The Indians have a few major questions that must be addressed this offseason and one of the most crucial decisions centers around two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabrera is set to earn $10 million in 2014 (about $9.5M more than he was worth this past season) before hitting the free agent market. If the Indians think they can compete again in 2014, and that Cabrera can be a valuable piece of the puzzle, they can simply hold on to him and pick up the compensatory pick when he inevitably signs elsewhere following the season.

However, since the Indians hope their window of opportunity spans more than just one season (and I think we have to assume the front office believes it spans the length of the Bourn/Swisher contracts) trading Cabrera might actually make the most sense.

But what is he worth?

The 2013 version of Cabrera is worth next to nothing. He became just the third Indians middle infielder since 1990 with at least 400 plate appearances to post an on-base percentage below .300, joining Josh Barfield (2007) and Felix Fermin (1990).

But, unlike Fermin and Barfield, Cabrera was a liability at the plate and in the field.

Of the 24 Indians middle infielders with an OBP under .300, only four also posted a Defensive WAR in the negatives – Jack Heidemann (1970), Chico Salmon (1966), Bill Wambsganss (1915) and Cabrera.

I know some fans may still be enamored with Cabrera’s web gems, but remember that great defensive plays are often made possible by a lack of range.

To better put into perspective just how horrific Cabrera was in the field this season, consider this: his -16 Defensive Runs Saved was worse than all shortstops aside from Oakland’s Jed Lowrie and a full 16 DRS worse than Jhonny Peralta! In fact, as bad as Peralta was in Cleveland (he never posted a positive DRS value in a full season at shortstop, Cabrera’s -16 was more than twice as bad as Peralta’s worst effort (-7).

So does Cabrera have any value on the trade market?

Given his past success, the Indians could potentially dump him on someone willing to take a risk, but they may not be able to get much in return – and certainly nothing of immediate value.

Prior to the season, when there were rumors of St. Louis possibly being interested, I had hoped that either Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal could be included in a deal –both quality prospects ready to contribute immediately. But after his 2013 campaign, no team would be willing to part with such prospects for one, possibly terrible, year of Cabrera.

What further hurts Cabrera’s value on the trade market is the fact that his decline appears to be an actual decline in skills, rather than just a statistical fluke.

Ups and downs in statistics can sometimes be attributed to fluctuations in batting average on balls in play, which has been shown to be almost entirely luck (with the exclusion of home runs, which is a proven skill). In 2013, Cabrera’s BABIP dropped by over .020 points, indicating that he may have suffered slightly from balls simply not bouncing his way.

However, Cabrera’s contact rate also dropped significantly, especially on off-speed pitches, which is an entirely skill-based statistic.

Take a look at Cabrera’s contact rate by zone against curveballs and sliders from this past season, compared to the previous two years.


It’s difficult to speculate as to the reason for Cabrera’s decline, but something is obviously wrong. How much a team would be willing to part with in order to obtain Cabrera would all depend on how confident they are in their coaching staff’s ability to revive his career.


  • Vincent says:

    To trade him is to take way the one man that I yell to every game. Every at bat I yell “Ass-dribble, this is all you!” Great article by the way!

  • Peter says:

    Trade? @ $10 million, who would take him? We would end up having to pay some of his salary after his performance this past year.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Look at the SS on the FA market… someone with $ would definitely take him for a year at that price. Angels, Mariners, Mets, Reds and Cardinals could all use an upgrade at SS and have the financial flexibility to gamble on a guy with Cabrera’s upside for one season.

      • medfest says:

        Cabrera would not be an upgrade over Aybar,Miller,or Cozart,especially for 10 million.That leaves the Mets in rebuilding mode(why would they want a one year pricey guy?) and the Cardinals, who aren’t a stupid organization.
        He will be tough to trade,real tough.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Cabrera still hit 14 HR and 35 doubles, and went the last 30 games with only one error. If you think that is easy to replace, take a look at the names on the FA market. And for all our organizational depth at the position, none of the SS prospects is ready to play in the bigs. If you make Aviles the SS, you create an even bigger problem at 3B, because Chisenhall is a platoon player at best, at least right now. Trading A-Cab would be a white flag on 2014 and would not bring any immediate impact help.

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      Juan Diaz is ready for a shot at the majors. Not exactly an exciting prospect, but capable of platooning with Aviles to keep the seat warm for Lindor.

      • Sean Porter says:

        Count me in the “A little Mike Aviles goes a long way” camp… I like Aviles and think he’s a valuable guy to have on the team, but if some of you almost have an aneurysm watching Cabrera hack at pitches, imagine watching Aviles and his “I’ve never seen a pitch I didn’t think I could hit 500 feet” approach for 150 or so games.

