The combination of Amed Rosario’s arrival in the majors and Asdrubal Cabrera’s deteriorating defense at short ended Cabrera’s time as the Mets’ shortstop. Cabrera is still going to have a starting role on the team this year, but which position he will be manning is subject to change depending on what moves the team makes—or doesn’t make—before the season begins.
The two positions of questions are second base and third base. So which one would be the superior option for the switch-hitting veteran?
If the Mets went into Opening Day with the exact roster they have right now, Cabrera would likely be their third baseman. He is an above-average offensive option at the plate in general—he hit .280/.336/.474 with a 119 wRC+ in 2016 and a similar .280/.351/.434 with a 111 wRC+ last year—who would play rather well at the hot corner.
The league-average third baseman hit .256/.330/.438 with a 102 wRC+. Cabrera doesn’t blow that out of the water, but he does provide an above-average option at the position. When sorting by wRC+, Cabrera’s 111 places him in a tie for 12th with Jake Lamb and Nick Castellanos. Sitting outside of the top-ten offensive third basemen isn’t a bad thing but isn’t quite exciting, either.
The biggest plus of playing Cabrera at third is his glove, though it is important to note that the sample size is small. In 350.1 innings at third, he had a +1 DRS, though his UZR was -2.6. While it is hard to hang your hat on 350 innings at a position, it was his best position by the defensive metrics.
Second base can be a very interesting option for Cabrera and the Mets, especially with his bat. The position doesn’t have the offensive firepower that third does, and it shows up in the league-average stat line for 2017: .263/.329/.409 with a 94 wRC+. Cabrera’s numbers from either season as a Met are well above that, which would make him a very good offensive second baseman.
Cabrera’s 111 wRC+ from last season put him in a tie with Cesar Hernandez for 8th among second basemen and just barely trailed Robinson Cano’s 112 wRC+. That type of production from second base would be a boon for the overall offense. There is, however, the problem of his defense.
In just 274.1 innings at the keystone, Cabrera had a -6 DRS and a +0.9 UZR. The DRS over a full season would likely rack up, and it would be interesting to see if his defense tanks the value of his plus offense at the position. It is a risky option, for sure, but it likely has a higher ceiling than third.
Which position is more likely?
The likelihood of which position Cabrera plays varies. If the roster stays constructed as is, he is the third baseman—so by default, it is the more likely option. The Mets have shown interest in both third and second baseman, though, leaving Cabrera’s position in flux at the moment.
Cabrera has been an above-average option at the plate for most of his career, and is likely to be one again in 2018, regardless of where he plays. His poor defense seems to have gotten worse, and his range might prove to be an issue if he plays second base. He isn’t quite the offensive asset at third that he is at second, but he will likely not be plagued with issues of range defensively. Couple that with the fact that there are more attractive options at third—Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas—than at second—Eduardo Nunez, Brandon Phillips, and Neil Walker—and the Mets have an interesting proposition on their hands.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat will keep him firmly entrenched in the lineup, but where he plays the field will alter his value. He is likely to be the more well-rounded option at the hot corner, but he may be forced to second because of how the free agent market has fallen.