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Asdrubal Cabrera Rumors
Asdrubal Cabrera might not be the player that some envisioned he would be four years ago, but he still holds a ton of value as he gets ready to explore the open market. Save for Hanley Ramirez, Cabrera arguably stands as the winter’s most attractive free agent shortstop option.
At just 28 years old (29 in November), Cabrera has youth on his side, especially when surveying the rest of the available talent pool. Cabrera also boasts four consecutive years of mostly good health with an average of 144 games per season over that span. Of course, that 2011 season was more than just the start of Cabrera’s good fortune in the health department, it was his true coming out party. That season, Cabrera slashed .273/.332/.460 for the Tribe, earning his first All-Star selection and his first Silver Slugger trophy.
In 2012, Cabrera earned a second All-Star nomination thanks in part to another strong showing at the plate (.270/.338/.423). The following two years didn’t bring the same kind of accolades and praise, but Cabrera continued to produce. Cabrera’s breakout year was his best to date, but the last three years have shown that he can deliver ~15 homers (he had 16, 14, and 14 the last three years) with some speed on the basepaths.
Cabrera also offers more than just shortstop experience, he also has 1773 2/3 innings of career experience at second base. He mainly plied his craft at shortstop from 2010-2014, but he returned to second this season upon joining the Nationals, so some of the rust from the change should be gone. His ability to play either middle infield position should help increase his market and will also provide his next team with a bit of flexibility. This also isn’t a strong second base market on the whole, so his versatility is a positive.
Defensively, Cabrera leaves much to be desired. For his career, Cabrera has a -10.6 UZR/150 rating at shortstop, putting him well below your average defender. His most recent campaigns haven’t helped either as he posted -16.8 and -10.5 marks in each of the last two seasons. His body of work at second base is better, according to UZR/150, but still far from great. He has a lifetime -2.5 UZR/150 at second and turned in a -5.3 rating in 432 innings for the Nats. Looking for a second opinion? Defensive runs saved has Cabrera as a -10 defender at second base in 2014 and -7 at shortstop. The career total is more favorable for second base (2), but even less so at shortstop (-22).
At the plate, it’s impossible to overlook the drop off that Cabrera has experienced over the last two seasons. In the All-Star years, he slashed a combined .272/.335/.443 with a 118 OPS+, well above the league average. In the last two seasons, he has produced a .241/.303/.394 batting line with a slightly below-average OPS+ of 96. Cabrera’s 2014 walk (7.7%) and strikeout percentages (17.1%) are in line with his career averages, which is to say they’re alright, but not great.
Cabrera and his wife, Lismar, have two children and this winter they’ll welcome another member of the Cabrera clan into the world.
Of course, Cabrera spent his entire big league career in Cleveland before the midseason trade that sent him to the nation’s capital. While he didn’t stomp his feet over being dealt to the Nationals, he was upset to leave what had become a second home for him, telling reporters it was “like [he] grew up” in Cleveland. That feeling was reciprocated in the front office.
”It’s another tough day for a number of us personally because of how much Asdrubal meant to our team and our organization,” General Manager Chris Antonetti said, according to The Associated Press. ”He’s a guy who has impacted two postseasons for us. We’ll obviously miss Asdrubal a great deal.”
In his downtime, Cabrera enjoys being on his farm in Florida where he tends to his horses every morning. Back in Venezuela, he’s a fan of taking his boat out on the water with family and friends.
Even though he prefers the shortstop position and his second half in Washington didn’t produce his finest work, Cabrera has said that he would welcome a return to the Nationals.
“It depends. A team like this team, a good team that want me to play second, I would love to stay here. I just want to win. I’ve got eight seasons already. I want to be in the World Series one day,” Cabrera said, according to MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko.
That desire to win could, theoretically, lead to a discount for the incumbent Nats. Recently, Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider expertly summed up the Nationals’ dilemma at second base. If they want to prioritize offense at the position, then Cabrera is the better choice to make than giving the defensively strong Danny Espinosa an opportunity to take back the job. Our own Jeff Todd suggests that a platoon between Cabrera and Espinosa, who can hit against lefties and serve as a strong defensive replacement, would make sense. The Nats can also use that duo to fill the void if Ian Desmond leaves in free agency next winter. However, it’s not a given that the Nats will be willing to get in the ballpark of what other clubs will offer Cabrera.
If the two sides can’t get on the same page for a reunion, there should be plenty of interest from teams in need of middle infield help. The competition at second base is thin, though Cuban defectors Jose Fernandez and Hector Olivera have added some depth there. At shortstop, Cabrera will have to vie with Stephen Drew and Jed Lowrie. As noted in Jeff’s recent poll asking the MLBTR commentariat to choose the best option from the trio, Ramirez could be seen more as a third base option than shortstop and the year’s best potential option, J.J. Hardy, is already spoken for.
