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Should the Indians Trade Asdrubal Cabrera?

Should the Indians Trade Asdrubal Cabrera?

| On 15, Jul 2013

Is Asdrubal Cabrera quietly on the trading block? Is that a good idea?

Cabrera was in trade discussion much of the off season while the Indians worked to try and rebuild their team from a disappointing 2012 squad into a contender in 2013. He was strongly mentioned in trade talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals. Neither team could agree upon the fair value of young pitching to send to Cleveland in return for the two-time All-Star.

When Cleveland orchestrated the three team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona the Cabrera trade talks started to quiet. Cleveland essentially traded Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati for young shortstop, Didi Gregarious, and immediately peddled him to Arizona for Trevor Bauer. Gregarious is younger and under team control longer than Cabrera, something Arizona was looking for.

But all the reasons the Indians were interested in trading Cabrera last winter still remain and appear to be sensible. Cabrera is now a year and a half from free agency and there are no whispers from either side about any kind of contract extension. The Indians have Mike Aviles, who has been an every day shortstop at the big league level, available to immediately replace Cabrera if he was dealt.

Aviles has hit .258, with five home runs and 37 runs batted in this season in 71 games. Cabrera was out of the lineup with strained right quadriceps for much of June. Aviles played every day in his absence, hitting .252 for the month. Aviles doesn’t provide the offensive production that Cabrera does, but then again Cabrera hasn’t provided that production this season either. Cabrera is hitting just .248 this season, with seven home runs and 40 runs batted in. Their seasons are quite comparable, Cabrera has a 0.9 WAR while Aviles has a 0.8.

Cabrera certainly has the potential to go on a tear and hit for more power than Aviles. That’s part of his draw for other teams. Cabrera is having one of his worst seasons as a big leaguer while Aviles is playing his normal status quo. Regardless, the Indians are receiving the same production from the shortstop position this season whether Aviles or Cabrera is there.

Meanwhile, the Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor continues to progress ahead of the curve. The 19-year old switch-hitting shortstop is in his second full season as a professional and hit .306 at High-A Carolina before heading to New York to play in his second straight Sirius XM Future’s Game yesterday. Lindor is expected to be promoted to Double-A Akron today and be in the lineup tonight. Since he was drafted in June 2011, the Indians have hoped he would replace Cabrera. At this point, he’s on track—or even ahead of schedule—to replace Cabrera after his contract expires.

The Indians have a respectable short term replacement for Cabrera and a long term plan in place. More importantly, Cleveland still needs starting pitching in the short term and long term. While the Indians rotation is a pleasant surprise as a whole, they would likely be a matchup underdog against any playoff team in the American League.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the St. Louis Cardinals are still interested Cabrera. Their weak-hitting shortstop Peter Kozma seems to be the weak link in their National League-leading offense. So far, it appears the Cardinals and Indians can’t agree upon what players St. Louis should send back to Cleveland. Likely, trade negotiations are a debate of what level and readiness of starting pitching prospect(s) the Cardinals would return to the Indians. Cleveland is likely looking for someone to insert into their rotation, while St. Louis is looking to trade someone not currently contributing to their own playoff run.

When Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona overhauled the Tribe last winter, their moves were made to improve the team immediately, but with a strong vision to the future. Short-term contracts like Choo’s were dealt and long term deals like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were established. The Indians have created a window to contend through 2016 when Francona’s contract expires and Swisher and Bourn are facing their fifth year options.

Under the plan of immediate improvement and long term success, trading Cabrera in the next two weeks may be the right move, but how would that sit with a veteran clubhouse that wants to win this season? How does that sit with a fanbase that hasn’t seen a playoff game in Cleveland of any kind since 2010? Will Cabrera’s trade value be any higher next winter when he is just one season from free agency?

These appear to be all the questions on the table and in front of Antonetti as he tries to continue to improve the Indians now, and into the future.

Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images