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Figuring out Asdrubal Cabrera’s trade value

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The Mets’ second baseman makes for an interesting trade chip.

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera’s trade value is something of a toss-up. He’ll be a free agent after the season and has put up good numbers as a Met, but he’s dealt with a variety of relatively minor injuries.

Through Thursday’s game against the Pirates, during which he really built up some trade value by going 3-for-5 with one home run, two doubles, and four RBIs, Cabrera is second among Mets position players with 2.1 fWAR and fifth with 1.0 bWAR. Cabrera has hit .277/.329/.488 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs, and among qualified second basemen, his 122 wRC+ ranks fifth. His .211 ISO is behind only Javier Baez and Ozzie Albies.

Cabrera has been pretty consistent ever since coming to the Mets in 2016, posting a 119 wRC+ in 2016 and a 111 wRC+ in 2017. While primarily a second baseman the last two years, Cabrera also has experience at shortstop (almost 9,000 innings) and third base (over 350 innings), though he hasn’t played either of those positions this season.

He’s also a switch hitter, which adds value. His rate stats are about even in terms of power: .424 slugging from the left, .428 from the right. The gap has widened this season, with his left side power way up to .535 slugging, with a .383 from the right side. Either way, he’s still solid from both sides of the plate.

On the downside, Cabrera has an injury history. He dealt with a sprained left thumb two separate times, along with nagging hamstring injuries, in 2017. In 2016, he played most of the season with a strained patella tendon and also had a spout of back spasms. And in 2015, he suffered a strained right hamstring. He’s also 32.

His problem with injuries has continued this year. On June 10, he had to leave a game against the New York Yankees with a tight left hamstring. While he came back and played in the next game, he has looked hobbled at times ever since. There has also been mention of a hyper-extended elbow, though manager Mickey Callaway said it mainly affects him when he hits from the right side, which might explain the drop-off in power numbers from that side.

The other problem with Cabrera is his defense. There’s a reason he was moved to second base after spending a career at short: He simply doesn’t have the range anymore. And his range there hasn’t looked great, either. Cabrera was actually a career negative defender at shortstop by both Defensive Runs Save and Ultimate Zone Rating, with a -51 and -46.3 there, respectively. This year, he’s already racked up -18 DRS and -6.0 UZR.

So, who would be in on Cabrera? ESPN’s Buster Olney explicitly mentioned three teams, while John Heyman added two more.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers and Mets were famously linked in the failed Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler trade. Milwaukee’s middle infield is all kinds of a mess thanks to the disappointing performance of Orlando Arcia. With Jonathan Villar and his 86 wRC+ on the DL, Hernan Perez (77 wRC+) is currently starting at second with Tyler Saladino taking reps at short. It’s gotten to the point where Brewers were reportedly trying out Travis Shaw at second—he’s never played there before—in hopes of trading for someone like the RoyalsMike Moustakas. But Cabrera would be an easier and cheaper fit. The Mets could even sweeten the pot by including Wheeler and chase one of the Brewers’ top prospects. It would kill two birds in one stone for Milwaukee, a team that was already thin at starting pitcher before losing Brent Suter.

Cleveland Indians

Trading for Cabrera would seemingly signal the end of Jason Kipnis’s reign as the starting second baseman for Cleveland. He has just as 85 wRC+ after posting an 82 wRC+ last season. He’s fallen a long way in the last couple of years, but he would conceivably still be a good option off the bench. Adding Cabrera would give Cleveland an entire infield of players hitting better than the league average.

The Indians don’t have seem to have a desperate need—certainly not to help clinch the division—but are clearly interested in being active this deadline after moving Fransisco Mejia, one of their top prospects, for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. However, they could easily stick with the 32-year-old Kipnis and be okay.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have surprisingly been in first place this season. They haven’t made any actual moves so far, but they were linked with old friend Cole Hamels before he was sent to the Cubs on Thursday and have apparently been looking into Adam Jones and Eduardo Escobar, as well.

Their biggest need, however, is at shortstop, where they have posted the fourth-worst wRC+ (74) in all of baseball this season. As of right now, Scott Kingery is starting at short and hitting just .234/.276/.337. Meanwhile, Cesar Hernandez is playing second and actually leading their position players with 2.1 fWAR. In this scenario, he would likely shift over to short and send Kingery to the bench.

Cabrera makes a lot of sense for a young team surprisingly contending like the Phillies. Kingery signed a contract that bought out his arbitration years before the season started, so they’re pretty locked into him. But with a surprise postseason opportunity in front of them, they could move a lower-level prospect to help that cause.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have been starting Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed and second base and shortstop, respectively, with Daniel Descalso as the primary backup. The 31-year-old Descalso has actually been having the best year out of all of them, posting a 130 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR. Marte (90 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR) and Ahmed (97 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR) have been fine.

Arizona is in second in the NL West, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers, but a half game out of the second Wild Card spot. On top of that, the Rockies are surging again, just a half-game behind them in both. So they seem to be feeling some pressure to upgrade from “fine” to “above-average” to sneak into the playoffs.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves are very much set at second base with Ozzie Albies. They’re also set at third, with Johan Camargo bouncing back from a slow start that saw Atlanta try out Jose Bautista there before cutting him and letting him transform into Joey Mets. Dansby Swanson is under-preforming for the second year in a row, hitting just .250/.305/.405 with a wRC+ of 85, so he would conceivably be the casualty if Cabrera is added. However, I’m struggling to see how they would make this work. Move Albies, the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner, to short? But Cabrera and his severely limited range there? Put Cabrera at third—a position he played 44 times in 2017 but not once this season—and move Camargo to short? It all seems very complicated and unlikely.