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Cahill and Breslow Sent to Arizona

December 9, 2011

The A’s unleashed their first trade of the offseason shipping Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow along with cash considerations in exchange for RHP Jarrod Parker, OF Collin Cowgill (who the A’s drafted in 2007 though he didn’t sign) and Ryan Cook. Cahill, who will begin 2012 as a 24-year-old, spent three seasons in Oakland racking up 5.3 WAR in that time.  I have long contended Cahill is an innings eater solid middle to back of the rotation type guy and though I liked the A’s signing him long-term it wasn’t envisioning some new ace, at that time I wrote,

“Good deal with relatively low risk. I know there are plenty of people who will say, Cahill has been lucky, etc and frankly let’s be honest, aside from his very very recent (i.e. two starts) ability to rack of strikeouts, he has been largely benefiting from a BABIP that is low and unsustainable, yet the thing is this: assuming he has been very lucky, and he is not a great true number one ace and all he ends up being is a 180-200 inning number four starter with an ERA around four, that still gets us 1.5 to 2.0 WAR a year. On this deal, if he just is that guy, he pays for himself. So while a lot will label it a bust if he is a typical number four type pitcher and not an ace, in reality this deal is so reasonably priced (in baseball terms) that he can be just a fourth starter and still be worthwhile.”

I stand by that and this is why he is still a nice pickup for a club like Arizona. Cahill in his three years in Oakland managed a decent 3.83 ERA with a more telling 4.40 FIP. He managed an underwhelming 5.8 K/9 with 3.4 BB/9 and just 1.0 HR/9 across 583 innings of work in 96 starts. He caused a stir in 2010 with a year that superficially looked good: 2.97 ERA with a 18-8 record, but it was largely the result of some luck (.236 BABIP), and his 4.19 FIP painted a more accurate picture. In 2011 when he visibly struggled for a good portion of the season following a very strong start, he actually pitched better over the course of the season with a 4.10 FIP than he did in 2010 despite a much higher ERA (4.16). I never had a big problem with Cahill but I also won’t particularly miss him either as to me he is a middle of the road average pitcher.

Not to be forgotten the A’s also included Craig Breslow (and his beautiful hand). Breslow, the “smartest man in baseball” was a very solid reliever who resuscitated his career in Oakland. In his two plus years in Oakland after the A’s claimed him off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins on May 20th of 2009, Breslow has pitched 189 1/3 innings for the A’s, posting 7.6 K/9 with 3.2 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9. His time in green and gold featured a 3.14 ERA and 3.76 FIP with 1.4 WAR. I liked Breslow and I also liked that he was a left-handed pitcher without an extreme split (his career FIP vs. LHB is 3.52 whereas it is only 3.99 against RHB) meaning he could provide a different look to hitters without requiring several bullpen changes as LOOGYs would require. It is a shame we are trading him now when his value is perhaps at a lower if not its lowest point. Unfortunately as I noted in a post about how 2011 was just not his year,

“[this year] the less the game is on the line, the better he’s been.”

While there were numerous rumors (mostly supported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today) of Trevor Bauer being included in discussions – though from my understanding he could not be included even as a player to be named later until late January with him unable to switch organizations until June – ultimately the haul was less than that. Jarrod Parker in Baseball America’s listing of top Arizona Diamondback prospects ranked as their fourth best – from 2009-2011 he was ranked first in the organization. Parker spent the majority of 2011 with the Dback’s Double-A team the Mobile Bay Bears, where he went 130 2/3 innings in 26 starts posting 7.7 K/9 with 3.8 BB/9 and only 0.5 HR/9 for a 3.70 FIP countering a 3.79 ERA. That earned him a September call up to Arizona where he made one 5 2/3 inning start allowing no runs while walking and striking out one Los Angeles Dodger a piece. Baseball America projects him as being a closer but I anticipate the A’s will insert him immediately into the 2012 rotation.

Cowgill is someone Billy Beane has had his eye on for a while and finally he has received his prize. The former Kentucky Wildcat was drafted by Oakland but returned to school before being drafted again this time by Arizona in the 5th round of the 2008 draft. Since then the undersized (5′ 9″) outfielder has moved up the Diamondbacks system posting high OBPs (.383 career MiLB mark) finally graduating to the big league club in 2011 where he hit .239/.300/.304 over 100 plate appearances being worth 0.3 WAR as he saw big league pitching for the first time. It represented his only stop at any level where his wRC+ was below 100 (60), with his time spent in Triple-A Reno featuring a 155 wRC+ in 2011. It seems he can be penciled into the A’s outfield perhaps due to a lack of other options though it seems time for the 25-year-old to finally stick in the Majors.

Ryan Cook meanwhile is a lesser known prospect of the Dbacks who split 2011 between Mobile and Reno before earning a brief call-up to the Diamondbacks. In the minors, the right-handed reliever and former USC Trojan, went 61 innings of 2.21 ERA baseball tallying 9.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 0.3 HR/9. In his brief stint in Arizona, he played in 12 games throwing 7 1/3 innings of 7.04 ERA and 4.33 FIP baseball. Not sure where he exactly fits into the A’s plans though their bullpen now has a few more vacancies than it did before with the departures of Breslow and earlier this offseason Michael Wuertz.

Initial thoughts on the trade? Mixed. I don’t really mind seeing Cahill leave as I feel he is a sort of run of the mill pitcher, nothing special, no theatrics or anything that set him apart with pedestrian numbers. That said, the haul we got for a guy so well cost-controlled isn’t exactly eye-popping either. I think Parker has the potential to be a very good pitcher and look forward to see what he has to offer, but there is also a good chance Oakland leaves him in Sacramento (he has yet to pitch Triple-A ball making his MLB debut straight from Mobile this year) which would be disappointing. I trust Beane despite and a mixed record (I think fans who think every trade needs to work out are unrealistic in their expectations – it is after all an educated guessing game) – and a record that is mixed more poorly as of late – I think that Cowgill has to be intriguing given his numerous attempts to acquire him and he presently represents a clear upgrade in the outfield over either Michael Taylor, Jai Miller or Jermaine Mitchell and I am excited to see what he has to offer. Don’t know what to make of Cook who has been off my radar screen but it seems like he could be another intriguing bullpen piece for Oakland going forward. As with all trades only time will tell though we will break down this deal plenty in the days to come.

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