A quick reminder:
- If you haven't done so, please feel free to post your projection for the first five players in this series; I won't compile the results until after we've gone through all the starting positions. So you have until the end of next week (the 22nd) to post your entry.
- There's a couple easy ways to get to those projections: first you can click on the link in the sidebar above, or you can click on the red Community Projections button at the top of this post.
At one point last winter it seemed a certainty that Asdrubal Cabrera would be traded to Arizona as part of a three-team or four-team deal. With two years left on his contract, Cabrera seemed a natural trade chip for a team that seemed on the cusp of another rebuild. It turned out that the Diamondbacks didn't want Cabrera, or more specifically, they didn't want a player with only two years of control left; the Indians did end up getting a young pitcher from Arizona, but they gave up Shin-Soo Choo instead of Cabrera, with the shortstop that Arizona wanted coming from Cincinnati, not Cleveland.
Now Cabrera is part of a team might not necessarily contend, but is a couple breaks from contending, and so will begin his seventh season with the Indians. With Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Rafael Perez, and the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona moving on last winter, Cabrera is the only player from the 2007 AL Central champions left. We ranked Cabrera #84 on our ongoing Top 100 Indians series, and it's likely he'll end much higher if we re-do the list in a couple years, as we ranked players based on their performance through the 2011 season; since then Cabrera added another 3 wins in 2012 and is likely going to be around for another season.
You can click back to the Top 100 entry for a look at Cabrera's past, but now I'd like at look Cabrera's future, first from the team's perspective, and later from his perspective. The Indians have a lot of shortstop prospects in their system, some that may end up in other positions (Dorsyss Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez), and some that are unheralded but seem close to having a major-league career of a decent length (Juan Diaz). But Francisco Lindor is a shortstop now, and seems destined to be a shortstop his entire career. Ranked high in most Top 100 prospect lists, Lindor is just 19 years old, and played in Lake County last year, so there's no imminent threat to Cabrera. But if all goes well, by the time Cabrera's contract runs out in 2014, Lindor will be ready to step in to take his place at shortstop. But two years is a long time, and many things can happen between now and the (for now) imaginary changing of the guard at shortstop.
The reason I bring Lindor up is that normally at this time in a player's contract an extension is at least discussed, as the player is still two years away from free agency, and the club, who is always looking ahead, is starting to wonder what they'll do when the player reaches free agency. The Indians' recent spending notwithstanding, it seems very unlikely that Cabrera would re-sign with the Indians if he reaches free agency, although again, a lot can happen in two seasons. And the Indians may not only not be able to afford Cabrera after 2014, they may not want to keep him past 2014, as Francisco Lindor, a major-league defender right now, may have developed into a star shortstop. Cabrera may not be a viable shortstop by then, too; over the past couple years. he's been rated towards the bottom of AL shortstops in several rankings, most notably UZR. It may be that Cabrera will play the second half of his career as a second baseman or third baseman, partly because his bat could play at either position, but also because he'd become too much of a defensive liability at shortstop.
So although everything seems to point towards Cabrera leaving the Indians in the 2014, if not sooner, he's going to be a crucial piece of the offense this year. He had his best second straight outstanding offensive season in 2012, hitting .270/.338/.423 in a lineup at times devoid of much protection below him. Choo, the Tribe's best offensive player last year is gone, but the Indians brought in Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Mark Reynolds, so there's more hitters to share the offensive load. Cabrera is heading into his Age 27 season, still in the prime of his career, and health permitting is set for another fine season. But how fine will it be?
|162 Game Avg.||162||688||171||37||3||14||13||5||54||113||.279||.342||.416||.757||108|
ZiPS on Cabrera, version 2013:
Almost a carbon copy of 2012, though with a bit more playing time. I think Cabrera will get more time off thanks to Mike Aviles being on the roster, but otherwise I find little to quibble with.
This is more pessimistic, perhaps based on Cabrera's injury-shortened season. I think this is the bottom of the range of possibilities, so I wouldn't be shocked if he did this, but still would be quite surprised.
Here's my shot:
I think Cabrera will continue to add more home run power, though at the expense of doubles. This line should play anywhere in the infield except first, and should eventually allow for him to move off of shortstop without any problems.
What's your forecast for Cabrera in 2013?