When the Cleveland Indians traded Esmil Rogers for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes two weeks ago, it served only to further flame trade rumors about Asdrubal Cabrera. It already appeared likely that the Indians might trade their All-Star shortstop this winter, and that prospect looks easier now that the Tribe has a capable replacement in Aviles.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Should the Indians trade Asdrubal Cabrera? Joining us this week is guest contributor Andrew Zajac from Indians Prospect Insider.
Andrew Zajac (Indians Prospect Insider): My gut tells me that we should trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter. For starters, his conditioning has come into question on more than one occasion. His second half slides are too difficult to forget and I can’t help but to think it’s a trend. For a team that wants to be in contention, hitting .251 after the All Star break isn’t going to cut it.
Problem is, there’s not a sure guy that can fill his shoes in the mean time until Francisco Lindor is ready, which still is roughly three years away. Does Mike Aviles fit the mold? Possibly. Cabrera’s WAR was only 2.9 last season, so in reality, his shoes aren’t terribly hard to fill. The other realities are that he has a relatively friendly contract and this team needs pitching…badly. If the Indians can acquire a quality arm or two, I’d pull the trigger.
Jeff Mount: This is the wrong question to ask. They should make any trade that makes them better in 2013, or saves them money without hurting the overall talent level. There is nobody on this team that has enough of a track record to say that they cannot be traded. So the question can only be answered in the context of what they can get in return.
Since they now have two shortstops who are at least replacement-level, it is somewhat likely that trading Cabrera will improve the team. If trading him gets them a middle-of-the-order bat or a front-line starter, then do it by 5:00. If trading him gets the next Matt LaPorta or Jason Knapp, maybe not. Given the history of the past two years, I would keep him until the All-Star Break, then trade him and let him tank in August for someone else.
Lewie Pollis: The obvious answer is that we can’t say for sure unless we know who we’d get in return. But assuming we’d get a fair deal that would make the team stronger, there’s another, more important unknown in the equation: where the organization is headed.
Are the Indians going to go for it in 2013? On the one hand, the core of the team is still intact and Cleveland should benefit from some major regression to the mean in 2012—a couple splashy acquisitions could put the Tribe right back in the hunt. More skeptically, this team lost 94 games last year and the core players haven’t developed as well as hoped. Both paths are defensible, but so far we haven’t seen any signs that the organization intends to tack hard in either direction.
At the risk of embracing a false dichotomy, this team needs to figure out where it’s going. If Cleveland is going to compete in 2013, trade Cabrera if and only if the upgrade he’d bring us is bigger than the step down from Cabrera to Mike Aviles. If not, put him on the block now and trade him for some guys who can help the Indians win down the road.
Katrina Putnam: I’ve mentioned a few times recently that trading Asdrubal Cabrera is probably the Indians’ best option right now. He could be a huge asset to the team next year if he stays, but if he fades in the second half again, it will make it difficult to get a good value for him. If Cabrera could bring back young starting pitchers or a powerful right-handed left fielder this winter, it would be a worthwhile deal.
Without Esmil Rogers, Chris Perez is much less expendable than he was at the end of the season, and Terry Francona seems set on keeping Justin Masterson in the rotation. The only other major trade pieces are Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. Trading Choo would just leave holes in both corners of the outfield that need filled before the season begins, whereas Mike Aviles is available to become the everyday shortstop. The most logical step for the Indians is to trade Cabrera.
Evan Vogel: No, the Indians should not trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter. He is only due $6.5 million in 2013 and he can make an impact on their lineup for one more year before he gets much more expensive. They can certainly deal him at the Trade Deadline if they are totally out of it, but they should definitely consider trading him in the winter prior to the 2014 season, when he’ll earn $10 million.
While the haul that they would get for him will help them rebuild, they can also enjoy another year with a team-friendly contract, potentially allowing him to create more value as he heads into his magical age-27 season.
Brian Heise: Yes, the Indians should trade Asdrubal Cabrera. The recent acquisition of Mike Aviles provides the Indians with a stopgap that will allow for a smoother transition from Cabrera to Francisco Lindor.
Offensive shortstops are hard to come by and as one of the few shortstops in baseball with legitimate offensive fire power, Cabrera could bring back a haul in terms of prospects or MLB-ready talent. Given the current state of the Indians farm system and even the big league roster, that is not an opportunity they can afford to pass up.
The odds of retaining Cabrera beyond his current contract aren’t good and, let’s be honest, both his defense and physical shape aren’t what they used to be. He’s in his prime, the Indians need to make moves, and with Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis at second and third for years to come, Cabrera can’t move over for Lindor, so why not trade him? They have nothing to lose and tons to potentially gain from a deal.
Steve Kinsella: The Indians should certainly look to trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter but only if a team is willing to match Cabrera’s talent with a package that includes one upper level prospect, preferably a pitcher, and 2 low level prospects with high ceilings. If this trade doesn’t materialize keep Cabrera into July and then look to deal him at the deadline. Another way of putting it, if I were to rank the probability of each guy being traded in order of most likely it would go Choo, Perez, Cabrera, Masterson.