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A’s taking a big chance in trading Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks

Dec 9, 2011, 7:21 PM EDT

Trevor Cahill Getty Images

Trevor Cahill won 18 games as a 22-year-old for the A’s in 2010. Now he’s a goner, having been sent to the Diamondbacks along with left-handed reliever Craig Breslow in exchange for right-hander Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill and right-hander Ryan Cook.

It’s a deal that would make a lot more sense for Cahill if he were about to become really expensive. However, he’s owed a pretty modest $28.7 million over the next four years. His contract also includes options for 2016 ($13 million, $300,000 buyout) and 2017 ($13 million, $500,000 buyout) that could be well under market value if he goes about establishing himself as a No. 2 starter.

That’s what Cahill should become. His peripherals didn’t justfy his 2.97 ERA in 2010, but his strikeout rate took a nice step forward last season, even as his ERA increased along with it. He finished the year 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA, but his overall outlook seems just as positive as it was a year ago. He’s never been hurt, and as a big-time groundball pitcher, he’s a great fit in an hitter friendly ballpark like Chase Field.

In return, the A’s get a premium pitching prospect, but one who has been hurt and who struggles with command. Back from Tommy John surgery, Parker went 11-8 with a 3.79 ERA in Double-A last season. He finished with a 112/55 K/BB ratio in 130 2/3 innings. Parker is actually just eight months younger than Cahill, and while he is a harder thrower with greater strikeout potential, he’s not a great bet to succeed right away, not when he’ll likely be walking at least four batters per nine innings.

The A’s also get Cowgill and Cook. Cowgill, 25, never received enough credit as a prospect coming up through the Diamondbacks system, largely because he’s 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. While he’s a career .299/.383/.490 hitter in the minors, many believe his power won’t translate into the majors. And if they’re right, then he’s a good fourth outfielder, nothing more. The A’s, though, figure to pencil him right into their 2012 outfield.

Cook, 24, had a 2.21 ERA and a 62/22 K/BB ratio in 61 innings between Double- and Triple-A last season. He’s an unexceptional relief prospect, and he doesn’t add much to Oakland’s haul here.

Breslow is the other player in the deal. The veteran left-handed hitter was viewed as expendable and might have been non-tendered if not traded. His ERA has gone from 2.60 in 2009 to 3.01 in 2010 to 3.79 last season, and his strikeout rate also took a big dip last season. The league-switch might help him, though.

Overall, this looks like a loser for Oakland. The A’s must be convinced that Cahill will never return to 2010 form and that his 2011 performance will be the norm going forward. It is a possibility, and if so, they were smart to sell when they did. But from my view, Cahill is a better bet than Parker going forward and Cowgill isn’t nearly promising enough to make up the difference. Score one for the Diamondbacks.

  1. goawaydog - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    I have mixed feelings about this … 1) i feel for A’s fans because it looks like the D-Backs got the better of this one and in typical fashion Billy keeps trading away good players for prospects so they never make any headway towards contending 2) Pissed my Giants now have to face Cahill and the DBacks now have a stronger rotation. Lose lose for Bay Area baseball

    • lostsok - Dec 9, 2011 at 10:44 PM

      Agree as a Dodger fan. I wasn’t scared of a prospect that may never be healthy or find home plate…Cahill scares me. Great move by the B-Bags, err…D-Backs.

    • thekcubrats - Dec 10, 2011 at 12:19 AM

      So let me get this straight, the A’s bag the next Latos/JZimm, with one full season since his TJ, a bullet thrower on that just about to be 2nd season way back don’t you know, for a fake arm, a Lohse/Garland in the making on his way from a pitcher’s paradise to a hitter’s one (that gaudy 18W season does blind, don’t it, and that’s your lead fact? wins?)… and you laud the other side of this? You lay out his AA numbers but don’t crunch them or put them into context, but claim he’ll walk more than 4 per 9 in the bigs based on… yet those numbers, when one does, you know, matheficatify them, support you with a 3.79 BB/9 IP. In the first full season back from TJ. Like there isn’t an established narrative about such things.

      Not to mention a likely starting OF, actual prospect, who’s not gotten, you say, the respect he’s deserved from his production because he’s too short and wee, and then you still kneejerkily claim that his power won’t translate because, surprise, he’s too short and wee? And you dismiss an RP throw-in for being unexceptional, after throwing up his 62 K/61 IP numbers (not like K/IP is anything one might desire), just because you say so. Or you thought somebody told you to say so. Is there a synapse firing in there? My fake rhetorical question used to be, how did you land this sinecure, but now it’s, how do you keep it?

