The Oakland Athletics Should Pursue Trevor Cahill… As a Reliever

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Ever since being traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Arizona Diamondbacks all the way back in 2011, Trevor Cahill simply put, has not been the same pitcher. Since being named to the 2010 AL All Star roster and winning 18 games for the green and gold, his career began somewhat of a downward spiral.

After earning a respectable 3.87 ERA over 346.2 innings in his first two seasons (2012-13) in Arizona, Cahill posted a 3-12 record over 17 starts in 2014 and was demoted to the bullpen. Despite career-highs in hits per nine innings (10.0) and walks per nine innings (4.5), the Atlanta Braves decided to give him a chance in 2015 to resume his role as a starter in their rotation. This also did not go smoothly as he was again sent to the pen after losing his first three starts. From that point on, he threw primarily in garbage time – either his team was up or down by a large margin – and as a result, was traded to the Chicago Cubs where he found success doing something he’d never had to do before – focusing on one inning at a time.

Now obviously this wasn’t the first time he’d thrown out of the bullpen, but there was certainly a huge difference in his performance on the rubber. So what changed?

He cut down on his walks, re-channeled his velocity, and accepted the role given to him for the betterment of the team.

All three of these are qualities that the 2016 A’s bullpen could use. Last season with the Cubs, Cahill only surrendered five walks in 17 innings (zero walks in the postseason), while striking out 22. The average velocity on his primary pitch (sinker) increased by 1.5 miles per hour from ’14 to ’15, which is a significant jump. He also maxed out at 96 mph, which was by far the hardest he’d thrown since his stellar season in 2010 (95.4 mph).

Watching Cahill in the playoffs – along with many other former Athletics I might add – was like watching a completely different pitcher compared to his performance just earlier that season. I attribute this in majority to his mental growth, rather than his physical. A starter’s mentality is completely different to that of a relief pitcher – depending on your role – and to make that switch takes time and most importantly, a lot of trial and error. From watching him these past couple of years, it just did not seem like Cahill was able to get over that hump between being a fringe starter and truly committing himself to being a shutdown inning kind of arm.

Next: A's Looking Closely At Free Agent Relief Market

This past year there was none of it. On the bump during the latter part of the 2015 campaign, he was as healthy, confidant, and dominant as any late inning pitcher in the game. Oakland is in severe need of an 7th or 8th inning arm with some life left in his cannon – sorry, but Ryan Dull isn’t the answer. Going to Chicago obviously got the former All-Star over whatever kind of pitching plague he had been dealing with and he is back on track.

Now it’s time for the California native to come back to The Town that drafted him.

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