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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Trevor Cahill

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Cahill would be a nice depth starter, but the fit isn’t obvious.

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Even after agreeing to terms with J.A. Happ, the Yankees are still looking out for starting pitching. Brian Cashman prefers elite arms, but given the market, he may have to settle for depth pieces. Hey, that is never a bad thing. The team is just an injury or two away from Luis Cessa becoming a rotation regular. Of the remaining free agent pitchers on the market, Trevor Cahill represents the most intriguing target.

Cahill, 30, has experienced a roller coaster ride of a career. He went from top prospect and All-Star in his age-22 season to journeyman depth arm by the time he turned 30. The bottom fell out from underneath him after 2013, and while the right-hander had some success out of the Cubs bullpen in 2016, it took until the 2018 season for Cahill to fully reestablish himself.

In 20 starts for the Athletics, Cahill posted a 3.76 ERA with a 3.54 FIP. He racked up strikeouts (8.18 K/9), groundballs (53.4%), and limited home runs (0.65 HR/9). He credited his success to a curveball he refined while with the Padres.

“That’s kind of when I realized my curveball could be a really good pitch for me. I kind of continued that in Oakland this year. And when the curveball wasn’t there, I could still use it to steal a strike. And then my changeup was probaby more consistent than my curveball, so I could save my changeup for a put-away pitch.”

That sounds pretty good, right? There are some concerns with Cahill, however, especially in regards to his fit on the Yankees. First, the right-hander is not the standard-bearer for good health. Over the last three years alone, he’s missed time with back, shoulder, elbow, and achilles problems. Durability isn’t exactly his calling card.

On the other hand, Cahill found success as a groundball pitcher. Jeff Sullivan credited his 2018 success on the Oakland’s remarkable infield defense. “The A’s assumed they’d have a good infield defense,” Sullivan wrote, “and the evidence validates the assumption. The infield works to Cahill’s advantage. His strikeouts take care of most of the rest.”

As things stand, the Yankees don’t have the infield defense to allow Cahill to thrive. Miguel Andujar is a butcher at third base, and the combination of Luke Voit and Greg Bird at first would do him no favors either. Take away Didi Gregorius and that makes things all the more complicated. Cahill is a good pitcher, but the Yankees may not be the best team for him.

MLB Trade Rumors predicted a two-year, $22 million deal for Cahill. Jon Heyman reports that the right-hander has multiyear offers on the table. That probably puts him out of the Yankees’ price range for a depth starter. Between that and the lack of infield defense, it appears these two aren’t a match. That’s a shame, too, because he sure is better than Cessa.