Could Buy-Low Candidate Trevor Cahill be AJ Preller’s Next big Flip?

Trevor Cahill has earned a spot in the rotation. How good can he be for the Padres?

By Michael Cline

Last season, the San Diego Padres managed to flip Drew Pomeranz to Boston, in exchange for prized young pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza. After a half season of Pomeranz in San Diego, AJ Preller succeeded in turning Yonder Alonso into MLB’s 21th best prospect entering the 2017 season.

Preller acquired Pomeranz from the Oakland Athletics in December of 2015, while the main asset sent to the Bay Area was Yonder Alonso. Alonso, plagued by lengthy stays on the disabled list, never lived up to the potential that came with his arrival in the Mat Latos blockbuster deal. The Athletics, filling a need at First Base, dealt Pomeranz, who spent considerable time working out of the pen, back to the NL West.

Pomeranz was elite in his work on the mound starting for San Diego in the first half of the 2016 campaign. Pomeranz made 17 starts in a Padre uniform, notching 8 wins with a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. His 115 K through 102 IP cemented Pomeranz as an All Star, representing San Diego when Petco Park played host to the Midsummer Classic last July. Two weeks later, the Padres front office moved Pomeranz to the Boston Red Sox.

While General Manager AJ Preller didn’t pull off the type of trade to net a player like Pomeranz this past offseason, he did manage to ink a handful of veteran hurlers to lead the first four rotation spots. Trevor Cahill may be the arm for which the Padres were searching.

This spring, Cahill has thrown well enough to earn a starting job in a crowded contest. Cahill’s ERA of 3.26 is decent, but his average against (.155) and WHIP (1.14) stand out among a lackluster Padre group. Cahill has also missed bats, striking out 21 during the month of March. And while spring numbers don’t necessarily translate to regular season success, Cahill has shown signs of rebounding back to the performer he once while a starter with Oakland and Arizona between 2010-13.

Since a disastrous 2014 with the DBacks, splitting time between the rotation and bullpen with 69 earned runs and 123 hits through 110.2 innings of work, Cahill bounced around the minor leagues. Cahill also made brief appearances in the Majors with the Braves and Dodgers. Both stints were unsuccessful, leading Cahill to become a free agent.

Cahill’s 2016 efforts showed signs of a career rebirth, working out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs. He made 50 appearances, surrendering just 20 earned runs and 49 hits in 65.2 innings pitched. He also averaged just above a strikeout per inning. Though Cahill didn’t pitch in the Postseason, his regular season work was enough to make it back to the mound as a starter.

It seems highly unlikely that Preller flips Cahill for an Espinoza caliber prospect. However, San Diego should still be a potential trade partner come July. The Padres are poised to field a strong bullpen, and should veteran arms in the rotation like Cahill exceed expectation and perform well, the front office will likely listen to a number of offers. Depending on how the market develops, Cahill could be a target for contending teams, specifically if he continues to strike opposing batters out. In a rebuilding year, keep an eye on veteran pitching as San Diego looks to fortify its young core and developing farm system.

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