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Asdrubal Cabrera Rumors
Indians-turned-Nationals middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera will finish his eighth year of MLB action at just 28 years of age, presenting a rare youthful free agent option. He can hit and play up the middle. Yet he left Cleveland as something of a disappointment, and has not generated nearly as much hype as was once expected heading into his first crack at free agency. Once expectations are moderated for reality, however, it is apparent that Cabrera remains a rather intriguing player to watch on the coming market.
Cabrera’s free agent case remains difficult to figure. Over the 2007-12 period, he slashed .279/.342/.416 while manning an up-the-middle defensive spot (mostly, shortstop). Though advanced metrics never viewed him as even an average fielder, Cabrera delivered some value on the basepaths and was at least a solid, above-average regular in the aggregate.
That account of Cabrera took something of a turn, however, more recently. Over 978 plate appearances with Cleveland since the start of 2013, Cabrera’s OPS fell beneath the .700 level, making for a below-average bat that significantly reduced his overall appeal.
Nevertheless, in need of a veteran infielder down the stretch, the Nationals made a move to acquire Cabrera at the trade deadline. Notably, the Indians agreed to pay all of Cabrera’s salary in the deal, while acquiring an interesting but little-hyped prospect in Zach Walters. On a busy deadline day, the swap looked like a relatively low-impact, gap-filling move for Washington.
Since heading to the NL East-leading Nats, however, Cabrera has looked energized. He owns a .252/.341/.443 slash in the first 133 National League plate appearances of his career, including five home runs and two stolen bases. His resulting 115 OPS+ looks much more like the marks he was putting up in his heyday. Nearly as importantly, perhaps, Cabrera has looked comfortable at second, racking up 284 errorless innings at the position.
Without question, Cabrera’s late-season run of success at the plate will have a positive impact on his free agency. He has at least suggested the possibility that he is still capable of being the hitter of old; whether he’s convinced scouts, of course, remains to be seen.
The defensive returns, on the other hand, are somewhat more ambiguous. To be sure, proving that he is capable of solidly handling the keystone is a nice feather in Cabrera’s hat. At the same time, misplays have not been the major knock on his glove. Range is the primary concern, and he’s continued (obviously, in a short sample) to receive well-below-average marks in that respect.
So, where does Cabrera fit into the middle-infield market? Things are somewhat more crowded over at shortstop, where J.J. Hardy probably sets the standard and Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew also present possible starting-caliber options. And that assumes that Hanley Ramirez is pursued primarily as a third baseman; if enough serious bidders look at him as a shortstop, the market would look even more crowded.
But Cabrera is perhaps best positioned to benefit from a lack of options at second, given his arguably superior bat (to all but Ramirez, at least) and recent experience at the keystone. Clubs looking to add a new second bagger will find limited possibilities on the market; as things stand, Emilio Bonifacio is probably the most appealing candidate.
Cabrera also has added appeal given that he will not turn 29 until the offseason, making him the youngest shortstop-capable player available to the highest bidder. That holds significant value, particularly when viewed alongside the fact that he does not have any significant recent injury history. Cabrera will also come free and clear of draft compensation, as his mid-season trade ensures that Washington will not be able to make him a qualifying offer. Particularly given the down years at the plate from Hardy (at least in terms of power production), Lowrie (who has been better in the second half), and Drew (who has been awful since his mid-season signing), Cabrera stacks up reasonably well.
In the aggregate, though Cabrera may never take the final step forward to become a truly premium ballplayer, he has shown the ability to produce at his earlier levels and should draw fairly significant and potentially broad interest. Depending on his performance down the stretch and in the post-season, he still has some capacity to climb up free agent boards and become a sought-after asset heading out of the 2014 season.
- With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
- The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
- If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
- One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.
GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers don’t expect to be able to find improvements from outside the organization to improve their offense down the stretch, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. “[T]he reality, is I don’t know where you’re going to find a bat to help your lineup. Runs are tough right now. It’s hard to find hitters right now.” Trades in August are difficult to complete due to waiver rules, and it doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be making any. Dombrowski also confirmed that Andy Dirks‘ hamstring injury will keep him out the rest of the season. Here’s more from around baseball.
