Pirates ink veteran Cahill to 1-year deal

March 14th, 2021

More pitching depth has arrived for the Pirates.

Right-hander signed a one-year deal with Pittsburgh on Friday. A source told MLB.com that Cahill will receive $1.5 million for 2021, with $1 million in incentives. Cahill, 33, is the second veteran addition the club has made to its rotation, following the Feb. 17 signing of Tyler Anderson.

“Trevor was one of the handful guys we've been talking to for a while,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “There were other teams interested. Glad we could come together. He’s a guy who has been a starter, has been a reliever and has done both well.”

In a corresponding move, the Pirates placed right-hander Blake Cederlind on the 60-day injured list. Cederlind sustained a strained UCL in his right elbow on Wednesday, and the team is considering the ensuing course of action.

Cherington said the option of surgery is on the table, but he added the team remains hopeful that Cederlind’s injury can be managed conservatively.

“[Cederlind] is very young and strong and athletic, and he's a hard worker,” Cherington said, “so whatever the ultimate decision and prognosis is, he’ll come back from it.”

Cahill, who is a 12-year Major League veteran, will be a long option for Pittsburgh. Whether that comes in the rotation or in the bullpen is yet to be seen. He’s started in 225 of his 352 career games, pitching to a 4.20 ERA. Last season with the Giants, Cahill recorded a 3.24 ERA in 11 games (six starts) over 25 innings.

“It seemed like a good fit,” Cahill said of the signing. “I've been in the [National League Central] division before. I know a handful of guys on the team, so it made the transition, especially coming in mid-camp, a little easier.”

Cherington sees Cahill as primarily a starting option, but he also values the versatility of the pitcher’s experience in the bullpen.

“I think there is value in guys that can do different things and pitch more than one inning,” Cherington said. “We think about that as starters, but relievers who can go past an inning are really valuable, too. So I think guys who can do more than one thing and pitch in different roles [are good], and then also building as much depth as we can, period.”

The primary weapon in Cahill’s arsenal is his curveball, which he used for a career-high 23 percent of his pitches in 2020, when it was in the top three percent in spin rate at 2,982 rpm. Cahill threw it 105 times last season and didn’t allow a hit off it. He also has a changeup, sinker, cutter and four-seamer in his mix.

In Cahill’s first year in the Majors, he barely threw his curveball at all, opting to throw his sinker, which was playing well at the time. Now, with the trends away from sinkers and toward breaking pitches, he’s increased his usage of the offering -- one he found his current grip for while pitching in the Majors.

“I remember guys where I'm like, 'I can never get these guys out,' and then they're like, 'Try throwing them all curveballs,’” Cahill said. “And it was like, 'Oh, that makes it a lot easier.' So it's just figuring out what works and always adjusting.”

By signing Cahill, the Pirates add another effective option to manage innings coming off a shortened season. Manager Derek Shelton and pitching coach Oscar Marin said to expect the team to prepare 10 or more pitchers to work long stretches, as the prospect of someone making the usual 30 starts is highly unlikely.

It also means that Pittsburgh could opt for a six-man rotation at some points this season, per Cherington, though he said he’ll leave any plans for that up to the coaching staff.

“We like the idea of having six starters on the team,” Cherington said. “Whether we're actually using all six starters or are using them to come in behind guys and provide length or back and forth, we’ll see how that plays out. We just wanted to add as much starting depth as we could after the offseason moves.”

The Pirates are optimistic that Cahill will be ready to be stretched out on Opening Day. Cherington said Cahill was up to 60 pitches in simulated games, so the volume of pitching is there. Now, it’s getting him back into game situations against professional hitters.

“That's a little bit of a challenge,” Shelton said. “It's going to be a combination of what we see, how he feels and kind of communicating from there."