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The case for trading Asdrubal Cabrera

The case for trading Asdrubal Cabrera
July 9, 2013
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After losing the first two games of a four game series in spectacular fashion to the Tigers, and then ultimately losing three of the four games in the series, Indians fans at least subconsciously recognized what they already suspected: this year’s Cleveland Indians are not at the same level as the Tigers and will be hardpressed to win the AL Central.

There is no question that the Indians are much better than last year.  The offense is scoring many more runs, the base running has improved, and even the starting rotation has been more consistent.  However, despite these improvements the team’s warts have and will continue to stop the team from finding consistent success.

Despite improvements, the Tribe pitching staff has not been good enough and lacks the consistency needed to make a run at the playoffs.  Yes, Justin Masterson has definitely improved and made the All-Star team.  Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister have been effective for extended periods of time, and even Scott Kazmir has shown rays of light this season.

But the sum of the parts is still a below league average rotation.  I am still not sold on Ubaldo Jimenez. He may be better than last year, but there was nowhere to go but up and is still a below average pitcher who frequently falls short of six innings.  Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, the two hot prospects, have been shelled in their limited time in The Show.  Carrasco walks almost as many batters as he strikes out (13 BB to 15 K) and has surrendered four homers in less than 30 innings pitched.  Bauer does walk more batters than he strikes out (16 to 11) and looks overmatched in the big leagues.

The bullpen has been a disaster.  The previous strength of the club has probably been the weakest link of this year’s team.  Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano have not pitched to their skill level and each has spent time on the disabled list.  Their struggles derive partly from the rotation’s failure to pitch quality innings; however, this did not stop the bullpen from pitching well the past few seasons.

Unfortunately, the Tribe’s young bullpen prospects have failed to contribute.  Nick Hagadone (5.33 ERA, 16 BB, 25.1 IP), Scott Barnes (7.27 ERA, 3 HR, 8.2 IP) and Matt Langwell (5.06 ERA, 5.1 IP) have failed to pick up the slack when the veterans have failed.

Surprisingly, despite the pitching woes, the Tribe has remained in contention and are still only 3.5 games in back of the Tigers.  I want to believe.  I wake up every day thinking that this could be the magical year where the Tribe finally makes the playoffs, but I don’t see it.

The offense has been rock solid with steady producers throughout the lineup and the defense makes the plays it needs to, but the pitching will doom the season.  The Tribe needs pitching, badly, and the most effective way to get starting pitching is in trades, and the Tribe’s most valuable trade chip might be Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera is a key part of the Indians lineup, though he might also be the easiest to replace.  The Indians farm system is deep in middle infielders, with Francisco Lindor, Ronny Rodriguez, Jose Ramirez and others making up a source of cheap, young talent.  Further, Mike Aviles is on the roster providing a solid interim option at short until Lindor, or another player, can make it to the big leagues.

Thus, if the front office wants to maximize Cabrera’s value, they might be better off trading him than keeping him in the lineup. GM Chris Antonetti has two options if he trades Asdrubal:

Option 1: Trade for young, controllable, starting pitching.

This option is the most direct, and a best case scenario.  If Antonetti could orchestrate an Asdrubal for Shelby Miller trade, for example, this would both maximize Asdrubal’s value while also possibly allowing the Indians to remain in contention in 2013.

However, this trade would probably also be the most difficult to pull off.  Why would St. Louis trade a young starting pitcher under contract for a shortstop who is having a down year and is only under control for one more season?  This trade would offer the greatest benefit, with the least amount of fan backlash as the Indians could sell this as a win now and later move.

Option 2: Trade for prospects

The typical veteran-for-prospects trade is exactly the move fans would kill the front office for making.  I would not like this move if the Indians traded for another Carlos Carrasco or Jason Knapp; however, what the Tribe could do is trade for prospects and use those prospects to trade for an established starter. I do not think Antonetti would trade his top prospects like he did for Jimenez, but if he could get a good enough return for Asdrubal he may be able to net the frontline or middle of the rotation starter the rotation needs.

Trading Cabrera would probably significantly harm the good will the Dolans established by signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher; however, as the Shin-Soo Choo trade proved, a veteran-for-prospects trade can help a team in the short run.

Antonetti needs to find a creative solution to a huge problem.  The Tribe’s pitching is not up to par to compete deep into the season for a playoff spot.  Further, the Indians have lots of question marks with the rotation next year with Jimenez and Kazmir both free agents at the end of the season.

They need reinforcements from outside the organization, and the only trade chip good enough to net starting pitching might be Cabrera, though there are certainly other pieces on the big league roster and in the farm system that might help them fill that need.