- The Royals feel they need a pinch-runner, so outfielder Terrance Gore is likely to be promoted to the big leagues once rosters expand in September, even though he’s not on their 40-man roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 23-year-old is hitting just .225/.292/.262 in 305 plate appearances this year, most of them spent with Class A+ Wilmington. He does, however, have 44 stolen bases and has only been caught seven times.
- Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris is another potential callup, MLB.com’s Jamie Ross writes. “You could see him. No guarantees, but you might,” says Jays manager John Gibbons. The 21-year-old has zoomed through three levels this year, most recently striking out a ridiculous 32 batters in 16 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo.
- Both the Nationals and Indians are happy so far with their deadline swap of Zach Walters and Asdrubal Cabrera, Bill Ladson and Daniel Popper of MLB.com report. Cabrera has played strong defense at second base in Washington, while Walters is off to a strong start in 35 plate appearances with Cleveland, hitting .212 with a .257 OBP, but with a terrific .576 slugging percentage even before homering tonight.
Despite reports that Terry Collins is likely to reprise his role as Mets manager in 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post gets the sense that a change of skipper is a definite possibility in Queens. Sherman writes that the final six weeks are critical to determining whether or not Collins will return. He explains that the Mets’ upper management believe that plate discipline and power are the key to scoring runs, but the Mets rank 26th in walks in the second half and dead last in the Majors in walks this month. Those trends will have to change, writes Sherman, in order for Collins to remain. As it stands, there is a slight lean toward bringing Collins back, he states, but Sherman feels that Collins needs to demonstrate to his bosses that he is able to consistently emphasize the organizational philosophy.
More from the NL East…
- The Mets face several questions around the diamond, but one area that previously looked like a question mark has been resolved, MLB.com’s Tim Healy writes. Travis d’Arnaud‘s play since returning from Triple-A has been more than enough to solidify him at the position going forward, and Collins offered high praise for the 25-year-old backstop, stating that over the course of a full season, the numbers will dictate that d’Arnaud “is the real deal.” Collins adds that the Mets have gone from batting d’Arnaud eighth and regularly pinch-hitting for him to making him their everyday five-hole hitter, and they’re comfortable with him in that role.
- Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera is happy in his new setting, but he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that his preference in the long run is to play shortstop. Says Cabrera: “…I just have to see after the season and wait. I like to play short. That’s the position I like to play more. I’m just going to see who wants me to play short, who wants me to play second, and figure it out from there.”
- It’s safe to say that the Marlins‘ Rafael Furcal experiment didn’t work out. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the veteran infielder, signed this offseason to a one-year deal that guaranteed him $3MM, will undergo hamstring surgery and miss the remainder of the season. The 36-year-old appeared in just nine games for the Fish and batted a paltry .171/.216/.229 in 37 plate appearances.
2:32pm: The Indians are paying the entirety of the $3.33MM remaining on Cabrera’s deal, tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, who says that Cleveland is very high on Walters.
2:21pm: The Nationals have officially announced the acquisition of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians in exchange for infielder Zach Walters and cash considerations.
The 28-year-old Cabrera is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and seven steals on the season. While defensive metrics have never liked his glovework at shortstop, his bat is above average for the position, and he could fill in for the Nationals at second base, with Anthony Rendon sliding back over to third base on a full-time basis in the wake of Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury.
Cabrera grades out better in his career at second base than his career at shortstop, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings at second base). Cabrera has about $3.33MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.
