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2016 Mets season preview: Asdrubal Cabrera

The switch-hitting shortstop returns to the NL East this season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the Yoenis Cespedes re-signing—and an ensuing horse ride and hog purchase—it's easy to forget that at one point during the offseason, Ben Zobrist was said to be the team's top target in free agency. After the versatile switch-hitter signed with the Cubs in early December, the Mets were temporarily faced with the possibility of starting a combination of Dilson Herrera, Ruben Tejada, and Wilmer Flores in the middle infield.

This was not to be, however, as general manager Sandy Alderson brought aboard two veteran infielders within the span of two days: Neil Walker, who was acquired in a trade from the Pirates, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who signed a two-year contract with the team.

Cabrera is coming off of a productive one-year stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. Following a disappointing 2014 campaign, the 30-year-old switch-hitter rebuilt his market value with excellent second half numbers. Despite taking fewer walks than in years past, Cabrera produced his highest wRC+ since 2012, and his best ISO since his 2011 campaign. While Cabrera has been unable to replicate his 25 home run season in 2011, he provided formidable pop to a power-starved position in 2015. His .744 OPS ranked fifth among qualified shortstops.

Aside from interleague play, Cabrera's sole National League experience came with the Nationals in 2014. Acquired at the trade deadline to bolster the team's playoff run, Cabrera almost exclusively played second base while hitting just .229/.312/.389. Despite mutual interest in a reunion, Cabrera departed for greener pastures after that season.

Never known as a defensive specialist, Cabrera's -10.4 UZR/150 last season was worse than Wilmer Flores's -3.3. Cabrera won't be expected to win a Gold Glove, but he will need to produce at the plate to maintain a starting job. Cabrera, Walker, Tejada, and Flores are all slated to make manager Terry Collins's Opening Day roster. If Cabrera posts lackluster numbers in the first half, he might find himself swapping roles with Flores as the team's infield super-sub. If all goes to plan, however, Cabrera will provide the organization with at least one year of stability in a position that has featured a rotating door of players in recent years.