Few could have imagined in 2010 that right-hander Trevor Cahill, an All-Star and 18-game winner with a 2.97 ERA that season, would be demoted to the minors one day in order to fix his career. The Arizona Diamondbacks certainly didn't foresee it when making Cahill the centerpiece of a big trade with the Oakland Athletics before the 2012 season, nor when they signed him to a contract extension that guarantees him at least $20 million this season and next.
And yet, Class A Visalia (Calif.) is where the Arizona Diamondbacks announced Thursday they are sending Cahill, who has posted a 5.66 ERA in 41 1/3 innings this season, the majority of which has come in relief. Arizona designated Cahill for assignment earlier this week and, because of his service time, he had to agree to be sent to the minors. The other major league teams also had to let him pass through waivers which, at his price, was going to happen. And so it has.
This is what Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic wrote about the situation Tuesday:
Cahill gave up 18 runs in 17 2/3 innings in four starts to open the season, walking 13 while allowing 25 hits, three for homers. He was then moved to the bullpen, where he posted a 3.04 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. But he never felt comfortable as a reliever and struggled in close games and crucial situations.
Cahill likely will need several games to build up his pitch count. It's unclear how the Diamondbacks plan to make room in the starting rotation once he's ready to return.
Considering the D-backs have knocked him all of the way down to Class A, his stay in the minors might be more than "a few starts." If they had sent him to Class AAA, it might be another matter. This could be a deconstructing, a la Roy Halladay with the Blue Jays once upon a time. After awful results in 2000 (majors and minors) and a Grapefruit League performance the next spring that didn't yield promising results, Halladay spent three months of 2001 in the minors — starting in the Class A Florida State League. It was a reboot, and it worked. Halladay was an All-Star by 2002 and a Cy Young winner in 2003.
Perhaps the D-backs figure Cahill needs a process like that of Halladay. Two facts worth noting: Of course, Halladay is Halladay, a possible Hall of Famer someday. Cahill, though considered a top 10 or 20 prospect at one time, was never supposed to be as good as a pitcher like Halladay.
The other: Cahill's Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that imagines a pitcher's results if no one played defense, indicates Cahill hasn't been performing that poorly, relative to the rest of his career. In 2014, he has a 4.10 FIP. For his career, it's 4.32. By that standard, he's actually better than ever. So it appears the stat is lying a little. Only, by how much?
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