  2. phillyphever - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Sooo…..when are the A’s gonna get contracted?

    • mirmz - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:47 PM

      Only after Selig vetoes this trade saying it isn’t in the best interest of Major League Baseball.

    • cowboysoldiertx - Dec 10, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      Not soon enough!

  3. APBA Guy - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    Definitely not sure about this one, especially with Curt Young coming back as pitching coach. Cahill’s problem is that his arm is too live. That’s something someone his age can often learn to harness.

    This looks like the A’s are setting up for a sale, not a rebuild under this ownership. They are jettisoning any hint of payroll, apparently to get down to a Marlins like payroll. Expect some of the higher paid relievers to go next.

    But if I’m Cahill I’d be happy with this move. The D’Backs won the division last year. And now he doesn’t have to face Pujols.

    • marinersnate - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:06 PM

      It does look like the A’s are starting a fire sale. Fuentes, Balfour, and probably Suzuki next. They are also shopping Gio and Bailey hard. Both are arb-eligible this year. With two 2000 lb. monsters now residing in the AL West, I posted yesterday that the M’s might want to persue the same stratogy. But I was only kidding.

      It might be time that the A’s look for foreign ownership. Perhaps a Cuban….

  4. qcubed3 - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Is this deal done, because I’m reading on Rotoworld (via USAToday) that Parker may not be part of that package? But, even if Parker is gone, good trade for the DBacks.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      Yeah, it’s done. Press release and everything.

  5. nomoreseasontix - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:36 PM

    You’re looking at Beane’s moves from the wrong angle.
    IF the A’s are executing a plan to degrade the on-field product to bolster their claims that they have to move to San Jose in order to survive, the move makes perfect sense.
    There is clearly such a plan. It’s been apparent since 2005 when Selig’s frat boy pal Wolff and his cohorts acquired the team.
    And it’s a shame….

    • JBerardi - Dec 9, 2011 at 9:50 PM

      When Albert Pujols gets greedy, he takes money out of the pockets of a billionaire. When that billionaire gets greedy, he takes money out of your pocket.

      • Gonzo - Dec 9, 2011 at 10:34 PM

        What’s your point?

      • JBerardi - Dec 10, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        That fan anger at players is misdirected.

  6. clydeserra - Dec 9, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Its not really taking a chance on the A’s part. Cahill had a sub 3 ERA in 2010 and a FIP of over 4 (4.19). And lo and behold he had an ERA of 4.16 in 2011 (FIP 4.10).

    He stopped striking people out, stopped using his curveball and had relied on his defense too much. He has been a 2 WAR pitcher in the past 2 years.

    • thekcubrats - Dec 10, 2011 at 1:11 AM

      what he said

  7. jonirocit - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:16 PM

    The a’s did it to stick it to the giants . I agree it time to get rid of this franchise . The pack the stadium to the tune of 3000 fans a game and they never try to win . They are hopeless

  8. tashkalucy - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    Would someone please explain the Billy Beane myth to me?

    He seems to have no idea on how to build a team. But the yuppies love him because he’s a stat freak.

    Team win when core players stay together, play together and grow together. Most franchises use metrics, but more and more of the winners learned to put fundamental analysis ahead of technical analysis. Beane still looks at the computer instead of into a players heart, as does his friend Mark Shapiro in Cleveland. And both teams play the same sort of baseball – dumb. No savvy on the field. No intelligence on the field. Hitters taught to hit foul balls to get walks and their OBP up, but unable to get hits to drive runners in.

    Though I will say that Beane turns over the A’s roster more then Shapiro, and his parrot Antonetti.

    Like the Indians, the A’s place in MLB seems to be developing players at the major league level for good teams that trade prospects for the developed players….and they then develop those prospects. Rinse. Repeat. Of course in the Indians case, they also help rehab injured players that then go out and sign lucrative contracts elsewhere if they get their game together. And if they don’t, Shapiro-Antonetti keep them around.

    Both organizations feature AAAA teams year-after-year.

    • Reflex - Dec 10, 2011 at 2:41 AM

      Actually its just the opposite. Most of the winning teams now are using the same techniques Beane is. Given that most of them have far greater payroll, they get more effect out of it. What Beane has not done is find the next great efficiency. I’m sure he’s working on that, but there are a lot of other smart GM’s out there too.

