The Miami Marlins finally found their trade partner for their starting rotation need, acquiring the reinvigorated Andrew Cashner from the San Diego Padres in return for first base prospect Josh Naylor, the team’s only top-100 prospect. However, this trade ended up happening in a somewhat different fashion than expected, with the Marlins giving up Jarred Cosart, Luis Castillo, and injured reliever Carter Capps to acquire Cashner, fellow starter Colin Rea, and reliever Tayron Guerrero.
The key to this deal is not just Cashner, who is a free agent in the offseason, but also Rea, a 26-year-old right-handed starter who is under team control for several more years. This is exactly what the Marlins were looking for in dealing for starting pitching this trade deadline season: they wanted controlled arms along with an upgrade at the tail end of the rotation, and right now they look to have both.
Cashner is the current piece who will slot into the rotation in 2016 and try and bolster a group that, behind Jose Fernandez and Adam Conley, has been miserable. The Marlins have not gotten the Wei-Yin Chen they paid for in the offseason, and now he is injured with an elbow sprain and on the disabled list. Jarred Cosart pitched passably in his stead on Monday, but he is still Jarred Cosart and has had a dubious track record for the last year-plus. Ditto for guys like Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino. Tom Koehler has similarly struggled.
This is not to say that Cashner has not struggled, but at least he has had a decent reason for it: he’s been injured. This season alone, he has dealt with hamstring injuries and a neck strain this season that landed him in the DL twice. However, since that time, his velocity has returned, as noted by FanGraphs’ August Fagerstrom a week ago.
Cashner has done better in July, having posted a 28 percent strikeout rate with a 7.2 percent walk rate. He has also handed out a few too many home runs, lending his still-poor ERA in that month, but his overall skill set should lean towards preventing them. Provided he maintains a passable ground ball rate (above average at 49.4 percent for his career) and retains the velocity, he should be an upgrade over the bottom of the rotation right now.
FanGraphs’s projection systems have their expectations of Cashner going forward, and they are at least plausible. An average of ZiPS and Steamer projections put Cashner at a 4.14 ERA and 4.03 FIP moving forward. Those numbers are more or less league average at this point with the uptick in home runs and scoring around the league. In 62 remaining innings, he is expected to put up 0.8 Wins Above Replacement, almost a win. In the free agent market, this might have cost the Marlins $4.8 million right now. Instead, the Marlins will get Cashner for just $2.5 million, giving him about $2.3 million in trade value.
Colin Rea is the other player of interest for the Marlins. He has had a bad year in 2016, pitching to a 4.98 ERA and 4.75 FIP in 19 starts, but prior to this season, prospect evaluators were high on the freshly-turned 26-year-old. Here’s John Sickels of Minor League Ball:
5) Colin Rea, RHP, Grade B-: Age 25, 12th round pick in 2011 from Indiana State, posted 1.95 ERA with 80/23 K/BB in 102 innings in Double-A/Triple-A; 79 hits; made six big league starts and held his own, 4.26 ERA with 26/11 K/BB in 32 innings; big guy at 6-5, 225 but easy heat in low-90s; took step forward after developing splitter to go with cutter and curveball; should be solid workhorse starter.
He’s no super young, hard-throwing hurler who will buckle knees and light up radar guns, but he has advanced pitchability and command of at least his best three pitches. Give him another year and he could be a late-blooming mid-rotation starter with even more upside. He has a clean delivery and great arm action, so despite pushing 26 years old, Rea could end up being the best pitching prospect coming out of the Padres’ system over the next couple years.
Rea had a dominant season in Double-A in his age-24 season last year, as he threw out a 21.2 percent strikeout rate with a minuscule 3.9 percent walk rate en route to a 1.08 ERA and 2.35 FIP. He also pitched decently in six starts in the majors and held his own overall. This year has been a struggle, however, but the stuff is still there. He throws 90-92 mph on his fastballs, both two- and four-seam varieties, with an 87 mph cutter thrown in that was newly developed. He works a 12-6 curveball at 78 mph, though that has not served as his out pitch. The cutter earned whiffs on 26 percent of swings throughout his career, his best swing-and-miss pitch. At this point, he profiles as a command-type zone-pounder, and I am sure the Marlins will teach him to work primarily low in the strike zone to compensate while working his curveball and cutter into potential swing-and-miss options.
The returns here are not great, and the Marlins probably did overpay with the upside inclusion of Capps, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery but played stellar ball before that. However, this is the price of acquiring at the trade deadline, and outside of Capps, this was a perfectly fair trade that can potentially help Miami upgrade in their rotation short-term with Cashner and keep a depth piece with some upside under cost control long-term in Rea.