Atlanta and Arizona completed a deal that sent right-handed starter Trevor Cahill to the Braves in exchange for minor league outfielder Josh Elander on Thursday night. The Diamondbacks will send $6.5 million to Atlanta to cover a portion of Cahill's $12 million 2015 salary.
Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez, and Mike Foltynewicz had been competing for the final two spots in Atlanta's rotation, but the Braves are still seeking starting depth. Rodriguez has had difficulty remaining healthy in recent seasons but when he is on the mound has proven to be efficient. Stults posted a 1.89 ERA this spring, and while the Braves were satisfied with his ability to limit extensive innings, he struck out just seven in 19 innings. Foltynewicz has had little experience beyond Triple-A, and as a result the Braves may not be comfortable slotting him into the rotation.
MLB.com's Mark Bowman notes the Braves do not want to put two lefties, Rodriguez and Foltynewicz, in the back end of their rotation. Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Shelby Miller are all locks for the Braves' rotation, which will be without Mike Minor, who will begin the season on the disabled list with shoulder problems.
Cahill's contract may prove to be an issue too, and if he is dealt, the Diamondbacks will likely have to pay a fraction of his $12 million 2015 salary. He has club options for 2016 and 2017 ($13 million and $13.5 million, respectively) and was acquired from the Athletics in 2011 while pitching 200.0 innings in his first season with Arizona. Cahill missed time after being hit on the hip by a line drive in 2013 but bounced back in 2014, posting the best strikeout rate in his career (8.54 K/9).
Beyond looking to alter its payroll moving forward, the Diamondbacks may have been interested in dealing Cahill because the club already named its starting rotation. Archie Bradley, who pitched well this spring, was left out of the starting five, however after trading Cahill, Bradley will likely be slotted into the starting five.
Cahill, 27, posted a 5.61 ERA and 3.89 FIP in 110.2 innings last season with Arizona. Elander has a .275/.356/.435 career batting line to complement 21 home runs and could open the season in High-A. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook considered Elander the Braves' 13th best prospect heading into last season.