Cashing in.

His career, at least from a procedural standpoint, has been cause for a lot of disappointment.

Atlanta drafted Andrew Cashner in 2005, in the 20th round, out of Conroe High School just outside of Houston.  The Braves were unable to sign him.

Colorado drafted Cashner in 2006, in the 18th round, out of Angelina College in Lufkin.  The Rockies were unable to sign him as a draft-and-follow.

Days later, the Cubs drafted Cashner in 2007, in the 29th round, out of Angelina.  They were unable to sign him, offering $250,000 but not the $350,000 that the righthander sought.

Reports suggest Cashner was disappointed himself that June not to have been selected by Houston.

The Cubs went back to the well in 2008, drafting Cashner in the 1st round, 19th overall, this time out of TCU, where he closed games for the Horned Frogs, holding opponents to a .104 batting average with velocity that touched 100 and a wipeout slider. 

I don’t know if Nolan Ryan (Cashner’s boyhood idol) was disappointed, but there were stories at the time that he was in favor of Texas choosing Cashner in the 11th slot in that round.  The Rangers took Justin Smoak instead.

Without Smoak, even if they had Cashner, the Rangers wouldn’t have gotten Cliff Lee.

The Padres were disappointed, certainly at some point, once they’d traded rookie Anthony Rizzo and minor leaguer Zach Cates to the Cubs for Cashner, also a rookie, and minor leaguer Kyung-Min Na before the 2012 season.

Miami was disappointed, I imagine, after trading Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo, and Josh Naylor to San Diego for Cashner, Colin Rea, and Tayron Guerrero (though Rea was returned for Castillo three days later).  The Marlins, tied for the second NL Wild Card spot at the time of the trade, were hoping Cashner would help them solidify their playoff chances.  Instead, he went 1-4, 5.98 in 11 Marlins starts and a relief appearance, and Miami’s 24-35 record after the trade was only half a game better than the league’s worst record — which belonged to the Padres.

Cashner is probably disappointed at some level that he’s just signed a one-year deal before Thanksgiving in what was his first career shot at free agency.  November free agent deals typically involve players jumping at opportunities they fear they could get shut out of later in the winter.  Premier free agents tend to wait much longer. 

Cashner had to feel pretty confident, especially once Stephen Strasburg signed his Nationals extension in May, that he would be among the prize free agent targets on the thin pitching market this winter — and when, leading up to the trade deadline (with Texas apparently among his suitors), he’d allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 of 17 starts.  The then-29-year-old who had never played for a playoff club probably viewed his entry into the pennant race when the Marlins picked him up as added fuel for what would be a robust winter opportunity.

But then the league hit .301/.389/.500 off him in those 12 Miami appearances, his walk rate (5.1 per nine innings) was the highest of his career, and here he sits today, having signed a one-year contract on a market that produced a two-year deal for 33-year-old Charlie Morton (coming off a season in which he pitched four games), having settled for a $10 million deal when 43-year-old Bartolo Colon got $12.5 million.

Nine months ago I wrote about a one-year contract Texas had handed out that made me “nervous” and “uneasy,” that was “[n]ot really a perfect fit,” but instead “a gamble that require[d] a little bit of a leap of faith.”   

Today, the Rangers will either get Ian Desmond back for a long time, or a supplemental first-round draft pick as compensation, and either way they got a tremendous 30-year-old season from a guy who, even if his market hadn’t developed the way he’d envisioned, wanted to be here.

That’s the hope with Cashner, who (unlike Desmond) didn’t cost Texas a first-round pick to sign, and it doesn’t have to be at that level.

Cashner is a player whose results haven’t matched his profile, and Doug Brocail thinks he can help narrow that gap.  He’s going to be primed for a second run at free agency a year from now and, like Desmond, motivated to make sure he’s a whole lot more marketable the next time — just like he did when he refused three straight years out of the draft to sign, betting on himself and betting right.

Cashner is a guy whose production and velocity and bats missed and home run suppression and ground ball rate have declined three straight years, since elbow and shoulder injuries marred what was otherwise a career year in 2014.  After a combined 11-27 record with an ERA of 4.72 the past two seasons, he’s clearly got something to prove. 

And he’s going get that chance with a legitimate contender, for the first time.  He won’t be counted on to carry a staff, even a little bit.

From the club’s standpoint, one-year deals are rarely disasters (Dave Cameron [FanGraphs]: “1/$10M for a starting pitcher with any kind of ability isn’t a bad idea”), and sometimes you can hit big.  If Brocail is really able to tweak something with a guy whose stuff, not long ago, was borderline elite, and if Cashner gives Texas reliable number 3 or number 4 starter work, then he helps in 2017, and possibly positions himself for a strong enough winter market that the Rangers can float a 2018 qualifying offer (assuming that procedure survives CBA negotiations this winter) and recover a supplemental first-round pick if he signs elsewhere.

At roughly the amount Texas would have had to pay to keep Derek Holland rather than buy his contract out, Cashner’s arrival probably cements Holland’s departure.  As for Colby Lewis, local reports indicate he and the club have yet to talk, but I’m not sure that’s all that notable, given that the Rangers have encouraged Lewis to test the market just about every winter before getting back together to hammer out a deal.

If not Lewis, I would still expect the Rangers to add another starting pitcher.  Maybe in a trade for a guy who slots ahead of Cashner (possibly even at an impact level, e.g., Chris Sale, Chris Archer, Jose Quintana), or maybe it will be a contract or a trade for someone who settles in at the back of the rotation.  I don’t think they’re done.

Think back to the trade for Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez on July 27.  It wasn’t worth getting worked up, as some did, worrying that that’s all Texas was going to do at the trade deadline. 

Five days later, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran and Jeremy Jeffress were Rangers.

The other thing about this signing is that moving on Cashner quickly allows Texas to shift focus ahead of the Winter Meetings to center field, or first base, or that other slot in the rotation, with a little more roster certainty.

Expectations were appropriately low for A.J. Griffin and for Carlos Gomez in 2016, and they produced.  The financial commitment to Cashner is obviously more serious, but there’s upside.  I wouldn’t say I’m any more excited about his arrival than I was when the Rangers signed Desmond to a pillow deal a year ago, but I know was less crazy about the Gomez pickup, and I’ve learned that withholding judgment and trusting the scouts can be a healthy thing, especially this early in the winter.

Don’t think of Cashner as the former All-American or the former first-round pick or the guy who once threw eight straight 101- or 102-mph pitches in a standoff with Giancarlo Stanton or the guy who was once traded for Anthony Rizzo.

Think of him as a low-risk gamble with a bit of a high-end reward that, with a tiny squint of the eyes, can at least be imagined.  Maybe the Rangers are about to cash in a little bit.  Maybe the player is, too.

If you’re one of those underwhelmed by the Cashner signing, know that there’s likely more to come, that he’s not being counted on as a game-changer, and that this is just a one-year commitment at not a whole lot more than the average salary on the club. 

Let’s see how this shakes out.  The worthwhile exercise, before we see what Brocail can do with Cashner and before we see what Cashner can do here and before we see what else Texas has in store this winter, may be to curb your disappointment.

 

 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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