The D-backs may have quite a few players that they’d like to renegotiate salaries with, but after purging Miguel Montero‘s contract and shuffling some deck chairs in the offseason, there are probably only three contracts that the team wishes it could outright delete right now. I’ll give you a hint; their three 2015 salaries/offseason commitments total about $33M. The team might be looking into possible arrangements for those contracts. Or, wait, no, we have no idea.

Or not.

Or wait, no, we have no idea.

I doubt the D-backs would give away any of these players right now, eating all of the money. They are probably closest on Cody Ross; as we discussed on Episode 17 of The Pool Shot, comments from the organization seem to be paving the way for a late-spring release.

“Best 25 players” cuts both ways, of course. And it’s a helpful position to maintain at all times, because should there ever be a grievance filed by a player who thought he had been kept down in the minors purely for service time considerations, never wavering from that one position would be the right defense.

Also, though: for all we know, Heyman is part of the choreography here (only person who might be persona non grata is Bob Nightengale). And either way, I think we can safely say that all three of these players are eminently available. Ross could probably be had if the trading team agreed to pay just $2M of his 2015 salary. Trevor Cahill, maybe the D-backs would only eat $3M or $4M.

Aaron Hill is kind of a different situation — there’s every reason to think him capable of a bounce-back this year, and there’s no heir apparent like there is at some other positions (I’m doubting that the team is expecting or prepared to anoint Nick Ahmed the shortstop of the future, with Chris Owings moving over). Chances are, the team will stand on a demand similar to the one made with Martin Prado last summer: no, you’re taking the whole contract. And yes, we want a player back that has a chance to actually matter.

So Trevor Cahill is kind of the wild card. The D-backs could actually make him attractive if they ate money; they could also probably dump most of their commitment by shouldering just 30%-40% of the financial load. Total guess, of course. But Cahill does have some upside, and if I’m GM-ing one of about 10-15 of teams out there, I like Cahill as a short-term gamble away from Chase Field.

There’s more to do on figuring out Cahill, especially in light of his new effort with respect to his release point. The cause of Cahill’s downturn in performance was the subject of this piece on Friday (hence the title), but “luck” is not a satisfying answer. We might be able to say that if it was luck, that’s how it would look. We can, as I think I did, eliminate some other explanations.

The fact that Cahill’s FIP and SIERA didn’t increase (they actually went down) in 2014 tells us that, on the surface, the considerations that those two statistics have in common with each other (walks, strikeouts, home runs) should not explain the rise in ERA. A change in Cahill’s walk rate or strikeout rate — if they actually mattered, or didn’t compensate for each other — would be accounted for by FIP and SIERA, so that’s not it.

Instead, the explanation should be either that Cahill was doing something that caused batted balls to turn into hits more frequently (such as increased HHAV or Line Drive %, those things probably being Cahill’s fault), that there was a non-Cahill reason for why batted balls were turning into hits more frequently (luck, defensive efficiency, change in park conditions like a fence being moved), or that while FIP and SIERA were understanding the effect of Cahill’s walks and strikeouts on a normal distribution, maybe Cahill was grouping them in a very unusual and especially harmful way (inconsistency).

Here’s the progress I think we’ve made: because Cahill’s Hard Hit Average in 2014 was no worse than in 2013, I don’t think his increase in line drive rate is his fault (though, on some level, the drop in ground ball rate could be). I think it’s also clear from the way that Cahill’s HHAV changed with respect to individual types of ground balls, and from his BABIP on those, that we can’t blame a drop in defensive efficiency. And I also tried to test inconsistency in one way, by looking to see if his walks were grouped in a way other than what we would expect in a normal or bell curve distribution — no dice there.

So it could be luck. Or it could still be something else — tipping pitches, for instance, even though I would think that would also show up in HHAV (slugging against should too, I think?). Maybe Cahill was inconsistent in a way I didn’t think to test. There are ways to demonstrate how he was getting hit hard, but since he was getting hit no harder than he was in 2013 overall, I’m not sure that explains the difference, either. But we’ll return to this with fresh eyes. And if Cahill makes the April rotation, we’ll get more information to work with.

Back to what really matters. And Jake Lamb.

On to the links:

