Asdrubal Cabrera Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Shortstops

It’s often dangerous to read too much into a hot streak, as the endpoints of the streak will often be arbitrary, and shrinking the sample size makes the data more susceptible to randomness. Though it’s dangerous to use them as a predictive tool, hot streaks can hold some significance for upcoming free agents — particularly ones that have struggled for much of the season. A well-timed hot streak can take a player’s numbers from good to great or from terrible to passable. A huge second half following a disastrous first half can demonstrate that a player hasn’t suddenly lost all of his skill, giving offseason suitors hope for more consistent production in the season(s) to follow.

The overall numbers on the following players may not quite look appealing, but here are three that could be in the midst of bolstering their offseason earning power after dreadful starts to the year (coincidentally — they’re all shortstops!)…

  • Ian Desmond, Nationals: Perhaps no player looked to be costing himself as much money as Desmond entering the All-Star break. Heading into his contract season, there was a legitimate case to be made for Desmond as the game’s most productive shortstop over the past three seasons, but he slumped to a .211/.255/.334 batting line in the first half and endured an awful error-prone stretch in the field early on. He’s tightened up the errors after those first few weeks, though, and is finally showing signs of life at the plate. Over his past 21 games, Desmond is hitting .312/.376/.636 with seven homers and four steals. The question for him will become whether or not a huge second half can make his first half simply look like an anomaly and convince a team to invest more than $100MM.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays: Cabrera settled for a one-year deal this winter, and through the first eight to 10 weeks of the season, he looked like a player that didn’t deserve anything more. However, since mid-June, Cabrera’s hitting .357/.393/.579 with four homers, 13 doubles and a triple. It’s easy enough to see that his .418 BABIP in that stretch is inflating his numbers, but there’s been some improvement as well. Cabrera struck out at a 23.1 percent clip through June 18, but since that night he’s at a more palatable 18.4 percent. He’s also hitting the ball with more authority, as evidenced not only by his spike in power but by his decrease in soft contact and increase in medium and hard contact (per Fangraphs). Surprisingly, Cabrera grades out as a plus defender at shortstop in 2015 as well, though it may take more than a few hundred innings to overturn his previous reputation as a poor defender. At the very least, he’s positioning himself to land the multi-year deal that eluded him this past winter.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Dodgers: Suffice it to say, the 2015 season hasn’t gone as the Dodgers or Rollins had hoped. In his first season sans Phillies pinstripes, Rollins has flirted with the Mendoza Line and carried a sub-.600 OPS for much of the year. His current line is about 20 percent worse than the league-average hitter (80 wRC+, 78 OPS+), but a good deal of his struggles have also been BABIP-related, and his fortunes have begun to turn. Dating back to July 1, Rollins is hitting a much-improved .256/.315/.453, including hits in 15 of his past 18 games. Though his steals are well down, he’s already sporting a double-digit home run total. Rollins has not drawn strong ratings on his defense this year, but he does have a lengthy track record of high-quality glove work on which he can fall back. If he can continue his late surge at the plate and continue to make the first half look more like a blip, he should draw plenty of interest from teams looking for a sturdy veteran option up the middle.
  • Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: Not long ago, Ramirez’s $10MM club option looked like a no-brainer to be bought out. Glancing at his overall numbers, that’d still be the case, but like the others on this list, he’s looked like a different player over the past month-plus. Ramirez was hitting .212/.235/.281 on June 30, but he’s hitting .291/.321/.480 with five homers and six steals in 34 games since. He’s not walking much (4.4%), but he’s also not striking out (7.4%), so his solid production comes with a very sustainable .283 BABIP. Ramirez can’t erase his ugly numbers through June 30, but if he sustains this production through season’s end, the White Sox or another team could easily be convinced that a .234 average on balls in play was responsible for his poor first half than a total collapse of his skill set.

Clearly, these four can’t all sustain their recent production (especially in the case of Desmond and Cabrera). However, it’s worth keeping an eye on each player’s production over the final seven weeks of the season, as none of the four looks as lost as he did even six weeks ago. In Desmond’s case in particular, that could mean the difference of tens of millions of dollars.


AL East Notes: Moncada, Beckham, Duquette

The $31.5MM bonus the Red Sox will reportedly pay Yoan Moncada has generated a variety of reactions from players around the league, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Moncada’s bonus is well beyond what most other 19-year-old prospects might be able to make, since he was able to negotiate with all 30 teams. “It’s not right that a Cuban 19-year-old gets paid [$31.5 million] and the best 19-year-old in the entire USA gets probably 1/6 of that,” wrote Rays pitcher Drew Smyly. “Everyone should have to go through the same process.” An international draft would help standardize the system by which amateurs sign with teams, and new commissioner Rob Manfred seems to favor discussing it in the next round of CBA negotiations. Abraham polls Red Sox players about an international draft, leading to a large range of answers. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr.’s: “I would have loved to be a free agent in college and made the best deal I could. Maybe I should have moved out of the country. If everybody was a free agent, you’d get what your real value is.” Here are more notes from the AL East.

  • More than six years after being selected first overall in the 2008 draft, shortstop Tim Beckham is competing for a big-league job in Rays camp for the first time, Marc Topkin writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). With Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar now gone, the Rays now have more space in their middle infield. Asdrubal Cabrera will take one of the middle infield starting jobs, but Topkin suggests Beckham could be a reserve infielder or even a starter, particularly if the team decides it would be best if Cabrera played second base. Beckham, now 25, moved slowly through the minors and finally made his big-league debut in 2013 before missing most of last season due to a knee injury.
  • The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of executive Dan Duquette was serious, but Duquette is back to work with the Orioles, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Duquette confirms that he could not leave the Orioles for Toronto because the two teams could not agree on a compensation package for him. This offseason, the Orioles made few big moves of their own and lost Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis, although Duquette points out that the O’s should benefit from full seasons from Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.

Rays Sign Asdrubal Cabrera

The Rays have announced that they’ve signed middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal. The Octagon client will make $7.5MM.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesThe 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.



Fallout From The Asdrubal Cabrera Deal

Here are a few notes on the Rays’ new one-year agreement with Asdrubal Cabrera:

  • 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.

Infield Market Notes: Asdrubal, Drew, Toritani

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.

Rays Nearing Deal With Asdrubal Cabrera

The Rays are nearing a deal with Asdrubal Cabrera, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.


Poll: Best Remaining Free Agent Position Player

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:

 

 


East Notes: Clevenger, Hamels, Zobrist, Asdrubal, Nats

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.

Cafardo On Shields, Scherzer, Wieters, Tulowitzki

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.

East Notes: Phillies, McGehee, Eovaldi, Mets, Yankees

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 Metstrade 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.