The SF Giants have a handful of key free agents, including Trevor Cahill, but the question is, should they reunite with the right-handed hurler in free agency?
The SF Giants list of free agents includes Cahill, Tony Watson, Drew Smyly, and Kevin Gausman. The case for keeping Gausman is a slam dunk, but the cases for keeping the remaining three are a little more nuanced.
At Around the Foghorn, we will be analyzing each case and deciding whether to buy (keep) each free agent or sell (let walk in free agency).
The SF Giants case for keeping Cahill
Giants President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi did a lot of heavy lifting for the offseason speculation when he said that they would be targeting a left-handed bat, a veteran reliever, and starting pitching depth. Of course, Cahill would fit into this third category.
One thing we have seen from Zaidi is that he is in an endless pursuit of starting pitching depth. Even when you feel comfortable with the Giants rotation, Zaidi is sitting on his phone and swiping right for the next arm.
The Giants brought in the 32-year-old last offseason on a minor league pact. The major league part of this deal included a $2 million salary with incentives.
That was a modest sum for someone who has over ten years of experience to his name, but perhaps, it was an opportunity to return to a place he was familiar with.
The Oakland A’s selected the veteran hurler in the second round of the 2006 draft and he spent the first few seasons with the A’s before being shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a deal that brought intriguing pitching prospect, Jarrod Parker, back to Oakland.
After bouncing around the league, Cahill returned to Oakland in 2018 where he turned his career around with a 3.76 ERA (3.54 FIP) across 110 frames.
This netted the righty a one-year, $9 million pact with the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. However, he was far less effective in his Angels tenure as he struggled to the tune of a 5.98 ERA (6.13 FIP) with 81 strikeouts in 102.1 innings.
That said, he pitched out of both the rotation and the bullpen and led the Angels squad in innings pitched, so he still soaked up innings.
After this, Cahill was not in the market for a major league deal, which brought him to San Francisco.
When he signed, there were no assurances of playing time. However, given his extensive track record, you knew he would show up at Oracle Park at some point just like we knew that Michael Scott was going to reappear in The Office series finale.
He appeared in 11 games with the Orange and Black, including six starts, and he posted a 3.24 ERA (4.19 FIP) with 31 strikeouts and 14 walks across 25 frames.
He definitely battled some command issues, but he was difficult to barrel-up as he yielded only 16 hits.
Interestingly, his 29.2 percent strikeout rate was the highest of his career. This could be small sample shenanigans, but his curveball usage did jump up to 23 percent with the Giants, which is significantly higher than his career mark of 12.6 percent.
On the year, He threw his curveball a total of 105 times, but opposing hitters did not register a hit against it. It was a very effective pitch, and perhaps part of the reason why he pitched so well this season.
On a different note, the 32-year-old posted a 4.05 ERA out of the rotation but pitched five scoreless innings in relief. The ability to flip back-and-forth between the rotation and the bullpen is a quality that Zaidi values.
In an extremely small sample, this was a nice, rebound season for Cahill.
Given the shortened, 60-game season, making any judgments based on the 2020 season is going to be an incomplete picture. Could Cahill sustain a 3.24 ERA through 162 games? Probably not, but he gave the SF Giants much-needed versatility.
I would say the Giants should buy Cahill again with the caveat that he should be brought back as a depth piece, rather than one of the top-five starters. Allow him to work out of the bullpen, then spot start when needed. That is how he was with the Giants this past season, and I think that is the role that best suits him.