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Trade rumor: Giants interested in Andrew Cashner (for some reason)

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Why have one inconsistent fireball-throwing enigma on the staff when you can have two?

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In a perfect market, the Giants would trade for a reliever. In perfect market, the Giants would trade for a starting pitcher. The world of internet memes would like to offer some very important advice: Get you a man who can do both. Maybe. Even if he’s never been too good at either role.

Andrew Cashner is the rumor du jour, with this one coming from Jon Morosi:

Cashner has been a starter for the last four years, so it’s possible that he could be the Matt Cain replacement the Giants are seeking. Before that, though, he was a moderately effective late-inning reliever, so it’s plausible that the team would be interested in him in that role, a theory that’s been posited before.

Uh, one problem with that:

I don’t blame him. It’s been four years, and he’s a pending free agent. The transition could be a disaster, and it would cost him millions. On the other hand, this sure is a miserable trade market, so you can’t fault a team for thinkin’ outside the ol’ box.

So think of him as a starter first. For two seasons, 2013 and 2014, Cashner was pretty good, with an FIP of 3.24 and a 119 ERA+. His problem back then was that he had a timeshare on the disabled list, and he was one of baseball’s if-only superstars. If only he could stay healthy, the refrain went, the Padres would have a Cy Young candidate.

Over the last two seasons, though, his performance has dipped. His ERA+ is at 84 over his last 47 starts, with a 4.47 ERA and 4.18 FIP. This might have something to do with the Padres’ curious commitment to Matt Kemp’s rusted lower torso in the outfield, sure, but it can’t all be the defense, right? That would make Cashner a pitcher with excellent stuff and poor results, just waiting for the right fit and pitching coach.

That role is, uh, taken.

Cashner has pitched into the seventh inning once this year in 16 starts, with the Padres doing their best to keep him healthy before the trade deadline. It’s not like he’s incapable of going deep in a game, in theory:

That arm and the miserable starting pitching market is why he’ll get $75 million this offseason, but if we’re talking about a deadline acquisition, let’s remember that it’s been a long time since Cashner has been effective. He’s been below replacement as a starter for two seasons, now. He would be an improvement on Matt Cain, but I honestly don’t know how much of an improvement he would be on Ty Blach or Tyler Beede or Adalberto Mejia or Clayton Blackburn or ...

As to the bullpen suggestion, I guess the argument in favor of it would be that he throws hard? Okay. So do several minor leaguers in the Giants’ system right now, but no one is considering them as options, and rightfully so. Because they probably aren’t likely to be effective relievers at the major league level. Because throwing hard is but one piece of the pitching pie. Which means there would have to be another reason to think Cashner would thrive in the bullpen.

If you can find one, let me know. The splits suggest that Cashner has been disproportionately worse in the first inning, which doesn’t augur well for a late-inning role.

Conclusion: At the right price? Sure. The arm is big, and turning the back of the rotation into Dave Righetti’s Home for Wayward Fastballs at least has some measure of upside. This applies to this offseason, too. Lesser gambles have paid off.

The price will not be right. The market is so wretched that it would take a nifty prospect or three to get this particular pile of enigma before the deadline, and the supply will be even worse in the offseason for free agents, which means you can’t even hope for a sweetheart extension because he comes here and falls in love with the Coke bottle slide.

Hard pass, then. Not unless we’re talking C+ prospects, and maybe not even then. Apparently this is the 2016 Trade Deadline Paradox: If the Giants could reasonably afford to trade for a player, they probably shouldn’t bother with him.