        Having someone platoon with Aviles is a fine, fine idea.

        • shaun says:

          i’d be a little concerned about aviles’ durability…otherwise i agree. with aviles at SS everyday, who is going to be splitting time with chizz at 3rd?

  • bob says:

    Def a tough call…but with very little margin for payroll error in our market (esp w/ our attendance…), think it’s time to move on w/ the A-cab. Even if we hv to pay a portion of his salary, it will free the Tribe up to make other moves to net improve the team during this window we need to seize!

  • medfest says:

    Trading Cabrera(AKA Choking Dog) is a no-brainer,he won’t be here in 2015 and did little last season to deserve to be here next season.

    Getting any value for a statue at shortstop with a 10 million dollar albatross hanging around his neck is a another matter.Add in his pathetic season at the plate and maybe you’ll get a couple of single A prospects without having to pick up any of his salary ,if you’re lucky.I’d do that trade in a second.

    Brendan Ryan is a FA and would sign for less than half of what Cabrera would get paid and give the Tribe a gold glover as a place holder for Lindor.Rafael Furcal and Stephen Drew will be FAs as well but they’ll be pricey.

    Aviles as a starter at short is complicated by the Chisenchump factor at third base.There is little in the way of FAs at third,Youklis will be available…………sheesh.

    Jose Ramirez doesn’t have a shortstops arm,Diaz is an interesting player but with the defensive liabilities all over the Tribe infield they need at least one solid defender imho.

    This will be the biggest decision the Tribe’s front office makes this off season.

    The Tribe’s payroll with all the possible FAs leaving is at around 80 million and I don’t see them spending much more than 85 million total on next season’s payroll,especially after drawing less than 1.6 million fans.
    To free up enough cash to fill in the holes in the pitching staff and hopefully acquire a decent bat,getting rid of Cabrera and Perez’s contracts is essential.

  • Sean Porter says:

    I know that the intricate fielding statistics say that Jhonny Peralta actually is a better defensive shortstop than Cabrera – but I cannot be convinced of it. It shocks me that Peralta covers more ground than Cabrera. I’m not sure Peralta covers more ground than a glacier.

    I hate to say it, but other MLB teams can see the same things we do about Cabrera. They can easily bring up his offensive stats on their ‘puters like we do, and realize that his numbers continually are declining. They have access to the same defensive stats too, and they aren’t pretty. They also know what his contract calls for next season.

    Unless the Indians get real creative and package him, I think we will be stuck with him next year, and we’ll cross our fingers that he can pull a Ubaldo and rebound in his walk year of his contract… (With Ubaldo’s ability to nix the option year, for all intents and purposes he was in a walk year…)

    • medfest says:

      Sadly, that scenario is the one I see playing out as well.

      • Sean Porter says:

        Best case scenario: Cabrera plays like he did in 2011 and leads the Tribe deep into the playoffs. He then leaves for free agency after the season, Indians end up with a first-round draft pick as compensation. Lindor seamlessly slides into his spot in 2015.

        • medfest says:

          The only way the Tribe gets a pick is if they offer Cabrera a 14 million dollar qualifying offer.Even if he has a great season they won’t want to risk him accepting it,so I don’t see a draft pick in the Tribe’s future.

  • The Doctor says:

    i would rather play all 162 games without a shortstop than watch a single additional game with cabrera out there

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Knowing that we have no one to replace Cabrera and that he has modest trade value, everybody wants to dump him anyway. It’s like Peralta all over again. I’ll say this: if it makes the difference in being able to sign Masterson or Kipnis long term or resign Jimenez, then move that salary. Otherwise, no way. We’re already losing so many players to free agency.

  • DG says:

    Shouldn’t we be looking at Cabrera as a textbook candidate for a bounce back season? He has a track record of several years of good production. He’s only 27 years old (28 next season) so age shouldn’t be a factor. Sometimes players just have a bad year. His trade value is at an all time low right now, and I’d hate to see him traded for a reliever and go on to dominate somewhere else next year.

    Aviles is a nice utility guy but I have no interest in seeing him play every day. I say keep Cabrera and ride the wave of regression back to the top next year.

  • bill says:

    I agree with keeping him as much as i have always disliked him. Unless we have the chance to spend money on a bat or a top of the rotation guy and need to dump payroll, but i dont think either of those are really out there this off season

  • Mike says:

    The best thing we can possibly do is find a trade partner. We have two exciting shortstops in the system in Dorsyss Paulino and Francisco Lindor. Mike Aviles is a capable shortstop, and started for Boston in 2012. If we could get a pitcher from the Cardinals, I’d be OK with paying for some of his salary. I’m fine with the waiting game at shortstop.