  • Remember how Addison Reed was feeling shoulder discomfort before spring training (a fact that might have been one reason to settle well below the arbitration midpoint)? As Steve Gilbert writes, it could still be a couple of weeks before Reed gets on a mound, all though all systems are go and Reed is not hurting. The 20th of March does not leave a ton of time, but it’s not like he’s not building up strength right now, and we’re not talking about a starting pitcher.
  • It’s crazy how much good stuff is out there now on the D-backs, especially from Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan. In this piece, Buchanan corresponds with CEO Derrick Hall about the team’s payroll and how there are ways to lower it if necessary (related to the material above). Hall notes that lowering the payroll might be a midseason move, presumably if the team is not in contention — but he also thought it would depend on revenues. Maybe the most interesting nugget is at the end: after years of shying away from performance bonuses, the recent incentives in the contracts of Addison Reed and Yasmany Tomas may not be an aberration going forward. From the piece: “Hall said the team is considering using more performance bonuses in contracts to lure free agents.” Great work here from Buchanan.
  • Also very interesting from both writers: Chase Anderson may have a leg up in the rotation competition. This is SUPER interesting and we will be circling back to put this under a microscope: Anderson is looking to incorporate a two-seamer more to help cut down on home runs (!). Part of what is so interesting is Anderson’s comment: “I want to become a guy who can get more ground balls when I need to get ground balls.” Situationally… that’s interesting. And the notes on Will Locante and Socrates Brito could be important, too.
  • I had no idea that Dave Stewart had been Enrique Burgos‘s agent, or else I totally forgot. And this Piecoro piece is a nice reminder that the psychology does matter. It was fun to read in this piece about how Paul Goldschmidt is helping the team in ways other than as a player (read between the lines on the Chris Owings comment… is that not super interesting?). He is definitely a master craftsman at this point.
  • Presented (almost) without comment, since we led off Episode 17 of The Pool Shot with discussion of these two pieces (both from Piecoro, and also Buchanan on the first one): Yasmany Tomas will get some reps in the outfield when he’s not playing third, and Jake Lamb is oozing with talent. Said La Russa of Lamb: “He just looks great.” I can’t wait to see that for myself. But you knew that already. Oh, and on the Tomas playing some OF issue: you will be interested to see what Tomas himself had to say about that, in this piece from Jesse Sanchez.
  • Also from Buchanan, this on Brandon Drury and his efforts to play second base as well as third. This is definitely something to watch for all of spring training, but this will also become a HUGE theme during the year. Remember the note in the first bullet about how guys like Aaron Hill might get moved during the season? The team might Hamlet about that decision all year, and one of the biggest considerations in that is if they think they have a different second baseman for the job in 2016. Pennington and/or Owings and/or Ahmed is all well and good for the balance of 2015 if Hill gets traded, but Penny probably won’t be sticking around, and part of why Penny probably won’t be sticking around is that Ahmed’s ideal role is something less than starter but something more than reserve. Much virtual ink to be spilled on this in the not-too-distant future and for at least 13 months.
  • I really don’t mean to get down on Yoan Lopez, which may not have been particularly clear from how I handled this roundup last week. How the team played the Lopez signing — and how the team handles the other, related steps it could take — has nothing to do with not liking Lopez as a prospect. The team promised Lopez a shot at the rotation imminently (that was part of the idea of signing with Arizona), and it’s time to really start paying attention. I wholeheartedly endorse this piece on Lopez from the excellent Jesse Sanchez.
  • Tons of great spring training coverage at Snake Pit, and failing to link to it all is really just a testament to how much great stuff there is. Here’s a collection of ST reporting tweets, for example. Here’s the overall spring training guide that, frankly, should be publicized for fans of all teams with AZ spring training sites. I’m going to be relying on this for my brief trip the weekend after next.
  • The broadcast schedule is out, and Steve Gilbert notes that the team will have a game televised on FOX Sports 1 and another on FOX. Glad for the new blackout rules.
  • As Joe Jacquez wrote at Venom Strikes, the new TV deal means new expectations for the franchise — and makes bailing on any season a little less defensible. The organization has been careful to maintain the message that 2015 is about doing well, even if it’s not about contending — this is not a rebuilding year. The closest we came to that was a recent Chip Hale comment about the importance of getting back to .500 (which is something I find it hard to care about).
  • You don’t have to believe me, but the header material about trades above was written before I saw this Steve Adams analysis piece at MLBTradeRumors, which is an excellent recast of Cahill, Ross and Hill as trade candidates or targets. Highly recommended. And, really, if you’re not checking on MLBTradeRumors regularly, I’m not sure that you and I have much in common. Thanks to those folks for all of their fantastic work.
  • Didn’t catch this last week: Craig Edwards putting the D-backs’ new TV deal in context, and doing a great job of it at FanGraphs. Also highly recommended, obviously: Jeff Wiser’s piece on the implications of the same topic, last week.
  • At the mother ship: David Schoenfield takes a look at the leadoff slot for all NL teams. Yeah, this is not an easy one for the D-backs to sort out.
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4 Responses to Roundup: To Trade, or Not to Trade; Finding Cahill

  1. Anonymous says:

    we need more Yoan commentary, there’s tinstaap of course, but how we get Yoan again without a major major major battle?

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Jeff is your prospects guy, and probably the only one who can help right now.

      I’m as curious as you are, I just have nothing I’m comfortable analyzing. More video or plain old minor league stats might be enough. PITCHf/x (which could happen during ST) and/or major league stats would definitely do it, even if there wasn’t much…

  2. Truxton says:

    Your comments about trading Pennington remind me of like comments made about Ish Smith formerly of the Suns, they’re just not quite good enough. Well, these 2 guys are like the glue that holds a team together. Getting rid of them has consequences. Back to Pennington, he has great skill as a clutch pinch hitter. Trading him in this transition year would be foolish and detrimental to a rebuilding team.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Hey, if I had my druthers, Pennington wouldn’t be the only defense-first player preferred for playing time. He’s still a second division starter, probably. Although you lose me at clutch… I think our brains are hardwired to make more of certain kinds of memories. I don’t trust my brain to properly weigh the times when Penny came through in the clutch against the times that he didn’t, and, no offense, don’t really trust yours either. Not when we have other useful information that is available so easily.

      I agree with you that trading him, even in July or August, would be detrimental to the team. He’s valuable. But exactly how big a role do you anticipate him having in September, anyway?

      Detrimental to the 25-man doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea for the org, though. Not sure how we would make that determination — or decide that it would be foolish — without knowing what the return would be.

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