 million.
The Rangers continue to give lip service about contending in 2018, and I think the front office is serious about putting pieces in place that at least have the potential to make the Rangers a playoff team if some things go right. But they could use a legitimate center fielder (which is why I’ve been lobbying for Carlos Gomez or Jarrod Dyson on a one year deal since, well, the offseason started), and they could use another established starting pitcher — especially if they are going to go with a six man rotation.
I can already hear the squeaking of eyes rolling around in sockets, the sarcastic “who needs Yu Darvish when you can have Andrew Cashner” comments. Cashner is not, of course, as good as Darvish, and you’re going to be better off in 2018 with Darvish in the rotation than Cashner.
But the point of adding Cashner is to fortify a rotation that is banking on some high-variance options (Minor, Fister and Moore, in particular) on a short-term deal that doesn’t impact your ability to make moves in the following years. In Moore, Fister and Seung-Hwan Oh, the Rangers have also added pitchers who have relatively affordable 2019 club options, meaning that the Rangers can keep them around for another season if they end up being productive. I’m skeptical that Cashner would agree to a 2019 team option — and Texas may choose to prioritize landing someone who they can pick up a club option for the following year on — but if he is looking for a “pillow contract,” Texas would make a lot of sense.