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2013 in Review: Has Asdrubal Cabrera played his last game with the Indians?

Our 2013 in Review series continues with the longest-tenured Indian, a player that figures to be mentioned quite a bit this winter in trade rumors.

Asdrubal Cabrera
Asdrubal Cabrera
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Asdrubal Cabrera


Age: 28

Acquired: Trade, 6-30-2006:

Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Cleveland Indians for Eduardo Perez.

2013 Salary: $6.5M

2014 Contract Status: $10.0M (free agent in 2015)

I think I've written at least 3 or 4 "this is Cabrera's last (month, week, game)" articles, so I think it's time to change things up. And no, I'm not doing this to have something else to write about, but because my opinion of what is actually going to happen has changed over the past couple weeks.

But first, a look at Asdrubal Cabrera's 2013 season.

2013 was one of Cabrera's worst seasons with the Indians, especially at the plate. He hit .242/.299/.402 in 562 Plate Appearances, striking out 114 times and walking 35 times. That strikeout/walk ratio is the worst in his career, if you're looking for a trend (strikeout/walk ratio for major-leaguers don't matter a whole lot for current-season evaluation purposes). According to Baseball-Reference, Cabrera had a 1.2 WAR, which represents the lowest showing in his career (which includes 2007, in which he only appeared in 45 games).

Cabrera's season had wild swings of effectiveness or ineffectiveness. He had an .806 OPS in May, then missed a large chunk in June due to injury, then posted a .562 OPS in July, a .609 in August before finishing with a 765 OPS in September. In that last month he hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles but did little else, hitting like a mini version of Adam Dunn.

Prior to this year Cabrera's defense at shortstop was (depending on which defensive stats you believe) below-average., bad, or awful. bWAR's defensive component had Cabrera being a -16 defender at shortstop, UZR had Cabrera at -12.8. Now I have some reservations about the advanced defensive statistics, but by now there's been enough of a sample on Cabrera to get beyond the sample size arguments against them. I think it's probable that Cabrera is fact a bad defensive player as compared to his peers.

That makes some sense if you think about what these defensive measures are trying to do. Cabrera is being compared to other shortstops, and the trend over the last 5-10 years has been to find the best defender first, and worry about the offense later. So you have guys like Alcides Escobar in Kansas City, Elvis Andrus in Texas, and late this year Jose Iglesias in Detroit. There are exceptions, like LGFT Jhonny Peralta, but there aren't that many, and so the Indians are in my opinion going to find the trade market for Cabrera rather weak.

If the Indians were going to deal Cabrera, last winter probably would have been the time. And it looked like they almost did trade Cabrera if you believed the initial Arizona-Cleveland trade rumors. A Cabrera-for-pitching deal eventually morphed into a Choo-Bauer-Grigorius three-way deal (with many other pieces, of course), with Arizona wanting a younger, cheaper, and better defensive shortstop. And at this point, it looks like the Diamondbacks made the right call. Cabrera, who would have been a free agent this winter if not for the contract he signed before the 2012 season, will make $10.0M in 2014. Now $10.0M certainly isn't what it used to be (see the recent Tim Lincecum extension), but it's still a lot of money for a player who was only worth one win over replacement.

So I think the Indians will explore trade options for Cabrera, won't find much interest, and will end up keeping Cabrera. Now if they absolutely have to dump Cabrera's salary, they probably can, but in that case I don't think they'll get much in return. With Cabrera making that much money, and given his 2013 season, there's no way the Indians are getting a Top 100-type prospect for him even if they eat a portion of his salary.

And that's ok, because keeping Cabrera isn't the worst thing in the world. Francisco Lindor still needs some time in the minors, and Cabrera is perfectly capable of bouncing back at the plate. Next year he'll only be 29 years (only two years older than Jason Kipnis, who we talk about as the future at second base), so it's not like he's losing bat speed due to age. A hot first half could make him valuable on the trade market again, and Lindor would be that much closer to the majors.

There was a suggestion that Cabrera could move over to third if Lonnie Chisenhall struggles again, but I don't see that happening. Asdrubal has played a grand total of 11 professional games at third, and that happened very early in his career (2004-2005). For Cabrera to make the switch, the decision would have to happen now, with Cabrera playing there in winter ball and in spring training to prepare. And with him only signed through next year, there's not a huge upside for the Indians doing it. Again, Lindor at best wouldn't be ready until the middle of 2014, and I don't think you move Cabrera to third to make room for Mike Aviles. I think the Indians will bring in some competition for Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, but it won't be Cabrera.

Asdrubal Cabrera is already one of the best players in Cleveland Indians history. When we did our Top 100 Indians series, Cabrera made the cut at #84 despite only playing only 4.5 seasons with the Tribe (2007-2011). If we re-voted this winter, he'd probably jump at least 10-15 spots. He should have another chance in 2014 to move up the list.

2007 21 CLE 45 186 45 9 2 3 0 0 17 29 .283 .354 .421 .775 103
2008 22 CLE 114 418 91 20 0 6 4 4 46 77 .259 .346 .366 .713 92
2009 23 CLE 131 581 161 42 4 6 17 4 44 89 .308 .361 .438 .799 114
2010 24 CLE 97 425 105 16 1 3 6 4 25 60 .276 .326 .346 .673 89
2011 25 CLE 151 667 165 32 3 25 17 5 44 119 .273 .332 .460 .792 121
2012 26 CLE 143 616 150 35 1 16 9 4 52 99 .270 .338 .423 .762 114
2013 27 CLE 136 562 123 35 2 14 9 3 35 114 .242 .299 .402 .700 98
7 Yrs 817 3455 840 189 13 73 62 24 263 587 .273 .335 .413 .748 107
162 Game Avg. 162 685 167 37 3 14 12 5 52 116 .273 .335 .413 .748 107
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2013.