This leads us to today, where Cahill is now the newest member of the San Diego Padres’ ragtag bunch of possible rotation pieces.
Cahill seemed to have other offers to pitch with contenders out of the bullpen, but the opportunity to once again be a starter led Cahill to the rebuilding San Diego Padres.
With the likes of Luis Perdomo, Jarred Cosart, Christian Friedrich, Jhoulys Chacin, Paul Clemens, Miguel Diaz, Clayton Richard, Tyrell Jenkins, and Cesar Vargas in the fold, there’s clearly plenty of opportunity for Cahill to jump some of those names and earn himself a rotation spot.
Trevor Cahill is going to have every opportunity to start with the Padres.
What remains unclear is what type of pitcher he will be in a starting role for the first time in several years. Over his eight year career, Cahill has had his share of ups and downs.
As shown by this graph, Cahill’s velocity on both his four-seam fastball and sinker played up in his most recent years operating out of the bullpen. On top of that, Cahill also seemed to abandon both his slider and cutter entirely, working with just the previous two pitches as well as using a changeup and a curveball. In his down years following his most successful 2010 season, Cahill saw a consistent decline in his sinker velocity. This may have played some part in his struggles beginning with the D’backs in 2013-2014.
This next table shows Cahill’s pitch usage over the course of his career. While it is clear that his sinker has always been his pitch of choice, it’s usage peaked in his most unsuccessful season in 2014. Following his signing by the Cubs, it has fallen to one of the lowest points of his entire career, while his changeup and curveball usage have both increased to their highest levels. This three pitch mix seems to have benefited Cahill immensely, as his sinker has become less predictable, allowing him to have more success using the changeup and curveball as additional out pitches. Beyond that, Cahill also induced more weak contact as a Chicago Cub than at any time since his success in Oakland.
In a more refined look at Cahill’s pitch usage, both his breaking ball and off-speed pitches increased to near career highs in 2016 while his percentage of hard pitches, which includes both his sinker and four-seam fastball, reached the lowest levels of his career. This mix may be at least partially to credit for why Cahill has his most successful season since 2010, and why he had some struggles in the middle of his career.
This final pair of tables further demonstrates how much improvement Cahill showed with his breaking and off-speed pitches in terms of batting average and isolated power against. While he has always shown consistency with his sinker and fastball in terms of success, his curveball and changeup were more effective in 2015 and 2016 with the Cubs than in any year since his successful run with the Athletics. Despite not being able to get anyone out with those pitches in 2014, Cahill has remade himself into a three pitch pitcher who can get batters out. By throwing more effective off-speed pitches, Cahill has been able to keep batters guessing, allowing him to be even more effective with his already strong sinker.
While all this data is great to have, and helps illuminate the entirety of Trevor Cahill’s career, the question remains: what Trevor Cahill will the Padres be getting?
Will it be the one who showed varying levels of success as a starter from 2010-2013 with the Athletics and Diamondbacks? Or the one who imploded and could barely find a job from 2014-2015? Or maybe even the one who most recently looked dominant out of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs? Only time will tell. But the Padres do have themselves a potential lottery ticket. And at only $1.75 million, the Padres could just hit the jackpot.