When we heard early in the off-season that Paul Molitor's preference was to let Danny Santana play his natural position of shortstop in 2015, I think most of us wrote off the potential for the team to add a starting middle infielder. At least I wrote it off, especially considering the success that Eduardo Escobar last year.
Apparently, however, the Twins may not have closed that door entirely.
giants, a's, mets, cards, twins among teams to show interest in asdrubal cabrera, who could play 3b or 2b as well as ss— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2014
Then there's this:
Poking around, and I'm not buying that the #MNTwins are legitimately in on Asdrubal Cabrera.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) December 17, 2014
If this rumor is accurate, and let's just run with it for the purpose of our own due diligence, then it presents some interesting options for the Twins. Cabrera prefers to play second base or shortstop (he's logged 1774 innings at second and 6303 at short), but of course second base is out of the running thanks to Brian Dozier's emergence. Third base is unlikely as a fit since A) he's rather not play the position, B) Miguel Sano could make his debut later in the season, and C) Trevor Plouffe was one of the league's ten best third all-around third basemen in 2014. Finally, while Cabrera has struggled over the last two years, he's not coming to Minnesota if he's not going to be in the starting lineup.
That leaves us with shortstop. Should the Twins be able to land the two-time All-Star, that's where he'd probably end up. As a result, we could see more of Danny Santana starting in center field. That, in turn, could mean that Aaron Hicks starts the season in Triple-A instead of being Minnesota's opening day center fielder for the third season in a row.
Cabrera signed with the Mariners as an amateur free agent way back in 2002, out of Venezuela. Seattle traded him to Cleveland in June of 2006, Cabrera's age-20 season, for Eduardo Perez as the Mariners endeavored to keep pace with the Rangers and Athletics at the top of the AL West. He made his MLB debut in 2007, became a regular in 2008, and in 2009 became one of the Indians' young stars by hitting .308/.361/.438 in 131 games.
The height of his career came in 2011 and 2012 when he made two All-Star appearances and hit a combined .272/.335/.443. These last two years have been an entirely different story, seeing Cabrera's line sink to .241/.303/.394.
Cabrera's peripherals explain the issues to some extent. He's swinging and missing more often, leading to less contact. When he does make contact, his well-hit averages and line drives rates aren't as strong as they were at his apparent peak. FanGraphs even tracks a fancy little metric called pace, which is the average time taken between pitches, and the evidence suggests Cabrera is really trying to slow things down. Pitchers do the same thing when they struggle.
Heading in his age-29 season, Cabrera isn't exactly old. But he's not exactly what you'd call a good bounce-back candidate after his last two seasons, either. He's a bad defender at shortstop. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to receive a three-year, $27 million dollar contract.
Personally, I'm not opposed to Cabrera on a one-year deal with an option. I also don't mind the Twins paying higher than market price in the process. It would give Cabrera an opportunity to rebuild value, and for a team that really needs to be better in 2015 there's nothing wrong with spending a little bit too much on a short contract on a gamble that could return some measure of reward; you never know, maybe Cabrera has a second-half career revival waiting in the wings. But guaranteeing three years to a player of this profile looks like all kinds of a mistake, in which case I'm glad to hear that Wolfson isn't getting the same sense of the issue as Heyman.
At any rate, it's interesting to play out the scenario and see what the repercussions would be for other guys already on the team. How about you - does any of this sound like an attractive option?