Should the Tribe Trade Cabrera Now?
Steve Eby | On 18, Jun 2014
It’s been such a popular topic over the past couple years that a few months without much “trade Asdrubal Cabrera” talk kind of made me miss it.
The primary reason that the rumor mill-chatter has died down some is because Cabrera is currently going through his hottest spurt with his bat that the Indians have seen in two seasons. After struggling to a career low .243 batting average last season and only 14 homeruns and 64 RBI—both of which were his lowest totals since 2010—Cabrera continued to falter with a .205 BA and just one homerun through his first 33 games in 2014. Since then, however, something has changed in the Tribe’s free-agent-to-be shortstop as he has turned back into one of the team’s most consistent hitters. Since May 7 and through the weekend split with the Red Sox, Cabrera has posted a .294 average with five homeruns, 17 RBI and 11 doubles in his 33 games since turning his season (and maybe his career) back around.
Cabrera’s rebound has certainly helped the Indians as well, who were sitting in the basement of the American League Central at a lowly 14-19 record, 7.5 games out of first at their shortstops low-point. Since then, the Tribe has kicked it up a notch with Cabrera helping to lead the way as they have steadily climbed back into contention. So with all the positives that Cabrera is currently bringing to the table, why would the Indians ever consider trading the two-time All-Star?
The answer is three-fold.
1. Strike while the iron is hot again
While hindsight is definitely 20-20, it’s clear that the Indians should have traded Cabrera when all of the trade rumors started back in the winter of 2012. The Tribe had just acquired a short-term solution in Mike Aviles from Toronto and had a long-term answer in Francisco Lindor was waiting in the minors. The rumor-mill was burning hot as Cabrera’s name was attached strongly to both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks—the latter of which was rumored to have been for a package built around current Tribe starter Trevor Bauer. For whatever reason—and in their defense, Cabrera was their best position player—the Indians decided not to move Cabrera that offseason and his stock has plummeted since.
At the trade deadline last year, Cabrera was saddled with a .248 batting average, as well as the baggage of being mired in a 23-game slump where the shortstop was batting only .198. His value had not been lower since prior to his 2011 Silver Slugger season and the Indians decided to sit tight. At the end of the year, trade rumors surfaced again, but Cabrera’s stock was still low as he was coming off of his worst season as a professional.
Currently, however, Cabrera does not look lost with a bat in his hands (a glove may be a different story) and his stock is on the upswing. Over the past month and a half Cabrera has looked like the difference-making All-Star of old. A contending team in need of a middle infielder who is capable of hitting anywhere from leadoff to third or sixth through ninth in the lineup could look very intriguing to the right buyer.
2. He’s not irreplaceable
When it comes to middle infielders, the Indians really are sitting in the catbird seat.
Without even going into the extreme depth and plethora of infielders the Indians have in the minors, the Tribe’s best answer to a Cabrera trade is already on the Major League roster. A lot of times, I find it very hard to argue that Aviles isn’t one of the Indians nine best players already, and he should be in the lineup every day. What people sometimes forget, I think, is that Aviles has been a starting shortstop for most of his career—and a solid one, at that.
In about 100 less plate appearances this year, Aviles compares solidly to Cabrera at the plate and blows him away defensively. With having played only 145 less innings in the field, Aviles has made three errors, while Cabrera has already made 12. The 12 miscues have already passed Cabrera’s total for every season of his career except for 2011 and 2012 and Aviles has played solid defense at a number of positions, including shortstop.
Down on the farm, meanwhile, the Indians top prospect Lindor continues to impress at Double-A Akron. Through Sunday, Lindor is batting .275 with four homeruns and 36 RBI, while stealing 19 bases and only being caught six times. He has made less errors in more games than Cabrera has and is clearly the shortstop of the future. If Aviles could hold down the reigns for the rest of the season, a 21-year old Lindor would likely be the Opening Day shortstop for 2015 and beyond—which makes Cabrera even more expendable. If Lindor is not ready to start the season, the Indians still hold a $3.5 million option on Aviles—one that they are likely to accept regardless.
3. We’ve been down this road before
The Indians are not going to get a king’s ransom if they trade Cabrera, but letting a two-time All-Star whose career is on the rebound walk for nothing is just silly. The Tribe has traded this exact type of player in the past and have come away looking like geniuses in the end.
Over the past few years, the Indians have turned Casey Blake into Carlos Santana, Jake Westbrook into Corey Kluber, Austin Kearns into Zach McAllister and Eduardo Perez into Cabrera. These were all veteran players whose hauls now make up a substantial core of this baseball team. To think that Cabrera could bring in the next one of these types of ballplayers is not unrealistic at all. In fact, it could be argued that Cabrera could bring an even bigger piece to the puzzle, especially if he continues to hit.
In conclusion, nearly any scenario that can be thought up does not have Cabrera back with the Indians next season, so coming up empty on him seems like a big waste. The short-term and long-term replacements are there and more than capable, while the future could look a little brighter if Cabrera could bring another piece to the puzzle as well. Trading Cabrera sooner than later seems like a no brainer.