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Can Trevor Cahill be a band-aid in the Mets’ oft-injured pitching rotation?

Trevor Cahill graduated fifth in his high school class. Would he make sense as a fifth starter?

MLB: Texas Rangers at San Diego Padres
Trevor Cahill
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Cahill had a solid couple of years at the beginning of the decade with the Oakland A’s, earning an All-Star nod and a couple of Cy Young Award votes in 2010, but until recently was unable to recapture that glory. Injuries and mechanical problems plagued the right-hander, and he bounced from team to team, role to role, shuffling up and down between the minor leagues and the majors.

After settling in primarily as a reliever with the Chicago Cubs, Cahill was signed as a free agent by the San Diego Padres, who wanted him to start ballgames. He began the season in a San Diego Padres rotation that was, quite frankly, not that good, but a curious thing happened: Trevor Cahill was good. Before succumbing to a shoulder injury that sidelined him for over a month, Cahill was the Padres best pitcher, posting a 3.69 ERA in 61.0 innings, allowing 58 hits, walking 24, and striking out 72.

Playing at PETCO Park, known as a pitcher’s park, certainly helped, but key to much of Cahill’s revitalization was his curveball. Starting in 2016, Cahill began throwing the pitch much more often. While his bender is not necessarily a plus pitch, hitters during the 2017 had trouble laying off the pitch, both when thrown in the zone and outside of it. He began using the pitch as his go-to strikeout pitch, replacing his changeup, and hitters began striking out against him at a rate they never had before.

Cahill’s time with the Kansas City Royals, who he was traded to in late-July, is much less interesting, as he reverted to being a poor pitcher in the 23.0 innings he pitched there. Given that he was returning from shoulder injury, was used as a swingman to start and relieve, and was pitching in the American League for the first time in years, the sample size was small enough and there were enough qualifying conditions to not completely give up on Cahill’s ability to sustain success, however marginal.

While the Mets are unlikely to add pitching depth, Cahill’s ability to pitch both as a starter and as a reliever make him an intriguing target. The team may be willing to go into the 2018 season with a rotation consisting of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and two of the trio of Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, but all of those pitchers have dealt with injuries over the last few years that have limited the amount of starts they were able to make. If the starting rotation remains healthy, Cahill can pitch out of the bullpen, and if starting pitching depth is needed due to injury, he can start.