The 24-year-old Walters entered the season as Washington’s No. 14 prospect, per Baseball America. He received a brief promotion to the Majors but didn’t capitalize on his time there, hitting just .205/.279/.462 in 43 plate appearances. While he did belt three homers, he also whiffed 16 times in that small sample. BA praised his raw power but questioned his plate discipline and noted a high number of seemingly careless throwing errors. While he has a chance to stick at shortstop with some offensive upside, BA feels he likely profiles as a utility infielder that can fill in at various positions.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported that Cabrera had been traded (Twitter link). MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian added that the Nats were his destination (Twitter link). Hoynes then tweeted Walters was going to Cleveland, and ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted details on the cash considerations.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
12:18pm: The Mariners are a sleeper team in the Cabrera market, Olney tweets.
11:23am: There’s a growing confidence that Cabrera will be traded today, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
8:18am: Rosenthal tweets that the Jays, however, aren’t expected to add a hitter. Their talks with Cabrera were earlier this week.
7:43am: The Nationals, Blue Jays and two other clubs have been in contact with the Indians about switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Despite the apparent interest, Cabrera isn’t a lock to be traded, they add.
Cabrera was linked to the Nats last night, and Morosi noted yesterday that the Jays and Giants had checked in as well. The Indians were said to be ready to move Cabrera and Justin Masterson as of yesterday afternoon, and they’ve since dealt Masterson to the Cardinals.
The 28-year-old Cabrera is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and seven steals on the season. While defensive metrics have never liked his glovework at shortstop, his bat is above average for the position, and some clubs could look at him as an option for second base, where he played a good amount earlier in his career.
Here are some notes out of the National League:
- The Phillies have yet to receive an offer that the club deems acceptable for any of its players, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Philadelphia is determined not to give players away for salary relief, and is willing to wait to deal until the offseason, Rosenthal adds. Rival executives counter that the Phils’ asking price is too high given the age and cost of the players it controls, Rosenthal adds in another tweet. (It is worth noting, of course, that several Phillies are very plausible August trade candidates.)
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti discussed his team’s situation heading to the deadline, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports (all links to Twitter). He made clear that he was not interested in moving any of the club’s three best prospects: “We’re not in the market to trade any of the three, period,” said Colletti. “There’s been no player discussed that warrants two of the three.” The GM also indicated that he does not expect to deal Matt Kemp, noting that “no one’s ever heard me say we’re shopping Matt Kemp … that’s all in another world.” Though the market was proving difficult to crack, Colletti said he has concentrated on adding arms.
- Looking for infield help in the wake of Ryan Zimmerman‘s hamstring injury, the Nationals have considered Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians and Daniel Murphy of the Mets, at least internally, tweets Rosenthal. That does not mean that a deal is close on either player (or, presumably, that discussions have even taken place).
With starter Justin Masterson being moved today, eyes have understandably shifted to another Indians veteran who is set to hit the open market after the season: shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. While it remains uncertain whether or not he will be moved, here’s the latest on possible suitors for him and other middle infielders:
- The Giants are still weighing second base options like Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio, and Cabrera, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.
- The Indians have discussed Cabrera with the Blue Jays and Giants “this week,” tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who hastens to add that he does not know whether talks are still alive with those clubs. Toronto has in fact “emerged as a possibility” on Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- The Blue Jays are expected to hold off on adding to their slate of position players, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Instead, Toronto will focus on pitching. (Then again, the club has reportedly shifted back and forth between those broad signposts for weeks, if not longer.)
Cabrera makes for an interesting target, because unlike Masterson, he’s enjoying a relatively productive season. Cabrera is hitting .249/.309/.392 as of this writing, and while that’s hardly elite, park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ (99) and wRC+ (98) peg him as just slightly below league average. That, of course, is relative to all hitters around the league, but middle infielders come with a lower offensive standard, making the switch-hitting Cabrera’s production more valuable.
Defensively speaking, Cabrera doesn’t offer much; he’s never posted a positive UZR in a sample of 100+ innings, and Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s cost Cleveland 28 runs over the past three seasons at short. However, he’s graded out better in his career at second base, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings compared to 6282 innings at short). Cabrera has about $3.44MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.
MONDAY: Though he won’t be activated from the disabled list until this Friday, the Indians are “very willing” to trade Justin Masterson, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Cleveland’s preference would be to obtain controllable starting pitching in return for their embattled right-hander.
