Baltimore Orioles may have found missing piece with Everth Cabrera


The good teams learn from others. The great teams realize their weaknesses and make the necessary adjustments.

The Baltimore Orioles watched first-hand as the Kansas City Royals ran wild on them in the 2014 American League Championship en route to a four-game sweep. The Royals struck fear in their opponents any time a speedster was on base.

The Orioles were the polar opposite. They lacked any speed, finishing dead last in stolen bases.

They are looking to change that.

The Orioles will reportedly sign free agent infielder Everth Cabrera to a one-year, $2.4 million deal today, pending a physical. The 28 year-old from Nicaragua has batted .248/.319/.333 in six seasons with San Diego, but was non-tendered in the wild offseason of the Padres.

The Orioles scooped him up on a low-cost, low-risk deal that could provide high rewards, a move that is typical of the Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette regime.

It is hard to imagine that Cabrera would sign and not be a part of the Orioles. He’s in the prime of his career and likely had other offers to play elsewhere in the Majors. He led the National League with 44 stolen bases in 48 attempts in 2012 and made the National League All-Star team in 2013.

What makes this an interesting acquisition is that few players can offer what Cabrera brings to a team. Cabrera is the prototypical leadoff hitter, a switch-hitter with blazing speed who has batted leadoff in 231 career games. He owns a career .261/.327/.353 line against southpaws, while sporting a .243/.316/.325 mark against righties.

He has wheels that no one on the Orioles roster possess and I have previously argued that the Orioles have a need for speed. One could argue that Alejandro De Aza has the speed, but De Aza’s best season is nowhere close to the 44 stolen bases Cabrera racked up in 2012. Furthermore, Cabrera was on pace to obliterate that number in 2013 before his 50-game suspension.

He does come with baggage. He was charged with resisting arrest after being stopped for suspension of driving under the influence of marijuana in September and has a trial date on April 13. He was also a part of the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended for 50 games in 2013. The pending physical will be important to the Orioles as Cabrera has missed 69 games last season with hamstring issues.

That shouldn’t be a concern for fans. We know the Orioles have done their due diligence with Cabrera, and hope he follows in the model that helped Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young bounce back to enjoy career years.

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The deal would certainly shake up the roster because the Orioles will certainly not keep three middle infielders. That leaves Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty as the two players at risk.

The move gives Schoop competition at second base. If Cabrera wins the job, he gives the Orioles a better player in 2015, while allowing Schoop to continue to develop into the player of the future. Schoop still has minor league options, and could spend the first couple months of the season fine-tuning his swing that saw him bat just .209 last season.

The Orioles can’t wait for Schoop to develop because this team’s window of opportunity is now. Next offseason could see several significant pieces be on the move. It was no secret that Baltimore wanted Schoop to start the 2014 season in the minors, but injuries to others prevented that from happening.

That would mean that Flaherty would stay with the Orioles at the start of the season, as he can play just about every position and has added experience. He is no shoe-in to make the roster either as he also still has a minor league option of his own.

Sports fans know of the cliche “it’s a copycat league,” so it comes as no surprise the Orioles have made their own move to bring some speed to the base paths. They realize that speed kills. Cabrera could prove to be the final piece to a championship season.

Luckily for us, we don’t have to wait much longer to see how it plays out. Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Baseball is finally here.


Next: Orioles loading up on utility infielders