User Comments

July 16, 2013 - 6:17 AM EDT
The Reds did get a great player in Choo, but he is a FA next year and gave up Gregarious who would definitely be an upgrade to the "SS" they are using now and Stubbs who at minimum is a great 4th OFer.
July 10, 2013 - 3:48 PM EDT
Shy-I think you completely missed my point, I will end by saying Randy Johnson led the lead in walks multiple times before becoming the future Hall of Famer at age 29
July 10, 2013 - 1:11 PM EDT
Thank goodness you're not in charge.
July 10, 2013 - 1:03 PM EDT
Cliff Lee is grip it and rip it. He works fast and doesn't think about it. Bauer is polar opposite. If the Indians could unload him for a Cuban batboy, I would do it.
July 10, 2013 - 12:30 PM EDT
Shy-I think you give Bauer too much heat, he is only 22 years old. Remember: Cliff Lee didn't figure it out until his late 20s, before he was a gunslinger who walked to many and didn't strike out enough batters. Further, just because another team devalues a player does not mean he loses all value. For example: the Red Sox traded Jeff Bagwell to the Astros thinking he would never develop the power needed to be a big league first baseman, clearly they were wrong. Yes Bauer's control sucks NOW but perhaps later in the year, or next year it will improve significantly. Then again it may not, but the value Antonetti received in the deal remains high, at the time, even if it doesn't pan out.
July 10, 2013 - 11:22 AM EDT
I have few qualms about not having Cabrera in the lineup. I think Lindor is the future there and Aviles is not that much of a drop-off. The key of course, is what we get. If it was Billy Bean here and not Antonetti, I would be comfortable unloading Asdrubal and bringing in the next Parker or Strailey, or Griffin, or Sonny Gray, or Sean Doolittle or Ryan Cook... Strailey may be available btw w Gray coming up. What we can't have is another Trevor Bauer. Having watched him pitch now for a half season. I don't this guy will ever be an impact major leaguer. He has an average fastball, he can't get his breaking balls over with enough regularity that anyone has to worry about them, and he puts the defense to sleep behind him with his walks and high pitch count. I would imagine all this was visible last year to the DBacks and to other discriminating scouts. When the DBacks said no on Tyler Skaggs, Antonetti probably should have let it go. The one good thing now is w Francona, Mills, Sarbaugh, Calloway there is a pretty good quorum there to keep Antonetti in check
July 10, 2013 - 12:44 AM EDT
Poll of MLB players picked Cabrera as best SS.
Defensively, that is.
Funny, how the stats seers claim he's deficient.
The stats on range don't consider the type of pitchers the IF plays behind.
Keep Cabrera until the trade deadline NEXT season.
If Lindor is ready, trade Asdrubal.
If Lindor is not ready, or the Indians are in contention, let Asdrubal play out his option.
July 9, 2013 - 10:58 PM EDT
I agree it's higy unlikely St. Louis would trade miller straight up for ACab which I said in the article. Further Bauer, Stubbs, Albers and Shaw for Choo and spare parts is a GREAT trade IMO. Any trade must be carefully considered and executed but a well executed Cabrera trade would help the Tribe overall, at least on paper
July 9, 2013 - 9:22 PM EDT
ACab's value may have dipped but he'd certainly net the Tribe a nice return. Maybe the Tribe could add a prospect going back the other way to secure a better return. Looking at the makeup of this club they have to consider everyone on the table in deals. The Tribe cannot afford to be short sighted. CPerez and Marson are non-tender candidates, Masterson and ACab are FA in a yr and Albers, Jimenez, Smith, Myers, Reynolds, Hill, Raburn and Kazmir are all FA this offseason. That's a lot of holes to fill and this club has to successfully posture themselves for a chance to remain competitive long term, not short term. All of their moves must have talent and control at the forefront. The Tribe cannot afford to make moves for rentals unless they are minimal value players.
July 9, 2013 - 9:07 PM EDT
How would st. louis even consider trading for cabrera and giving up miller. There is no way unless we threw in another player.

I was an advocate of trading cabrera this past offseason. His numbers keep getting worse. He strikes out a ton and does not hit for high average.

I would be shocked if we got anything significant for cabrera because he is having a down year. If the indians could have traded for bauer and kept choo, then we don't look ast bad. cincinnati made out like bandits on that trade.

trevor bauer looks like a mess and maybe arizona knew what they were doing when they unloaded him.
Ash (England Tribe)
July 9, 2013 - 1:57 PM EDT
A very interesting albeit sad article. I have been a huge fan of Cabrera since he broke through in 2007 and I know I'll be upset the day he leaves us. But if we got a star in the making like Shelby Miller for him... You just can't say no to that. Its ultimately inevitable he'll be gone in a couple of years time since Lindor and co. are nearly ready but I'll still be sad to see him leave.

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