      There has not been a reversion away from statistical analysis. If anything its only intensified. And thats the problem, Beane was one of very few doing it before. So he had a huge advantage. Now almost everyone is doing it, so Beane has lost that advantage.

    • dan1111 - Dec 10, 2011 at 2:49 AM

      The Billy Beane “myth” comes from the fact that he put together a dominant team year after year on low payroll. They developed great young talent and executed trades that made other teams look silly. The last five years have been disappointing, but you can’t just ignore his previous success.

      • tashkalucy - Dec 10, 2011 at 6:42 AM

        Yes Dan,

        I know the last 5 years have been “disappointing”.

        And that’s my point.

        The history of technology in any field is that when initially introduced, it gives those that used it first a leg up. But within a short period of time, it becomes mainstream, and no longer gives anyone an edge.

        Billy Beane just turns over a good portion of his team year-after-year. His teams only identity is that they play poor fundamental baseball – don’t play defense well, let other teams run on them, don’t run the bases well, don’t move their runners along because they strike out above the norm a after tying to work the count, etc. And addition to playing poorly on the field, they have such a turnover of players that if one doesn’t follow closely, one has no idea of who the core players are. The Indians do the same thing. Come back every 2 or 3 years and all of the previous young core players are gone replaced by new core players. It’s a never ending rebuilding project. Like playing fantasy baseball with real players.

      • Reflex - Dec 10, 2011 at 8:54 PM

        So whats the point of your posts? For more than a decade Beane used a technique few others were using that was very insightful and led to an extended run of success. That success, however, did not translate into a higher payroll so as others caught on to what he was doing his advantage decreased.

        What is the myth you are reffering to? That he implemented a player assessment methodology that has revolutionized the sport? Or that he has not come up with something equally insightful since that time? I’m not sure how many times you can expect one person to revolutionize something to the degree that he did with Moneyball. It seems you are faulting him for not being Steve Jobs. That does not mean he is incompetent or bad at his job, it means his restrictions have kept him from continuing his success in the market he is in.

    • JBerardi - Dec 10, 2011 at 10:04 AM

      “Hitters taught to hit foul balls to get walks and their OBP up, but unable to get hits to drive runners in.”

      This makes the “9/11 was an inside job!” and “Obama is a moooooooslim!” people look halfway respectable. Get a grip, man.

      • tashkalucy - Dec 10, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        In adddition to ESPN’s hioghlights……

        Do you ever watch a major league game? Minor league? Litlte league?

      • simplicitymadecomplex - Dec 14, 2011 at 1:19 PM

        For the attack on 9/11 to have succeeded, and it certainly did, it HAD to be an inside job.

        Box cutters against the imperial u.s. and they win !!! without inside assistance ?

        BTB the “win” was NOT the “9/11″ day itself – it has been everything that the u.s. has done to “itself” since that day.

      • Reflex - Dec 14, 2011 at 1:40 PM

        Um, box cutters against passengers and a flight staff who had no clue their plan was to fly the planes into a building. Had people known they were suicidal, they never would have let them take over the plane.

        And just because your mind can’t imagine how it could be done without it being an inside job, does not mean it actually was.

  9. thekcubrats - Dec 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Set aside that the Backs had Parker penciled in as a starter for 2012, if they couldn’t deal for something more established (or shall we say gaudy, with an 18 W etc). As the simplest of research shows, and this is from BP’s simpletons:

    In his first 13 starts in 2011 for Double-A Mobile [Parker] had a 4.87 ERA; in his final 13, he had a 2.84 mark with a much improved walk rate and didn’t allow a single home run. His fastball has plenty of sink and produces lots of ground balls when it yields any contact at all.

    Research. Look it up Matt, the concept is useful.

  10. brant76 - Dec 13, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Once again Billy Beane proves that it’s gone to his head and he keeps focusing on his Moneyball glory days. This guy is a horrible GM. That book and movie need a sequel that shows how he ran the team into the ground. I’ve been an A’s fan since 1986, but it gets harder to watch each season. Every spring traning you scratch your head and wonder who those guys on the roster are and what happened to the one’s from last year. Fire Beane and get rid of Wolff the carpet bag owner. I never thought he could be worse than the Schott and Hoffman ownership, but man was I wrong.

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