While he may not be an elite player at his position, the New York Mets’ new shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, still represents an upgrade over what the team had, Mark Simon of ESPN writes.
On December 9, Cabrera agreed to a two-year, $18.5 million deal with the Mets, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo first reported. The 30-year-old infielder also received a club option worth $8.25 million for 2018, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. Thus, Cabrera’s stay in Flushing, Queens, could last three years.
— New York Mets (@Mets) December 11, 2015
Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Cabrera hit.265 with 15 HR and 58 RBI in 143 games. As Simon writes, 2015 was merely a continuation of a solid track record for Cabrera. In the last five years, Cabrera has appeared in at least 135 games, averaged nearly 15 HR the last four years, and his OPS has “fluctuated between.694 and.762.”
After a solid but unspectacular showing in 2015, Wilmer Flores becomes a utility player for the Mets with Cabrera on board. By comparison, Flores hit.263 with 16 HR and 59 RBI — nearly identical to Cabrera’s stats last season. However, Cabrera brings one thing to the table that other players have struggled with.
Simon notes that Cabrera has been a.252 hitter against right-handed pitchers the last two seasons. By comparison, Cabrera’s batting averaged matched against Mets’ shortstops versus righties is “five points worse during the last two seasons, but his on-base percentage is 17 points better and his slugging percentage is 58 points better.”
The one player that Cabrera is constantly compared to is former teammate Jhonny Peralta, Simon says. While Cabrera has the advantage in age, both players were valued at 1.8 wins above replacement in 2015. Also, Peralta’s OPS (.745) was just one point better than Cabrera’s.
— Cardinals Report (@stlcards_fanly) December 18, 2015
A baseball scout tells Simon that while Cabrera’s talent may not be elite, he’s still a valuable asset to the team.
“I don’t think he’s a top-15 shortstop, but he’s in the middle of the pack. What I like about in him is his ability to switch-hit, and I like his hands defensively. Everything he gets to, he’ll catch. Range-wise, he’s limited, but he’s still a quality baseball player. He knows how to do little things that help his team win. He may not match up to the kids at shortstop athletically, but he’ll surpass them in baseball intelligence. His brain is top-10. He’s still a very good guy to have on a major-league roster.”
As a defender, Cabrera is rated as a generally poor glove man at shortstop, per FanGraphs. In 2015, Cabrera posted abysmal marks in both defensive runs saved (-7) and UZR/150 (-10.4). It continued a four-year run of negative marks in both DRS and UZR/150. Cabrera also has a lot of experience at second base, where he last played for the Washington Nationals in 2014. But the defensive metrics were not kind to him there either.
Cabrera has one career appearance at third base, which came in 2007.
However, Cabrera does sport a career.979 fielding percentage, which indicates that he’s solid when the ball is hit directly to him. His range, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call last week (via MLB), Cabrera had high praise for his new double play partner and new Mets second baseman, Neil Walker. Cabrera referred to Walker as a “great second baseman” who “plays hard, plays the ball right, and I’ll work with him to try to win the World Series.”
In regards to the Mets’ team and the city of New York, Cabrera had a lot more praise.
“They’re a very good team,” said Cabrera. “It’s a great city to play baseball, and they are winners.”
[Featured Image by Brian Blanco/Getty Images]