Teams like the Padres, Reds, and Mets could be interested in signing an impact shortstop, though none of them look the part of a Las Vegas championship favorite for 2015. The A’s and the Blue Jays could both be in the market for a second baseman. The Yankees, meanwhile, are on the lookout for a shortstop and, depending on how things play out, could have a need at second as well. Martin Prado is currently penciled in to fill that role, but if he’s needed elsewhere, the Bombers could look into someone like Cabrera for second.
The dearth of quality free agent middle infielders is something of a double-edged sword for Cabrera. On one hand, he has less competition. On the other, as evidenced by the lack of intriguing available options, a lot of teams are already set, particularly at second base. There are also a few teams with surpluses in that area like the Rangers, Cubs, and Diamondbacks, which could draw attention away from the free agent market.
Ultimately, while he enjoys playing shortstop more, his best bet at winning and cashing in could come as a second baseman. The Nationals should at least have some interest in working out a new deal, even though they didn’t get a redux of Cabrera’s best work. The Yankees, if they shift Prado, can be expected to show interest as well. Because of his age and his ability to play both middle infield positions, I predict that Cabrera will land a three-year, $27MM deal.
Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images.
The Yankees have a mess on their hands as they look to assemble their 2015 roster and the presence of Alex Rodriguez complicates matters, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Bombers hope that A-Rod can contribute at third at least on a part-time basis and serve as a solid DH option. If he can do neither, they’re unlikely to cut him due to his three-year, $61MM deal. Not only would it look bad for ownership, but A-Rod needs to fully show he can’t play if there is any chance of recouping some of that money through insurance. More from the AL and NL East..
- If the Dodgers come calling for Rays GM Andrew Friedman, the opportunity will have appeal, but it’s not a given that he’d go, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune writes. Friedman enjoys the challenge of competing with the Yankees and Red Sox with fewer resources and is loyal to Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg. By the same token, the challenge may not motivate him the same way forever.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times agrees that Friedman has a comfortable situation with the Rays. When considering his relationships with Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, and manager Joe Maddon, Friedman has something in Tampa Bay that few other decision makers enjoy.
- Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider looks at the Nationals‘ second base options for 2015. If the Nationals wants to stick with what they know, they can re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera or give Danny Espinosa another shot at earning the job. Otherwise, they’ll have to go out of house. The free agent market is rather thin at the position, especially if the Rays pick up Ben Zobrist‘s $7.5MM option. However, teams like the Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs are deep with middle infielders and could be potential trade partners.
- The time is now for the next wave of the Braves‘ homegrown talent like Christian Bethancourt and pitchers Alex Wood, Shae Simmons, and Chasen Shreve to step up and become bigger contributors in 2015, opines Bill Ballew of Baseball America (subscription required).
With J.J. Hardy off the market, teams looking for a pure shortstop suddenly lack an obvious potential solution. Sure, Hanley Ramirez still hits like an All-Star corner outfielder, but he also accumulated the second-most negative defensive value of any shortstop in 2014 (per Fangraphs) and has put his 20’s in his rearview. Any club signing him will have to expect a move to third at some point over the life of his deal, if not from the get-go.
Teams that simply want a new field marshal up the middle will have three primary options to choose from, each of whom brings somewhat different strengths, downsides, and expected contract terms.
As we sit here today, the Indian-turned-National Asdrubal Cabrera has yet to turn 29 years old. He has never quite met his promise, but has put up several well-above-average years both at the plate and in overall value. Defensive metrics have never been fans of the glove, but Cabrera is pretty solid at the plate and is a good bet to deliver 15 homers and 10 steals. And while he’s had his share of bumps and bruises, Cabrera has not missed any significant stretches since a forearm fracture back in 2010. But Cabrera was shifted to second after his mid-season trade to the Nationals, and some think that’s where he should stay.
Stephen Drew, most recently of the Yankees, is the oldest of the bunch, and he is coming off of a disastrous, qualifying offer-shortened 2014 season. Drew was worth over one win below replacement, thanks to an abysmal .162/.237/.299 slash over 300 plate appearances. But he has otherwise been pretty good when healthy, and had a good enough 2013 that he spurned the one-year, $14MM QO in hopes of finding a longer deal on the open market. And there’s an argument to be made that Drew is the best defender of this group. Given his depressed value, he could be a popular buy-low candidate.
The Athletics’ Jed Lowrie, meanwhile, is just one year removed from posting a .290/.344/.446 slash with 15 home runs. But that was his first season of full-time action, and his age-30 follow-up year was not nearly so sterling (.249/.321/.355, 6 home runs). He did see improved defensive marks, but UZR is much more favorably inclined to his work up the middle than is Defensive Runs Saved, which saw him as a -10 defender. But if you believe he can stay at short, in some ways, Lowrie could end up being the safest bet of this bunch while also delivering a bit of power upside.
Let’s go ahead and take a poll. It will not ask you to pick the best player, or the one who’ll get the largest contract. Rather, it asks for which player — given their likely expected contract situation — is likely to provide the best value. For instance, given his age and durability, Cabrera is the best bet of this bunch for a lengthy deal — but that could make him the most expensive to acquire. And a rebound from Drew could make him an incredible bargain.
Ninety years and one day ago, the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants in Game Seven of the 1924 World Series. Newsreel footage (YouTube link) of the Senators’ 12-inning walkoff win was recently uncovered by the Library of Congress, giving us a very cool glimpse into how baseball has both changed and stayed the same over nine decades. (The blunt “President is there” title card is also pretty funny; poor Calvin Coolidge didn’t even merit being named?) The Senators franchise won two more championships after they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, but 1924 was the only time Washington D.C. celebrated a World Series title.
It’ll be at least one more year of waiting for D.C. in the wake of the Nationals’ loss in the NLDS but in the meantime, here are some Nats-related links…
- Asdrubal Cabrera would prefer play shortstop but said he is open to playing second base on a contending team, he tells MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko. “It depends. A team like this team, a good team that want me to play second, I would love to stay here. I just want to win. I’ve got eight seasons already. I want to be in the World Series one day,” Cabrera said. With a fairly thin crop of free agent shortstops, Cabrera could draw a lot of interest this winter, and his market will be further widened if he is willing to play second as well. It would seem that the Nationals are Cabrera’s first choice given how he stressed how much he enjoyed his brief stint with the club.
- The Nationals offered Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $85MM extension last winter, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Zimmermann mentioned that the two sides had discussed a lengthier deal than his eventual two-year, $24MM agreement, though the term and dollar figure of the larger offer weren’t known at the time. The right-hander will be a free agent after the 2015 season and, if he continues his current form, he’ll be looking at deals in the $130-$140MM range on the open market.
- Beyond Zimmermann, the Nationals also have to consider extensions for Ian Desmond and Doug Fister this offseason, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman writes. All three players will be free agents after 2015. The Nationals could look to lock up Fister since he’ll command less money than Zimmermann, Zuckerman opines, and he also wonders if a seven-year, $105MM deal would be enough to keep Desmond in the fold. That would represent a bump from the seven-year, $85-98MM deal that Desmond reportedly rejected last winter.
The Yankees wouldn’t have been willing to offer J.J. Hardy more than two guaranteed years in free agency, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports. The Bronx Bombers had “mild interest” in Hardy had he reached the open market but their recent underwhelming returns on veteran free agents left the team hesitant about a longer-term deal. Hardy received three years and a vesting option for a fourth in his extension with the Orioles. Madden predicts the Yankees will look to sign Stephen Drew or Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year pillow contract as both players look to rebuild their value.
Here’s some more from the 27-time World Series champs…
- David Robertson could be the first player to accept a qualifying offer, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post feels the closer will remain with the Yankees for at least the 2015 season. The team figures to issue the $15.3MM, one-year qualifying offer to Robertson as the attached draft pick compensation could hurt his free agent market and make him easier to sign to a long-term deal. From Robertson’s perspective, accepting the QO would ensure he gets at least one big payday in an uncertain free agent closer market and he’d still be in position to land another big deal in an extension with the Yankees or perhaps even another qualifying offer next winter. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently examined Robertson in a free agent profile and predicted he could receive a four-year, $52MM deal this offseason.
- Now that Brian Cashman has been extended for three years, the general manager will be able to “create a Yankees team in his own image, with his own vision and his own players, and to finally build his own legacy,” ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews writes. This may seem odd given that Cashman has already been the team’s GM since 1998, though Matthews argues that Cashman has never had to truly build a team since the Yankees always had the “Core Four” backbone in place since the Gene Michael/Bob Watson management era.
- In a conference call with reporters (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch), Cashman said that “I think it’s best to assume that we should have contingencies in place” should Alex Rodriguez no longer be able to handle regular third base duties. “Until we get to see it on a daily basis, I think it’s just hard to assume anything,” Cashman said. Joe Girardi recently spoke with Rodriguez about working out at first base, and A-Rod could provide some valuable depth at the position given Mark Teixeira‘s injury history.
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.