An unusually quiet and frustrating offseason yesterday – finally – took a turn in the right direction as the Orioles’ front office made its biggest move of the winter, signing free agent pitcher Andrew Cashner to a two-year, $16 million deal. The 31-year-old also has a $10 million vesting option for 2020 should he notch at least 340 innings over the next two years. It turns into a player option if he pitches at least 360 innings.
For the most part, the signing has been well received in Baltimore. It appears to be low risk and team friendly, filling one of the three gaping voids in the team’s rotation with a far lower financial commitment than failed free agent signings by the team in recent years – namely Ubaldo Jimenez (4 years, $50 million) and Yovanni Gallardo (3 years, $35 million).
Cashner, a right-hander sporting a thick ginger beard, pitches to contact and will be well supported by a supremely talented Orioles infield. He enters the 2018 season on the back of a career year with the Texas Rangers in 2017, his first pitching in the American League.
|Andrew Cashner – 2017 Season (Texas Rangers)|
|· 4.6 WAR|
|· 11-11 record (28 starts)|
|· 3.40 ERA|
|· 1.32 WHIP|
Critics, and there are plenty, will point to his declining K/9IP and BB/9IP marks of 4.6 and 3.5 respectively in 2017, figures which have dropped significantly since 2015 (8.0 and 3.2). However his quality pitching markers are still all well above those achieved by Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley.
|Andrew Cashner – 2017 Quality Pitching Markers|
|· 5.18 QOPA|
|· Location – Top 16% in MLB|
|· Horizontal Break – Top 19% in MLB|
|· Low Rise – Top 20% in MLB|
|· Vertical Break – Top 21% in MLB|
|· Velocity – Top 29% in MLB|
Importantly, and unlike Jimenez and Miley, Cashner seemingly has the ability to avoid the long ball, allowing just 15 home runs through 166 2/3 innings of work last season. He also appears more effective in limiting damage, not allowing six or more earned runs in any of his 28 outings. Backed by a stacked offense of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis, and Trey Mancini (among others), his ability to keep the Orioles in the contest will be important – something the Orioles lacked far too often in 2017.
In a typically stacked American League East division, it is highly unlikely Cashner will reproduce the figures he did last season, however it is realistic to expect 10-15 wins with an ERA somewhere in the vicinity of 4.25 to 4.75 – figures more than acceptable for a back-end rotation guy.
The realistic fans among us know that yesterday’s signing won’t suddenly thrust the Orioles into playoff contention, however it is certainly a step in the right direction. Accompanied by young studs Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Cashner’s addition to the rotation ensures the Orioles have a reliable number 2, 3, and 4 – now they need to go and secure Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. The rest will take care of itself.