I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There lies an obtainable All-Star shortstop on the market, that would look great in green and gold in 2013. His name is Asdrubal Cabrera, and he has come to solve our middle infield problem.
While the A’s play a game of negotiations and flirtations with the incumbent Stephen Drew, Cabrera waits at the mercy of Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro who has recently made his star expendable when he acquired Toronto’s Mike Aviles. Of course Aviles, may be nothing more than a place holder until top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor is ready, setting the stage for a likely trade of Cabrera this off season.
In his first four major league seasons, Cabrera established himself as a steady and productive big leaguer with the Cleveland Indians. After being simply stolen from the Seattle Mariners in a 2006 deal for Eduardo Perez, Cabrera settled in primarily at second base initially for the Tribe. When given ample playing time, he impressed with his versatility, contact bat, power projection, as well as showing a decent amount of speed. His 2009 season proved to be a fine showcase of his emerging skills as he hit .308/.361/.438 with 42 doubles, and 17 stolen bases. Playing his way to a 4.0 WAR.
Following the move to third base and eventual trade of Jhonny Peralta, Cabrera was primed to takeover as the starting shortstop in Cleveland in 2010. Unfortunately a broken forearm led to a 60-day DL stint, keeping him from ever truly taking off and building off his excellent season from the prior year. Nevertheless, he would bounce back in 2011, registering a breakout season of impressive proportions. Appearing in a career high 151 games, he hit .273/.332/.460 while clubbing 25 home runs and 92 RBI’s. Good for a 4.6 WAR. That’s the kind of production a team would be happy to receive from a corner outfielder, much less a shortstop. Although 2012, proved to be a step back for Cabrera and many of his Cleveland teammates. This didn’t stop him from putting up a productive line of .270/.338/.423 while contributing 16 home runs and 68 RBI’s in a feeble Indian lineup.
As impressive as Cabrera has been with the bat, there are defensive issues that have reared their ugly head. Last season, he registered a -9.0 UZR rating that left him with the third lowest ranking among starting shortstops. While his range isn’t exactly Derek Jeter-level bad, it remains a concern along with his distinction of being tied for the American League lead in errors at shortstop.
Contractually, he signed a two-year extension with a club option prior to the 2012 season. The extension calls for a base salary of 6.5 million in 2013, and 10 Million in 2014. While he won’t be cheap, one could argue this is a comparable or slightly lower salary than Stephen Drew will command this winter. From a career point of view, Cabrera will be entering his age-27 season in ’13, right square in his baseball prime and three years younger than Drew.
To acquire, a dynamic player in his prime the A’s must be prepared to yield talent in return for Cabrera’s services. While Billy Beane has gone on record stating that he will not trade from within his rotation of talented young pitching, perhaps he can entice Cleveland into a deal built around a collection of lower level prospects. With a growing abyss at short, the time is now for Billy Beane to land that elusive missing piece.