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Asdrubal Cabrera Rumors
The Rays have announced that they’ve signed middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal. The Octagon client will make $7.5MM.
The Rays already had Yunel Escobar at shortstop and Ben Zobrist to play second, but after they reached agreement with Cabrera, they shipped both Escobar and Zobrist (who also will make $7.5MM next season) to Oakland. That should free the Rays’ middle infield for Cabrera, Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe.
Cabrera, 29, hit .241/.307/.387 in 553 plate appearances with the Indians and Nationals last season. He rated as below average defensively at shortstop, and mostly played second base with the Nationals, who already had Ian Desmond at shortstop. Cabrera ranked 23rd on MLBTR’s list of this offseason’s top 50 free agents, just ahead of Jed Lowrie as the top middle infielder available (not including Hanley Ramirez). That such a player would only receive a one-year deal is somewhat surprising (Lowrie, for example, got three years and $23MM), but the contract will give Cabrera another shot at free agency next year, when he’ll still only be 30.
Cabrera is the first significant signing for the Rays this offseason. The Rays have added Ernesto Frieri and Michael Kohn on big-league deals, also trading Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, Joel Peralta and Sean Rodriguez in an attempt to remake a team that won 77 games with the franchise’s highest ever payroll.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the contract was done, and that it was a one-year, $7.5MM contract (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports originally tweeted that an agreement was in place. Heyman first tweeted that a deal was close.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Perhaps the key takeaway of the Cabrera signing is that the Rays now have a surplus in their middle infield, suggesting a trade of either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Zobrist in particular would be a very attractive addition for any number of clubs, and Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com looks at the possibility that Cabrera’s old team, the Nationals, could trade for Zobrist to play second base, their only obviously weak position.
- Zobrist is a good fit for the Giants but an even better fit for the Nationals, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles writes. The Giants might not be able to top the Nationals in a bidding war, since the Nats, for whom second base is their only significant need, could be highly motivated to acquire Zobrist. Brisbee also notes that it’s strange that Cabrera would head to Tampa Bay on a one-year deal with the intention of building his value, since Tropicana Field figures to limit his offensive output.
- Cabrera’s signing leaves one less player for the Yankees to sign, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. They could still pursue Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, to whom they’ve been connected, to play second base. Stephen Drew and Rickie Weeks are other possibilities. They could deal for Zobrist, although a trade between the Yankees and their divisional rivals in Tampa seems unlikely. They could also simply go with Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela.
As we inch toward the new year, the market for middle infielders has yet to truly take off. Jed Lowrie has returned to Houston on a three-year contract, and Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang may or may not be Pittsburgh-bound after the Pirates submitted the most aggressive posting fee ($5MM). Here’s the latest on what’s left of the middle infield market…
- The Yankees, Royals, Rays and Blue Jays have all kept in touch with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s camp, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Each of those clubs has an existing option at shortstop, meaning Cabrera would likely have to shift to second base to join any of those four teams. The Yankees and Blue Jays present the best hitting environments of those choices, if Cabrera is looking for a one-year deal, but he could simply go to whichever club is willing to offer the largest number of years, as well.
- The Cubs are among the clubs that are showing interest in Stephen Drew, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chicago is somewhat of a surprising team to be linked to Drew, as they have Starlin Castro at shortstop and can use Javier Baez or Luis Valbuena at second base. Valbuena or Drew could also slot in at third base, but that spot figures to be assumed by top prospect Kris Bryant at some point in 2015.
- In an update to his weekend piece on the Padres‘ interest in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Friars have yet to make a formal offer to the 33-year-old. Toritani is Japan’s most durable player, having played every inning of his club’s past 1,444 games, and he comes with an excellent defensive reputation as well. He’s a career .285/.372/.412 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, though some question whether or not his bat can transfer to Major League Baseball.
- Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that while the Padres and Blue Jays are still interested in Toritani, there’s a “decent” chance that he ends up returning to the Hanshin Tigers next season.
A frantic November and December has left Norichika Aoki, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus as arguably the best available free agent position players. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked the top 50 free agents earlier in the offseason, with Aoki coming in 40th, Cabrera 23rd, and Rasmus 20th. While the trio aren’t perfect substitutes since they fill different roles, that makes the question all the more interesting. Who is best?
Aoki is the elder statesman of the group – he’ll soon turn 33. However, his skill set is easily leveraged, and he’s a good fit as a leadoff hitter. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth provided a free agent profile in November, highlighting Aoki’s strong batting average, on base percentage, and above average defense. Of course, his game comes with flaws including a complete lack of power. Most clubs shy away from corner outfielders who don’t hit for power, and Aoki only managed one home run for the Royals in 2014. It’s worth noting that he did hit 10 and eight home runs in two seasons with the Brewers. Miller Park is home run friendly whereas Kauffman Stadium suppresses home runs. Perhaps Aoki just needs an offensive environment similar to Milwaukee to fully flourish. Wilmoth pegged Aoki for a two-year, $16MM deal, while Aoki is said to be looking for a three-year contract.
