Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera posted a breakout offensive year in 2011 with career highs in runs, hits, home runs (25, well over his record of 6 in any prior season) and runs batted in despite a decline in the 2nd half. He made the All Star team and won the shortstop Silver Slugger Award for the American League.

Asdrubal credited former Indian Orlando Cabrera with the suggestion he pick his spots and drive the ball. Good advice but will the results last? Was 2011 a rank outlier of a season or a glimpse of a robust future?

Much money, team payroll flexibility and the status of the shortstop position for the Indians over the next several years rests on the answer.

The line:

       AB       R       H       RBI       HR       BB       K       SB       AVG       OBP       OPS

2011 season                    604     87     165      92        25        44     119     17      .273       .332     .792

          1st Half          358      55    105       51        14        23      66      12       .293       .347     .836

2nd Half         246     32       60       41        11        21      53         5       .244       .310     .729


Career Avg.                      608     86     171      78        13       53     113       13       .281      .343     .756



Despite several highlight reel plays on SportsCenter, Cabrera rated mediocre or below average on defense (.976 fielding % v. .972 league average; -6 or below average based on number of runs allowed v. number of plays made).

Cabrera became arbitration eligible at the start of 2011 and the parties agreed on a one year contract with a substantial raise, from $ 444,600 in 2010 to $ 2,025,000.

He filed for a $ 5.2 million salary in arbitration after the 2011 season and the Indians countered at $ 3.75 million. Despite the parties’ stated willingness to execute a long term extension, negotiations broke down and Cabrera signed another one year deal for $ 4.55 million in 2012. He retains a final year of arbitration in 2013 and becomes a free agent in 2014.

During Spring Training Cabrera reiterated he wanted to remain in Cleveland but said the club made no further effort to negotiate a long term deal. Antonetti said he also remained interested in an extension, but only if the term and dollars made sense. Translation: Asdrubal is willing to stay but wants to get paid based on 2011, not his career norms. The Indians want to wait and see which Cabrera they’re buying.

The fact Cabrera has a history of poor conditioning and this Spring came to camp dumpy and out of shape with long hair in a Manny-like do-rag probably did not help jump start renewed negotiations. Nor did his .091 batting average early on (after 12 games his average climbed to .206).

What will it take to sign Cabrera long term (ie, three years)? His career numbers most closely align with Yunel Escobar and Alexei Ramirez on the following list:


Age             Service              2011          2012        2013         2014         2015

Peralta                                     29               7.118                  5.5               6.0

Hardy                                      29               6.614                 5.85             7.0          7.0              7.0

Aybar                                      28               5.086                3.0                5.075

Drew                                        29              5.079                4.65              7.75       10.0

Escobar                                  29              4.121                  2.9                 5.0            7.0           7.0             7.0

A. Ramirez                            30             4.000                2.75               5.0            7.0            9.5           10.0

Andrus                                   23             3.000                452k              2.375       4.8            6.475


Cabrera                                 26             4.027               2.025              4.55             ?                  ?                  ?


Based on this chart, Cabrera lags slightly behind both Ramirez and Escobar in contract value although his strong 2011 closed the gap. If his performance continues, a three year extension (2013-15) would likely cost the Indians between 22-27 million. Is Cabrera worth it?

The Indians currently have no long term contracts on the books past the 2013 season. Jimenez holds a player option for 8 million but the 12 million club option with Hernandez/Carmona is gone. However, Choo, Rafael Perez, Slowey and Joe Smith become free agents along with Cabrera so money for retaining at least Choo and Smith must be available. Hafner becomes a free agent after 2012 unless the Indians exercise a 13 million club option for 2013 (doubtful unless at a reduced price).

A cautious wait and see approach is appropriate. If Cabrera has another strong year then maybe an extension makes some sense (‘sense’ is a relative term and complete misnomer in baseball economics) but only at reasonable value and for no more than 2 or 3 years. If he struggles in 2012 then the team should back away and save the resources for other moves.

Of course, failure to extend increases the Indians’ risk of losing Cabrera to free agency after 2013. But it is imperative the Indians know what they’re buying and his performance in 2012 will demonstrate whether the parting is truly painful or just necessary.

Keep in mind the Tribe’s No. 1 pick in 2011, shortstop Francisco Lindor, will be on the horizon in 2014 and the team can always keep Jason Donald as a stopgap at SS until Lindor’s arrival. Donald will make the league minimum in 2013 and start his arbitration clock in 2014 at a much lower dollar level.


The Indians have learned the hard way one good year by a player does not always an extension make. For that to change with Cabrera, he must earn the team’s trust and the money with another strong showing in 2012.

What would you do as GM of the Indians?


  • medfest says:

    I would let Cabrera walk and take the draft pick.

    His range won’t get better,he doesn’t seem to know what being in shape is and I’ve got Lindor in my minor leagues.

    He’s fine for now.but no way do I hitch my team wagon to this guy.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    I agree. So far Cabrera is not showing he’s a long term guy and the money could be used to lock up Choo or Masterson. Projecting prospects is always a crap shoot but the Indians are strong in the middle infield at the lower levels even besides Lindor.

    Thanks for the reply.

  • SeattleStu says:

    The first thing i’d do is pat myself on the back for not signing this hump to a long-term deal. Imagine what shape he’d be in if they actually paid him? Hey Asdrubal, you ain’t good enough to rest on your talent, so get it in gear or get lost. I’d give up the handful of highlight reel plays every year if i didnt have to sit through the 15-20 balls that go through his legs or under his glove.

    What i can’t figure out is how this front office finally got one right.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Still some drama to play out so too soon to tell what happens. If Cabrera monsters again or even cones close then pressure shifts to the team to sign him long term and “make a statement”. A test for Antonetti.

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