PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks’ offseason trade with Oakland involving principals Trevor Cahill and Jarrod Parker was generally perceived as a trade for proven performance and away from projectable potential.
Both teams made the right move.
The D-backs got the Cahill they expected.
Oakland got the Parker they believed in.
Cahill was the big winner Saturday night. He takes the mound in the first inning to “White Rabbit” and hits to the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and both were working in his final start of the season.
He came within two outs of his second shutout of the season and struck out a season-high nine in an 8-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field, the shutout spoiled by Alfonso Soriano’s two-run homer in the ninth.
Cahill’s second complete game got him to 200 innings, the second season in a row he has hit that number, and he even drove in two runs on a bases-loaded walk and a single to right field. When D-backs manager Kirk Gibson asked Cahill after the sixth inning how many more innings he wanted to go, Cahill said three. What else?
“It’s one of those numbers … if I would have gone eight (innings) and got 199, it ain’t any difference. But to get there (200) is kind of a sweet, even number. I was always told your goal is 33 (starts) and 200 (innings), and I didn’t get 33, but I got 200,” Cahill said.
Cahill went out in style, winning four of his last five games to finish 13-12 with a 3.78 ERA, the second-most victories in his four seasons. Cahill made quality starts in his final five, and he also finished his first NL season with a career-high 156 strikeouts.
“He seemed kind of determined,” Gibson said.
“He pitched very well for us this year. I told him in the bullpen in Colorado (last week) he should win 15 games easy. He could be a 20-game winner. You can see that. When he is throwing the ball over the plate, he is very dominant all of the time.”
Justin Upton had three RBIs, including his second homer in as many nights, and Aaron Hill drove in two to stake Cahill to a 4-0 lead after two innings that grew to 7-0 after five.
Until Saturday’s performance, the winter trade might skewed a tad toward the A’s, because they received a little more production from reliever Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill than the D-backs got from reliever Craig Breslow, who morphed into Matt Albers at the trade deadline. At the same time, the D-backs had the young pitchers and outfielders on the way up that made Cook and Cowgill available.
Starting pitching was the heart of the matter, and there, the trade is about as even as the two pitchers’ styles are different. Cahill relies primarily on his pet sinking fastball, a pitch so much downward movement that it reminds some of former D-back Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. Parker is a fastball/changeup guy, although he is starting to use his sinker more.
Look at the numbers and you are looking at the same guy.
Parker, 23, is 12-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 28 starts. He has one start remaining, in the first game of a critical three-game series at home against Texas on Monday. That could put him in line to start the first game of the ALDS if the A’s either win the AL West or win the play-in wild card game. He has made 19 quality starts and has a 1.26 ratio of hits and walks per nine innings. He is averaging 6.88 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.2 strikeouts per walk.
Cahill, 24, has 18 quality starts and has a 1.29 ratio of hits and walks per nine innings. He is averaging 7.02 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.1 strikeouts per walks. He also has induced 23 double play grounders, tied for second in the NL.
Throw in the park factors, and the stats tighten even more. Because of its extraordinary amount of foul territory, the O.co Coliseum in Oakland is rated as the seventh-best pitcher’s park in the majors in terms of runs scored. Chase Field is ranked as the fifth-best hitter’s park, the 26th best for pitchers.
The D-backs did take on some salary when they acquired Cahill, who is making $3.5 million this year and is due $5.5 million in 2013, $7.7 million in 2014 and $12 million in 2015. The contract also includes option for 2016 and 2017. The money is very good value for a pitcher who has averaged 13 victories and 195 innings in his first four seasons.
The A’s, always playing the Moneyball way, got Parker at the first-year price of about $500,000, and can pay him about that much over the next two years, until he is eligible for arbitration. Their payroll is about $53 million this season, two-thirds of what the D-backs are spending.
After the trade went down, Cahill said he did not pay particular attention to how Parker was doing.
“I don’t look at it. I try not to follow that too closely. I know he is having a good year,” Cahill said.
“Just do what I can control.”
That included controlling his final start Saturday.