Impending free agency intrigues Cashner

Righty has posted a 3.44 ERA in 26 starts this season

Impending free agency intrigues Cashner

OAKLAND -- Rangers right-hander Andrew Cashner goes into Monday's start against the Astros with a record of 10-10 with a 3.44 ERA.

He has the 10th-lowest ERA in the American League and one more win would allow him to reach a career high. Cashner said the individual accomplishments are secondary to the Rangers pursuit of a Wild Card spot.

"For me team wins are what's important right now," Cashner said.

But Cashner's season, including a strong second half, brings up another question: Will he be back with the Rangers next season?

That one is going to be a pressing issue for the Rangers as they go into the offseason and Cashner becomes a free agent.

"It's not my decision," Cashner said. "I haven't heard much from them but I think there will be some interest. At the same time, I'm going to be a free agent so you have to look at it and take what's best for me."

Starting pitching will be a priority for the Rangers as it will be for many teams. Right now, the Rangers only have Cole Hamels and Martin Perez for locks in the rotation. A.J. Griffin and Nick Martinez remain candidates but are hardly locks.

Cashner, who has flourished under pitching coach Doug Brocail, should be in a strong position as a free agent.

The top two free agent starters will be Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. There is also the possibility that Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani will be posted and coming to the United States.

After that comes a group that includes Cashner, Jason Vargas, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jeremy Hellickson and others. It's a group of pitchers who are talented and have had some success in the big leagues, but also come with question marks.

Every free agent pitcher carries risk, but the demand for starters remains high. The Rangers are foremost among teams trying to put together a rotation for 2018. They have strong interest in Ohtani and feel they have put themselves in a good position should he be posted.

But the Rangers need more than one starting pitcher. They will be checking in and considering just about every starting pitcher available regardless of their situation or risk factor.

"It's going to be fun," Cashner said of free agency. "I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait. I might strike early. I think there will be some good offers soon. I'll take what's best for me and where I want to go."

Cashner signed quickly last season. He was 5-11 with a 5.28 ERA in 28 games with the Padres and Marlins, and had some health issues. He took a one-year, $10 million deal with the Rangers on Nov. 21.

"I had some injuries the previous year and I've proven to people I'm healthy," Cashner said. "When I'm healthy, I've proven that I can pitch."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.