Aug 6, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera (2) throws to first against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Now that the Baltimore Orioles have consummated the $2.4 million deal with Everth Cabrera, and now that he has come into camp with the Birds, I am still trying to get excited about this move. As always, I hope it is a big winner for the good guys in orange and black. But I have been scouring the stats to see what exactly there is to be excited about and (not) worried about.
Notice that this is all about baseball and statistics. I am not critical of the Orioles for taking on yet another personal project by signing a player with a checkered past. Truthfully I love this about the O’s, that they have a redemptive path and strong clubhouse that can help a player who has made some mistakes find their way back to productivity in all elements of life. I have no doubt that Cabrera will have personal success on this team and a full break from the foolishness of the past.
This deal has the same hopes as with Ubaldo – that a portion of a season past becomes the pattern for the future career.
Now at age 28, Cabrera has had some periods of success in his career. However, those times have been less frequent and less sustained than … say … Ubaldo Jimenez. Sorry to bring that up. But an argument right away to that comparison would be to say that Cabrera has only been signed for one year at 20% of the annual salary that Jimenez has for four years. And that is a fair point.
Batting Average and On Base Percentage – For a guy who is projected hopefully (at least by some) to be a possible leadoff hitter, his career averages are .248/.319 – nothing special at all. The overall average batting average and OBP in MLB in 2014 was .251/.314. In 2014, Cabrera’s numbers were .232/.272, although in the year before they were .283/.355.
Possible Effect upon Jonathan Schoop’s Progress – So where is Cabrera going to play? The vast majority of his games have been at shortstop, though he can play second base. Could he be the starter at second with Schoop going to AAA for more seasoning? I hope not. I don’t see what Schoop is going to learn at Norfolk that he can’t learn better and faster in Baltimore – now that he’s had a full season in the major leagues. He could maybe play the outfield, but there are already too many outfielders on the Orioles. Cabrera could be the primary backup infielder instead of Ryan Flaherty, which is good in my book! But he can’t play the corner infield as Flaherty is able, though others could cover that need.
Leadoff Stats – There is not a lot of encouragement in his career numbers as a leadoff hitter – of a game, of an inning, or in the #1 batting order position. Let me compare those three stats (in that order) to Alejandro De Aza:
|#1 – game
|#1 – inning
|#1 – order
I’m pretty sure Buck Showalter is going to notice this comparison (insert smiley face here).
Speed – This is his best asset for sure, and when healthy he can really fly. In 2012 he led the National League with 44 stolen bases in only 115 games. His 162-game projected average is 46. It has been a long time since the Orioles had anyone like this on the team.
Defense – Without getting into the weeds, his defensive metrics show him to be an above average defensive player in the last two years, whereas that was not true in the earlier half of his career.
Free Agency 2017 – If things work out, Cabrera has another final year in free agency before he is gone forever (represented by the Boras Agency).
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Switch Hitter / Even Splits – I put this in the positive category, as he bats .243 against RHP and .261 versus LHP. So that is not a terribly divergent split, but neither is it exceptional.
Final Thought – The Orioles are clearly hoping they are buying the Everth Cabrera of 2013 (without the Biogenesis), or something close to it. They are hoping he will stay healthy. Is the upside of this worth a $2.4 million gamble? It can probably be argued that it is, but it is far from certain. The cost is below almost every player who is as far along in the arbitration/free agent process as he is. Hopefully the restorative powers of the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse will do their wonders for another free agent.
(Did you notice how many times the word “hope” or a derivative thereof was used?)