Cabrera’s Future in Question
One of the hot button issues this offseason, and for most of last season if we’re being honest, has been the future of Asdrubal Cabrera. Given the way in which his career is playing out, many fans are ready to cut ties with the shortstop and move on to the next big thing. That next big thing, of course, is super-stud prospect, Francisco Lindor. And while it’s easy to fall in line with the popular opinion that now is the time to rid ourselves of Cabrera and his continuing disappointments, no one has really offered up a scenario or reasoning for why the Indians should retain his services moving forward.
Well, you’re in luck. Today is the day when that finally happens. In what has proven to be enough material for a two-part mini series, I’m about to present both sides of the argument. In part one, the part you’re reading right now, I will offer up reasons for why the Indians should consider keeping Asdrubal Cabrera not just for this season, but for the long-term. In part-two, I will present the counter argument for why it makes sense to cut ties with the all-star shortstop before it is too late.
Indians Should Consider Keeping Cabrera Long-Term
Asdrubal Cabrera should remain a member of the Cleveland Indians. Not just until the trade deadline, and not just until the end of the season when he hits free agency. No, Asdrubal Cabrera should remain a member of the Cleveland Indians for the foreseeable future. Of course, that means opening up the wallet and signing him to a long-term extension and given the current state of the free agent market that may take more money than any of us yet realize.
While it’s easy to point out the flaws associated with Asdrubal Cabrera, few have taken the time to point out why it may be in the best interests of the Indians to hold onto him. When you take the time and dig a little deeper, there are some compelling reasons to support such a decision.
First and foremost is his age. Because Cabrera made his debut with the Indians back in 2007, many of us believe him to be older than he really is. The fact of the matter is that he just turned 28 years old. That means that despite having already played in seven full seasons at the big league level, Cabrera is just now entering into his athletic prime. By the time he hit’s free agency at the end of the 2014 season, he will still be on the right side of 30. Given today’s advanced training regiments and recovery methods, Cabrera should easily have anywhere from five to six quality seasons left in the tank. From that stand point, the notion of signing him long-term is not as ridiculous as it sounds.
Naturally though, people point to Cabrera’s continually diminishing defensive skills. There is no arguing against this point. Cabrera turned in career worst marks in both UZR and UZR/150 in 2013, -12.8 and -16.8 respectively. Why not then consider a positional change? The Indians have proven themselves to be unhappy with the performance of Lonnie Chisenhall at third base. Why not then consider shifting Cabrera to the hot corner? This would allow the Indians to shore up their hole at third while also eliminating Cabrera’s issues with range. As an added bonus, the Indians could also consider experimenting with Chisenhall as an outfielder, a move that has proven successful with Alex Gordon of the Royals.
However, given the Indians reluctance to commit both money and years to a player in Cabrera’s situation, it would be understandable if they didn’t want to extend him beyond the 2014 season. That doesn’t mean that they should abandon him all together in 2014.
Take for instance the current state of Cabrera’s trade value. At this point it is non-existent. Due to his 2013 performance and the moves made by several teams that were in need of a shortstop heading into the winter, the trade market for Cabrera is nonexistent. Even if the Indians could find a willing trade partner, the return might not be worth what they would be giving up both short-term and long-term.
And speaking of Asdrubal Cabrera’s poor 2013 season, there is reason to be optimistic that 2014 will be better. Why you ask? Well, simply because it would be next to impossible for Cabrera to repeat such a poor performance in back to back seasons. the 2011 season in which Cabrera hit .273/.332/.460 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI was most certainly an outlier. However, 2013’s slash line of .242/.299/.402 was by far his worst. Aiding in that sub-par performance was a career worst BAbip of .283 and K% of 20.3%. If both of those figures come back closer to his career norms, there is no reason then not expect some closer to his .273/.335/.413 career averages.
Perhaps the most telling stats of all from Cabrera’s miserable 2013 season, are his home and away splits. While he performed up to his averages on the road, his slash line at Progressive Field was about as bad as bad can be. His slash line of .209/.265/.368 at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario was far off his career norm of .268/.331/.415. Based on the simple notion of regressing back to the mean, it is highly improbable that Cabrera could duplicate such an abysmal performance at home. The end result of even the slightest improvement in 2014 could pay huge dividends.
Finally, there is also the issue of Cabrera’s pending free agency. While many will point to the fact that the Indians will more than likely choose not to offer Cabrera a long-term deal, they will use the argument of him leaving via free agency while getting nothing back in return as the primary reason to deal him away. However, this ignores that fact that the Indians may be able to take advantage of Cabrera playing in a contract year. Professional athletes in all sports have made it a habit of putting together career years in the season prior to free agency. Why not then try to take advantage of Cabrera being highly motivated and playing for a contract?
Also, if we are to believe that Francisco Lindor will be ready to take over at shortstop in 2015, then the Indians aren’t exactly losing out should Cabrera decide to leave via free agency. Lindor is a better talent than any possible piece brought back in a trade. The Indians best bet would be getting lucky on a lottery ticket and cashing out big unexpectedly. Simply staying the course and transitioning from Cabrera to Lindor following 2014 would avoid the talent drop off of the dreaded stop-gap scenario at short.
So, while there is all the reason in the world to pursue a move involving Asdrubal Cabrera, there is sufficient reason to believe that holding onto his services for the entirety of 2014 and beyond could prove to be a solid move as well. Time will only tell what the Indians will decide to do with Cabrera and his pending free agency, but make no mistake about it. There is also reason to hold onto a player that has shown flashes of being something special throughout his career thus far.