The July trade rumor season has progressed slower than usual this season. Perhaps it is due to the lack of marquee names on the trade block — there are no David Prices to be found this season — or the vast gulf between the haves and have nots of the 2016 season. Other than a few trades orchestrated by old friend Dave Dombrowski and the Boston Red Sox, the MLB Hot Stove has been rather tepid.
Until Wednesday, that is. Earlier this week, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported a whale of a rumor about Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, but buried underneath that was some news about San Diego Padres starter Andrew Cashner. According to Rosenthal, the 29-year-old Cashner was “drawing trade interest of a surprising number of clubs” as the trade deadline drew nearer. Rosenthal mentioned the Texas Rangers as a potential suitor, though there were clearly other parties involved. The Cashner rumor came to a head on Wednesday afternoon when multiple columnists reported that the Padres were looking to deal Cashner prior to his next scheduled start, a Thursday evening tilt with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Detroit Tigers are not one of the teams currently being mentioned in conjunction with Cashner. While the Rangers may be the frontrunners in the Cashner sweepstakes, the Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, and Kansas City Royals have shown varying levels of interest. However, the Tigers are a natural fit if they choose to buy at the trade deadline. They have already been out to the west coast to scout Oakland Athletics lefthander Rich Hill, and Cashner is exactly the type of big-bodied, hard-throwing pitcher the Tigers have targeted in just about every form of player acquisition since most of this front office joined the organization.
If the Tigers do enter the fray, they would be targeting a pitcher with a lot of upside, but also a lot of risk. Cashner has missed time due to multiple injuries this season, including a neck strain that shelved him for nearly a month in June. He has battled injuries throughout his career, including shoulder issues in 2014 and a thumb surgery in 2012. He has never managed to throw 200 innings in a season, and has only topped the 150-inning mark twice in nearly six years of MLB service time. And speaking of service time, Cashner will be a free agent after the season, making him a two-month rental for whichever team ponies up for his services.
There is some serious upside here, though. Cashner didn’t garner a lot of hype as a prospect, but has long been tabbed by many analysts as a potential breakout candidate. He had a strong 2013 season, with a 3.09 ERA and 3.35 FIP, and followed that up with a 2.55 ERA and 3.09 FIP in 123 1/3 innings in 2014. He throws in the mid-90s and can reach back for 98 miles per hour whenever he wants. In his last start, he struck out nine San Francisco Giants in six very strong innings. While his 5.05 ERA and 5.12 FIP this season aren’t pretty, he could easily go on a two-month tear racking up gobs of strikeouts. Or he could sprain something and make three starts in his new uniform.
Acquiring a pitcher like Cashner seems like a necessary risk for the Tigers at this point. Matt Boyd and Anibal Sanchez looked solid in their starts this week, but were facing one of the worst offenses in baseball and have not been quite so consistent in recent outings. Sanchez, in particular, still rates as one of the worst starters in baseball by many metrics, and has a history of torturing the Minnesota Twins.
The question, then, is whether the Tigers are better served finding a rental like Cashner — and I’d like to see them go after the high-upside option over a “safer” pick like Jeremy Hellickson — or a player with multiple years of club control remaining. Either way, going out and getting another pitcher seems preferable to standing pat with the current pitching staff, and Cashner could be the type of piece to put the Tigers over the hump if things break right.