Masterson has struggled for much of the 2014 season, posting a 5.51 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate. More concerning, perhaps, is the stark decline in his fastball velocity; after averaging 91.6 mph on his heater in 2013 (and 91.9 mph in 2012), Masterson averaged just 89.1 mph before being placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before the All-Star break that he felt Masterson’s knee injury forced him to alter the way he landed coming off his delivery, which got his mechanics out of sync and could have been partially to blame for the velocity issues.
The 29-year-old is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and it seems unlikely that a team would surrender top talent to acquire a two-month rental that has struggled so greatly in 2014. As such (and this is my own speculation), Masterson might be more of an August trade candidate. If he can come back healthy and effective, scouts might be willing to overlook some of his early-season struggles (to an extent).
Masterson is earning $9.7625MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the final time this offseason. Cleveland had interest in extending its now-former ace (Corey Kluber likely holds that distinction now), but even when Masterson himself suggested seemingly below-market two- and three-year deals at $17-18MM annually, the Indians didn’t bite. Of course, at this point, that looks like it could have been a shrewd move on Cleveland’s behalf.
The Royals are interested in Andrew Miller but aren’t currently pursuing Jonny Gomes, Major League sources tell Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Multiple reports have previously connected the Royals to Gomes, but it appears their interest has waned for the time being. Miller, of course, is being pursued by many teams due to his dominant numbers and relatively inexpensive salary. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end but could alter the composition of a bullpen and be a vital postseason piece. Miller tells Bradford that if he’s traded, he’ll harbor no hard feelings toward an organization with which he has “loved” his time. “I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to an end in the next couple of days, but if it does it won’t spoil it for me,” said Miller. “If it does I’m certainly not going to burn a bridge on the way out of town.” Earlier this morning, K.C. was also linked to John Lackey.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Despite reported interest from the Yankees, the White Sox might have a difficult time moving John Danks, a source tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Anybody who throws 200 innings in the big leagues is worth his weight in gold,” the source said. “But I don’t think his weight is worth $30 million worth of gold.” Van Schouwen’s source feels that the Sox would let Danks go if he were to be claimed on waivers next month in order to free themselves of his remaining salary obligations.
- As for Chicago’s other tradeable pieces, Van Schouwen notes that Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo have limited markets due to contractual obligations (Dunn) or poor performance (the others). Alexei Ramirez would fetch a nice return, but the ChiSox don’t have an in-house replacement for the 32-year-old.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the Indians‘ current situation and feels that the team could sell some veterans without hurting their chances in the Wild Card hunt. Justin Masterson has underperformed, and Asdrubal Cabrera has been decent at best, but both have drawn trade interest, Hoynes reports. He suggests calling Oakland and San Francisco about Cabrera to peddle him as a second base option. Ultimately, the Indians could benefit from relying more on names like Jose Ramirez, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister than their declining stars, Hoynes writes.
- Glen Perkins made no effort to hide his feelings on whether or not the Twins should extend Kurt Suzuki when asked by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press over the weekend: “That would be the ideal. I think everyone else would agree. Not even just pitchers. He’s fit in this clubhouse great, too, with everybody.” GM Terry Ryan told Berardino that he’s been happy with Suzuki’s contributions, though he acknowledged that Suzuki rates poorly in terms of pitch-framing. Berardino noted that the Orioles, Blue Jays and Giants had scouts in attendance at Twins games over the weekend.
- In more Twins news, Ryan is sending assistant GM Rob Antony on the team’s current road trip to Kansas City and Chicago while he settles in with VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and special adviser Wayne Krivsky to work out deadline deals, writes La Valle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ryan acknowledged the team’s position as sellers, telling Neal: “As long as it stops in the near future, then it is worthwhile. … This isn’t what anyone signed up to do. Nobody wants to watch a club get into late July and be in a position where you don’t have a chance.” Neal lists several Twins trade candidates, including Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien.