Entering the year, Asdrubal Cabrera seemed rather likely to stay with New York through the 2018 season. His $8.5MM option comes with a reasonably hefty $2MM buyout, making it a $6.5MM decision. It’s hard to find a solid veteran at that sort of price tag on a one-year term, after all, and Cabrera was coming off of a 2016 campaign in which he was worth 2.7 rWAR and 3.0 fWAR as the Mets’ everyday shortstop.
Quite a bit has changed in the meantime, of course. The Mets collapsed, with injuries and performance issues leaving the anticipated contender outpacing only the Phillies in a dreadful NL East. Cabrera lost his job at short, with the Mets taking advantage of their nosedive to give a look to much-ballyhooed shortstop prospect Amed Rosario, who is not giving the position back.
On the other hand, there’s another interpretation of recent events under which not much has changed at all. While the dreadful season hurts the club’s outlook for 2018, every indication is that the organization will (quite reasonably) attempt to rebound back into contention. Cabrera was never likely to remain at shortstop over the life of his contract anyway; the Mets always thought Rosario would claim the position. If Rosario has answered any uncertainty about who’s playing short, then there’s also more uncertainty than ever at third, where David Wright has shown no signs of being able to make it back. Second base also lays unclaimed. Players such as Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera (both righty hitters) seemed like possible options at third and second base already, and remain so, but the switch-hitting Cabrera still brings a different element.
While Cabrera hasn’t been as productive as he was last year, he has posted another above-average year with the bat, running a .274/.344/.425 batting line with a dozen home runs through 484 plate appearances. His baserunning has graded out terribly, though one can’t help but think that the long-time infielder, who long graded as a roughly average performer on the bases, won’t repeat quite that poor a performance. Defensively, Cabrera is a palatable performer at second and now also at third; he also would represent a fill-in and backup plan at short.
All said, from a value standpoint, it seems the $6.5MM commitment would be justifiable. New York certainly has the capacity to add that kind of money to the payroll; while there are other needs, too, the club will surely like the idea of checking a box with a one-year commitment. In the end, the decision will likely come down to whether the Mets really want to build their roster with Cabrera. Should they? (Link for app users.)