The Yankees have done a lot of work in a short amount of time. Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee, and Starlin Castro and Chase Headley are not. Thanks to the savings that Brian Cashman has been able to accrue, the Yankees have a little extra wiggle room when it comes to signing a new starting pitcher. While the team certainly has multiple options on how to proceed, and who to sign, the Yankees should be looking to Andrew Cashner as a potential Plan...E?
As we stand right now, Cashman has his hands in a lot of different pots right now while he attempts to figure out where to spend the money that is available to him. We have heard that he has interest in trading for Michael Fulmer of the Tigers, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks, and Gerrit Cole of the Pirates. Free agent CC Sabathia also remains a fallback option for the team in case they can’t add a younger arm. If all else fails, though, Cashner shouldn’t be ignored.
At one point, Andrew Cashner was a young, up-and-coming starting pitcher with the San Diego Padres. From 2013 to 2014, he maintained a 2.87 ERA over nearly 300 innings pitched, making him a certifiable ace and a true workhorse. Unfortunately, things slipped and injury cut him down to a simple innings eater. Over the course of five years with the Padres, he ended up as nothing more than a league-average arm.
He was traded to the Marlins in 2016, where he performed terribly, and it seemed like he had hit rock bottom. Then the Rangers came calling, signed him to a $10 million contract for the 2017 season, and suddenly he pitched to a 3.44 ERA over 166.2 innings. If the Rangers could get something of value from him, certainly the Yankees can too, right?
In 2017, Cashner changed the way he pitched in order to focus on his strengths. Despite all his faults over the years, he has always managed to keep the ball on the ground and inside the ballpark. Cashner had gotten away from those two consistencies in 2016, so the Texas Rangers found a way to set him back onto the right track. This past season, he significantly cut back on his fastballs and introduced a cutter into his repertoire. He also used his sinker more often, completely abandoned his slider, and relied on his offspeed stuff more frequently.
As a result of these changes, his ground ball rate came back to 48% and his home run per nine innings dropped to 0.8. Clearly something worked for him, and the hope would be that he can repeat that performance in 2018, but there are reasons to be skeptical too. The reliance on sinking pitches completely evaporated his strikeout abilities, which dropped to just 4.64 K/9. When you still have a 346 BB/9, it’s hard to say for sure that this wasn’t just a lucky season on his part.
The last factor to consider would be his contract, and while $10 million seems reasonable, he’s going to command more than that this time around. The Yankees should explore all options before they consider Cashner, but if he can be had on a one-year deal (maybe a club option too), it’s not a bad idea to take that as your no. 5 starter and see how he does.
It would have been a joke to even consider signing Cashner this time last year, but now it’s not so funny. We saw a glimpse of it last year, but in 2018 he truly has the chance to define himself as a whole new pitcher.