Posted on February 15, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Texas Rangers Andrew Cashner

Image via star-telegram.com

It’s no secret that the Baltimore Orioles need to strengthen their starting rotation if they’re going to be competitive in 2018. On Thursday, they took a step in the right direction. Multiple reports have confirmed that the Orioles have agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract with veteran starter Andrew Cashner. If Cashner pitches a total of 340 innings over those two seasons, he has a $10 million vesting option for the 2020 season. If he reaches 360 innings, he’ll have a player option for 2020.

The 31-year old Cashner is coming off a productive season with the Texas Rangers in 2017. In 28 starts last year, Cashner was 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA. It was his best season since posting a 2.55 ERA with the Padres in 2014. Despite a couple brief stints on the DL, Cashner was able to avoid the types of injuries that plagued him in previous years. The Orioles are hoping he can continue to be a durable starter and a stabilizing force in their rotation.

Baltimore’s rotation was one of the worst in baseball last year. Despite parting ways with the likes of Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Chris Tillman, things weren’t shaping up to be much better in 2018. Despite being linked with several starting pitchers, Cashner is the first one the Orioles have acquired this offseason.

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Cashner will join Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as Baltimore’s only established starters. The Orioles will expect Gausman and Bundy to perform like frontline starters. Gausman was outstanding in 2016 but couldn’t replicate that type of season last year. Bundy, meanwhile, has great upside but struggled to find consistency during his 28 starts in 2017. Cashner figures to be more of a supplemental part of Baltimore’s rotation.

The addition of Cashner leaves one less rotation spot for Baltimore’s contingent of young pitchers. Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro, and Alec Asher should all get extended auditions in spring training to earn a rotation spot. The Orioles also have a few non-roster invitees who could work their way into the competition.

Of course, there’s still time for the Orioles to sign or trade for another starting pitcher or two. Even if Baltimore can’t land Jake Arrieta, pitchers like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and several other established starters are still available on the free agent market. The possibility of adding another starter or two is already adding to the competition among Baltimore’s young pitchers early in camp.

“There’s competition whether it’s here or not here,” says manager Buck Showalter. “There’s great opportunity here regardless of what we do. I wouldn’t hang it all on just acquiring pitching either. You can see some of it starting to fall now, I think, especially with some of the pitchers.”

Cashner, of course, will be guaranteed a rotation spot. If he can avoid injury, he should end up being a solid pickup for the Orioles. Baltimore got him for a little less than what most projected he would make in free agency at the beginning of the winter. However, while Cashner gives the Orioles more depth and a proven big league starter, it’s not nearly enough to make them competitive in the AL East. Baltimore still needs to add a marquee starter to create a sense of optimism heading into the season.

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