Cabrera is different than the others featured here since he’s a middle infielder. Seemingly connected with every club in need of infield help, the shortstop has been discussed mainly as a second or third baseman. Defensive metrics have rated him as consistently below average over the last six seasons, which is why clubs are hesitant to consider the 29-year-old as a shortstop. Since breaking out offensively in 2011, Cabrera has been roughly league average with the bat. Teams could look at him as a possible second hitter, although he doesn’t reach base often enough to make an ideal fit. MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted a three-year, $27MM contract for Cabrera thanks to his perceived versatility, dearth of other utility infielders, and relative youth.
Speaking of youth, Rasmus is entering 2015 as a 28-year-old. His combination of youth and power should make him attractive to clubs in need of an outfielder, although there are a couple red flags. In 2014, the Blue Jays moved Rasmus to the bench down the stretch as they evaluated options for 2015. He strikes out frequently, including a 33% strikeout rate last season. The result is a low average and on base percentage. A .224 ISO over the past two campaigns allowed him to post above average offense. The Blue Jays used Rasmus exclusively as a center fielder where defensive metrics ranged from 15 runs above average in 2013 to 15 runs below average in 2014. A move to a corner outfield position could help level out the defense. The Orioles appear to be the most closely tied to Rasmus presently. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd foresees a one-year, $12MM deal while noting the challenge of predicting Rasmus’ market.
The three offer value in different ways. Aoki is a high floor, low ceiling, leadoff hitter, but he’s also the oldest of the bunch. Cabrera is under 30, features a steady bat, and plays the infield. Rasmus is the youngest, was once a top prospect, and still shows flashes of the talent that led to the prospect hype. Two other free agents remain on Dierkes top 50 list – Stephen Drew (42nd) and Emilio Bonifacio (43rd). So here’s the question:
The Orioles‘ waiver claim of Ryan Lavarnway adds a fifth catcher to the 40-man roster and further clouds the future of fellow backstop Steve Clevenger, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Clevenger’s agent, Josh Kusnick, spoke with Kubatko about his client’s role in Baltimore, noting that while he’s been told Clevenger can win the backup catching job in Spring Training, it’s difficult to see happening after he was passed over last season. Clevenger hit .225/.289/.337 in a small sample of Major League plate appearances last year but slashed a much stronger .305/.366/.389 in 64 Triple-A games. Given the amount of clubs needing depth at catcher, I’d imagine that Clevenger would have interest to other teams.
Here’s more from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- In his latest column, Peter Gammons takes a look back at the recent history of trades of ace-caliber pitchers and notes that there’s very little certainty that the Phillies would receive a franchise-altering package for Cole Hamels. Trades of pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have not reaped many benefits, while others such as the Johan Santana trade netted one All-Star caliber player (Carlos Gomez) who didn’t break out until he was traded to a third team.
- Also in Gammons’ piece, he writes that many GMs believe the Giants will eventually trade a prospect package to the Rays to land Ben Zobrist.
- MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweeted earlier this week that the Yankees don’t appear to be in on Asdrubal Cabrera at this time and instead appear to be heading toward a Spring Training battle between prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela in addition to minor league signees Nick Noonan and Cole Figueroa.
- In addition to a very heartfelt holiday wish to all of his readers, Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com penned an excellent look at the Nationals‘ roster yesterday and ran down three players that he feels could be on the move before Opening Day. While Kerzel doesn’t think all three of Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore and Tyler Clippard will be dealt, he can envision at least one of the three moving. Espinosa’s name is still popular in trade talks, Kerzel hears, so he could be shipped elsewhere if the Nats can acquire another second base option (I’d imagine today’s signing of Dan Uggla is unrelated to Espinosa’s availability, personally). Moore is a popular name when GM Mike Rizzo chats with AL clubs, as he could be a platoon DH/first baseman/outfielder. Clippard’s projected $9.3MM salary may simply be more than the Nats care to spend on a setup ace, and teams like the Blue Jays are known to be looking for a closer, Kerzel points out. Clippard was among the Nats’ most asked-about players at the Winter Meetings, and he would welcome the opportunity to move into a closer’s gig.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe touches on Nathan Eovaldi, one of the newest members of the Yankees. Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia feels that the young pitcher has only scratched the surface of what he can do. “At the end of the year he figured out how to throw a new pitch that is really going to help him. He throws hard and all of his pitches are hard, so this new pitch will help that out because he’s got a fastball rotation with split action,” Salty said. More from today’s column..
