Buster Olney has reported that the A's and Twins are "making steady progress" toward a trade for A's shortstop Orlando Cabrera.Ken Rosenthal has also reported that "The teams continued their discussions on Thursday and plan to continue talking Friday."
No specific Twins prospects are noted in either report, but previous reports have indicated that Billy Beane has asked for Danny Valencia in a deal. It is not clear whether Beane has reduced his asking price or if he's standing firm. What I can say is that the Twins open affection for Cabrera (from Gardy to Mauer and Morneau - allegedly) hasn't helped our bargaining position.
LEN III and many others have noted that Cabrera's OPS is pretty much the same as Brendan Harris and that he's not really worth pursuing. I disagree. While Cabrera is NOT worth the price of a Danny Valencia or other top 10 minor league prospect, I do think he's worth a lower tier prospect such as Trevor Plouffe or Luke Hughes just to get Alexi Casilla off the field (though his performance Wednesday was promising).
The real question regarding Cabrera (or Marco Scutaro, who the Twins are also pursuing) is the degree to which they would upgrade the ballclub. In an attempt to answer this, I did a quick and dirty analysis of the two players, plus a number of additional alleged targets (including Freddy Sanchez for comparison) and our current trio of Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla and Brendan Harris. Using fangraphs batting and fielding runs above average, weighted 50% / 30% / 20% over the last three years. Since we're only talking about middle infielders, and since we're comparing only to each other, I disregarded replacement and defensive position value for the purposes of this analysis.
According to these numbers, we should be all over Marco Scutaro, as he's nearly 10 full runs (assuming a full season) better than any other available player on the "shopping list". Plug him in at shortstop, move Punto to second and you end up with an astounding +23.2 runs. Accounting for the fact we're roughly 2/3 of the way through the season, and we're still talking about a more than 7 run improvement. Do the same with Orlando Cabrera and we're talking about a 3 run improvement from here on out. Not a whole lot in either case, but an improvement like this can mean an extra win or two. Obviously, players can over or under-perform these numbers, but at least they give us a baseline we can work with to evaluate options.
Regarding Valencia, there is absolutely no way I give him up one for one, even for Scutaro. However, I would at least listen if it meant the Twins getting not only a middle infielder, but also a solid bullpen arm we would keep beyond this season. Valencia + lower level prospect for Scutaro and Scott Downs? Perhaps...