Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reviewing Hart's Trades: Josh Elander for Trevor Cahill and bags of money

The Braves have been active in John Hart's first season at the helm to the tune of SIXTEEN TRADES! Sixteen deals involving major league talent going one direction or in both. Sixteen deals that include over 50 different players, a few draft picks, lots of cash, and two Uptons. It's been friggin unreal to see what the Braves have done.

With most of the season in our rear view, it's time to start reviewing each one of these trades. This series is going take a little while to get through, but hey, it gives me something to write about.

Trades Already Reviewed
La Stella for Vizcaino
Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins
Varvaro for Kurcz
J. Upton for Jace Peterson and prospects
Carp/Shreve for Banulos
Kubitza/Hyatt for Sanchez
Gattis for Foltynewicz and Ruiz
Hale for Briceno

The Trade
Josh Elander to the Diamondbacks for Trevor Cahill and cash.

The Rationale
Kevin C. Cox | Getty
It really wasn't that long ago that Cahill was a serviceable major league starter. In 2012, his first season with the Diamondbacks, he had a 3.78 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and a 3.84 SIERA. Certainly not awesome numbers, but pretty good numbers overall. He had completed the second year of a five-year contract he had signed with the A's before Oakland dealt him to Arizona for a trio of players. Overall, Cahill looked like he was worth the at least $25.5M he would receive from 2013-2015 (with more to be earned if team options were exercised).

But 2013's numbers weren't good and in 2014, his GB% had dipped below 50% for the first time since his rookie year. However, and this gets lost, he seemed better than his 5.61 ERA indicated. Remember those 2012 FIP's and SIERA's? In 2014, he had a 3.89 FIP and 3.96 SIERA. His numbers should have been better. It looked, at least for people who saw beyond his baseball card stats, that the Braves were acquiring a pretty decent option to stabilize the bottom-of-the-rotation. With any luck, he would re-establish some trade value and the Braves would effectively turn Elander into a better prospect. Win-win.

Speaking of Elander, he had been the Braves' sixth round pick in the 2012 draft and was a pretty interesting prospect until he got to Lynchburg. He hit .260/.366/.439 with Danville after being drafted and .318/.381/.536 with 11 HR in a 74-game run with Rome in 2013 before being promoted to Lynchburg. Injuries, especially to his shoulder, and poor play removed a good portion of the hype, but Elander was on the cusp of some people's organizational prospect list. Elander unfortunately wasn't able to stick at catcher, which would have helped his value tremendously. He had been moved to left in 2013.

And then there was the money. Cahill was due $12M in 2015. The Diamondbacks agreed to pay more than half of the tab, leaving the Braves to take a $5.5M flier (plus a $300K buyout) on a guy who was likely a better option than Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults.

Short-Term Results
So little of this trade worked for either side. Elander lasted all of a month in the Arizona system before being cut. As far as I can tell, he has not signed elsewhere since. He'll turn 25 before the 2016 season and has not played above high-A ball. The TCU product might give the indies a try or just hang 'em up.

Cahill started the eighth game of the year. He lasted 2.1 ING and gave up four runs. Seven days later, four more runs and four innings this time. Five days later, he got to six innings and gave up, you guessed it, four runs. It would be the last game he started for the Braves. The Braves called up Mike Foltynewicz to replace Cahill and sent the latter to the bullpen. Used often in blowouts, Cahill only gave up runs in four of his 12 games, but when he gave 'em up, he gave them up in bunches. Four to the Nats, three to the Brewers, and three more to the Pirates. The Braves DFA'd him on June 11 and called up Dana Eveland. Ugh, Dana Eveland.

Once released, Cahill signed with the Dodgers organization and tried to stretch his arm out, but after eight games, he wasn't getting anywhere with LA's organization so he opted out to sign with the Cubs in mid-August. The Cubs immediately put him in the pen and after a handful of games in AAA, he was promoted to the bigs when rosters expanded. The pen seemed to agree with him. He racked up a bunch of strikeouts, kept the ball on the ground, and over 11 appearances, he allowed just four runs in 17 ING with a 0.77 WHIP and 4.4 K/BB rate. It was the perfect mix for Cahill. His success led the Cubs to keep him for the postseason and he appeared in three games in the NLDS. He gave up one run, but six of the eight batters he retired came via the strikeout. All of the games he appeared in were wins for the Cubs, including the deciding Game 4 where he gave up a tying run, but watched as the Cubs retook the lead, making "Trevor Cahill" as the answer to who got the win in Chicago's first playoff series win since 2003.

Long-Term Outlook
Neither team got much out of this one. The Braves' $5.5M gamble didn't pay off, though I guess you could argue that the Diamondbacks got that much in salary relief and opened a rotation slot for Archie Bradley so even as Elander was cut shortly after the trade, Arizona wins this one. Even then, it's not a big deal either way. The Braves surrendered little more than payroll space and took a chance - and a worthy one at that - on a pitcher who had better peripherals than production. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

This is completely unproven, but I like to think that the relationship began in this deal between John Hart/John Coppolella and new D'Backs GM Dave Stewart may have helped lead to the later Touki Toussaint trade. After all, the Braves showed that they were willing to take on salary and report between GM's can be especially helpful. Just a thought because other than that, there's not much to make of in the long-term related to this deal.

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