- James Shields is asking for a contract close to the five years and $110MM remaining (if the option is picked up) on the Cole Hamels deal, one major league source who was privy to Shields’s demands told Cafardo. The Giants and Red Sox are in the picture, and the Yankees may be another suitor.
- Many baseball execs feel that Max Scherzer will end up back with the Tigers. The executives Cafardo spoke with think that Scherzer will top Jon Lester‘s six-year, $155MM pact but fall well short of $200MM, unless option years are counted.
- When it comes to Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, there seems no urgency on either side to visit a possible extension. Wieters’s return should be huge for the Orioles, but agent Scott Boras will likely not consider anything until the end of the season.
- Cafardo checked in with Mets officials regarding the recent Troy Tulowitzki rumors and none of them felt that there was anything to them.
- Agent Alan Nero tells Cafardo that he is having a lot of dialogue with teams about Asdrubal Cabrera but nothing has come together just yet. Cafardo suggests that Cabrera could take a one-year deal somewhere to re-establish his value.
- Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin is the odd man out in San Diego with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton in the fold. The Orioles, Mariners, and Rays could be trade candidates for Quentin, who hasn’t played 100 games since 2011. He’d be a solid DH candidate and Seattle could also use him in right field from time to time. Of course, with an $8MM salary in 2015 and a $10MM option in 2016 that comes with a $3MM buyout, the Padres will have to eat some money to move him.
The Phillies could get involved in the bidding for infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, but they would need to clear some payroll first, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. The Phillies, of course, recently traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, and they currently have Freddy Galvis atop their depth chart at shortstop, so there’s a clear opening for Cabrera if they feel he can handle the position defensively. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Telling Casey McGehee he had been traded to the Giants was a difficult task for Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel writes. “Extremely difficult decision because he did mean so much on the field and in the clubhouse, a true pro in every sense in the word,” says Hill. The Marlins were able to deal McGehee for two young pitchers because they acquired Martin Prado from the Yankees to play third base.
- Speaking of the Martin Prado trade, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes that the Yankees have acquired an interesting project in Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi has excellent velocity but hasn’t yet gotten great results, and Axisa (who cites Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris) wonders if Eovaldi might get better results by dropping his weak changeup and focusing on his fastball, slider and curveball. Axisa considers Garrett Jones more of a throw-in, but one who fits well with the Yankees given their veteran hitters’ struggles to stay healthy.
- The Mets‘ trade of reliever Gonzalez Germen to the Yankees on Friday was only the 16th transaction between the two clubs, the New York Daily News’ Anthony McCarron reports. It was also the only trade between the cross-town rivals in 10 years — in 2004, the Mets sent Mike Stanton to the Bronx for Felix Heredia.
- San Francisco is in contact with the Marlins about Casey McGehee, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Among the Giants players being discussed are reliever Hunter Strickland and infielder Matt Duffy, per Rosenthal.
- The Giants are also still interested in Braves third bagger Chris Johnson, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Johnson is owed $23.5MM over the next three years, and Atlanta may need to hold onto a portion of that commitment to move him.
- Free agent Asdrubal Cabrera is among the finalists, with McGehee, to be brought on at third for the Giants, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Club assistant GM Bobby Evans indicated previously that Cabrera was interested in finding a job up the middle, but said the door would remain open to further conversations.
The Braves have reportedly been trying to package Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton along with one of their more desirable trade targets, and the Royals at least had some interest in Johnson, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Kansas City’s greater interest was in Justin Upton, though the Royals were considering using Johnson as a platoon partner with Mike Moustakas at third base. Now that K.C. has signed Alex Rios, however, they can probably be counted out of the running for the younger Upton brother.
Here’s some more from around the baseball world…
- The Twins aren’t seriously interested in either Asdrubal Cabrera or Jung-ho Kang, ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links), though Minnesota might “place [a] small bid” on Kang’s services. Teams have until Friday at 4pm CT to post their bids for Kang.
- Also from Wolfson, the Twins aren’t interested in signing outfielder Colby Rasmus.
- Three or four teams are getting “more engaged” with Kevin Correia, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. The clubs in question are looking at Correia as a low-cost add as a fourth or fifth starter.
- The Cardinals could still add another starting pitcher as a depth option, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes as part of a reader mailbag. This would be a low-cost signing, Langosch notes, speculating that the Cards would look for a pitcher trying to recover from either an injury or just a poor 2014 season.
- The Giants could also be looking to make a similar buy-low signing, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) hears that the club could fill its left field hole with a player coming off a rough season.
- It’s been a surprisingly busy offseason for scouting director moves, as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo notes that eight different teams have installed new scouting directors since the start of October.
- Padres director of baseball options Nick Ennis discusses analytics, the evaluation of new ideas and much more in an interview with Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris.