The Case for Ditching Asdrubal Cabrera

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Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) reacts after grounding into a double play to end the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild card playoff game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Time to Cut Ties with Cabrera

In part one of this two part series we examined why the Indians should consider keeping Asdrubal Cabrera for the long-term. In part two, we examine more in-depth why the Indians should cut their losses and move Cabrera now, before it’s too late.

Heading into the 2014 season, Asdrubal Cabrera is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $10-million. This is a considerable raise from the $6.5-million he earned for his sub-par 2013 season. It’s not everyday that a player gets close to a $4-million raise for turning in a career worst slash line of .242/.299/.402 and even worse defense from the position on the field that requires the most in terms of skill and agility.

In 2013, Cabrera’s $6.5-million contract made him the 11th highest paid shortstop in all of baseball. 2014 will see him jump up four spots to the 7th highest paid shortstop in all of baseball. Of course one look at the list and it’s easy to realize that thanks the top three highest paid shortstops all earning $16-million this season (Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes) Cabrera’s 10$-million is actually the 5th highest salary amongst shortstops behind only Jhonny Peralta‘s $15.5-million, Derek Jeter‘s $12-million, and Jimmy Rollins‘ $11-million.

Given how the economics of baseball work, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Cabrera could experience a significant pay increase following the 2014 season. If he experiences a bounce back to even his career norms, Cabrera is likely to be one of the most highly sought after free agents in 2105, at least among shortstops. Would anyone be surprised if the Yankees came in and offered Cabrera four years and $15-million or more? That’s well out of the affordable range for the Indians and should warrant making a move now rather than later.

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Aug 12, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) walks away after striking out in the second inning agasint the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Also playing into this decision is the fact that the Indians can get so much more value for their money than what they can get out of Asdrubal Cabrera. Knowing what we know now about the value of a win and the cost economics of building a winner in Major League Baseball, it is possible for the Indians to find equal, if not better production than what they get from Cabrera on a yearly basis for significantly cheaper.

Take for instance the Tampa Bay Rays and their shortstop, Yunel Escobar. At $5-million per year, his contract ranks 13th among shortstops heading into 2014. This is the same amount he earned in 2013, a season in which he put together a .256/.332/.366 slash line with outstanding defense, 10.7 UZR and 12.2 UZR/150, and 3.9 fWAR. That far surpasses Cabrera’s .6 fWAR. Throw in the fact that the Rays will have the option to retain Escobar for the 2015 season, again at $5-million, and it’s clear that they have found phenomenal value. It’s a model the Indians should adopt, but that’s why the Rays are one of the best run franchises in all of baseball.

Moving beyond the realm of dollars and cents, there are also the other non-monetary issues surrounding Asdrubal Cabrera. The primary of which is health.

Asdrubal Cabrera has never been a model of physical well-being. His weight has fluctuated up and down at the expense of his performance throughout his career and one has to wonder how that will affect him as he ages. With each year tacked on, it will be harder and harder for Cabrera to maintain a healthy playing weight. Will he be able to do that or will he eat his way out of the shortstop position.

There is also the question as to how Cabrera’s shape, or lack thereof, has effected his body already. Cabrera has experienced numerous injuries that could be classified as nagging. If he kept himself in better shape would he be able to avoid all of the minor injuries and keep himself off of the disabled list? History tells us no and if that’s the case, then how can the Indians trust him to do so in the future.

That brings up another issue. Asdrubal Cabrera just isn’t aging well, and not just as a shortstop. We have documented just how poorly Cabrera has played defensively over the years, and the scary thing is that he is only getting worse. With each passing year he seems to lose another step or two with his range. He also has begun showing signs of regression at the plate. It’s hard to believe things could get any worse than 2013 (odds are he will improve). At 28 years old, Cabrera should be entering into his prime as a baseball player, but instead it feels as if we are watching a 35-year-old who is just trying to hold on to a job for another year.

This also goes hand in hand with a second major problem with Asdrubal Cabrera, that being his motor. As a shortstop, he is expected to be the leader on the field. He takes precedent over everyone else. Also, as the longest tenured Cleveland Indian, Cabrera should have embraced more of a leadership role at this point. Instead, the Indians had to bring in Nick Swisher to assume a leadership role and Jason Kipnis has already ascended into a leadership role in about half the time.

Finally, being that this is a contract year, Cabrera could very well leave Cleveland for greener pastures in 2015. Yes, the Indians have Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings to take over the shortstop position, but what could the Indians get in exchange for Cabrera in a trade. In part one I mentioned that the return would more than likely be minuscule, perhaps a bullpen arm and a lotto ticket. Yes, the odds that the Indians could strike it rich with a lotto ticket are very slim, but there is always that chance. Besides, with the future of the shortstop position in Cleveland belonging to Lindor, there is no reason to hold onto Cabrera any longer than they have to.

Topics: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor, Yunel Escobar

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