There are numerous reports coming out of St. Louis that the Cardinals are interested in acquiring Asdrubel Cabrera before the July 31 trade deadline. The durability of these rumors probably means that the Cardinals are highly motivated; indeed, a look at their lineup shows that shortstop is the only significant hole, and Cabrera is by far the best option for filling it. So if you are Chris Antonetti you are in the driver’s seat, with the potential to gain assets that can help your team build for the present or the future. What do you do?
- Stand pat. You are a contender, and you need Cabrera to stay there.
- Wait until after the season, or at least the August 31 waiver trade deadline. By then you should know whether you have enough to remain in contention until the end of the season, and the price you can extract from the Cardinals will not change. Since those assets will probably be prospects who won’t help this year, you have nothing to gain by acting quickly.
Trade him now, but hold out for assets who can help win this season, like a good lefty reliever. Randy Choate and one of their prime pitching prospects would be enough to make me consider making a deal. That might be more than the Cardinals are willing to pay, but they are in position to win another World Series, and teams historically are willing to overpay for a player whom they see as the missing link to a title. If they say no, just keep Cabrera and put him back on the market in November.
- Trade him now, but only if you can get Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal. Either of them could be our number two starter by 2014, which would be worth sacrificing borderline contention this year. Getting another fourth or fifth starter isn’t.
To be honest, I am not sure yet. On the one hand, it’s hard to feel like a contender after a 2-4 road trip to Minnesota and Seattle. If we don’t get our act together quickly we could be six or seven back in another week and a trade would seem like a no-brainer.
On the other hand, when I look at Detroit I don’t see a lot of guys who have really underachieved so far this year, so it’s possible that the Tigers are just a 90-win team, which means they won’t pull away unless the Indians completely collapse. Plus, Cabrera may miss a few more games and there seems to be a real possibility that Jhonny Peralta will be suspended before the trade deadline, although he would have much more reason to drag out the appeal process until the offseason than Ryan Braun did, with his team in contention and having a career year. If the Tigers end up with someone like Don Kelly batting sixth the rest of the year and a double play combo of Ramon Santiago and Omar Infante, would the Indians be able to hang around?
My guess is that the Tigers are all in this year, and they have enough prospects that they will add the piece or two they need to put some distance between themselves and the Indians, be it a replacement for Peralta or bullpen help.
Does that mean the Indians should run up the white flag and deal Cabrera? There’s still the wild card race, and the Indians face one of the teams ahead of them this weekend. If they win two of three or sweep the Rangers, my guess is that will leave them too close to a playoff berth to risk the perception that they are sacrificing this season for the future, even if it made the prospects for the future much brighter than this season could be. After all, if you look over the past decade at how many 85-90 win teams have barely slipped into the playoffs and then gone on to make it to and even win the World Series, it seems like you have to hang on as long as you have any shot at all.
On the other hand, if this series goes badly, especially if they look overmatched, as they have in many series against playoff caliber teams this year, or if they keep pissing away games like the past two series, we could wake up Monday morning six games behind everyone. At that point the odds of a playoff spot start to get low enough that an opportunity to add a core player for 2014 begins to look attractive.