The initial impression when evaluating the Philadelphia Phillies acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera in trade from the New York Mets might be that he is a “rental” player.
However, Cabrera’s versatility and experience could instead lead the team to bring him back beyond this season. It’s all going to depend on how he fits in over these next few months, and what his contract demands might be this coming off-season.
Cabrera is currently playing out the end of what was a three-year, $24.75 million free agent contract which he signed with the Mets following the 2015 campaign.
He originally signed as an amateur free agent with the Seattle Mariners in August of 2002 while still a teenager. Cabrera was subsequently dealt to the Cleveland Indians in June 2006 for current ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez.
Cabrera broke into the big leagues with the Indians in 2007 and would become a two-time American League All-Star. In the first of those back-to-back all-star seasons, Cabrera was awarded the 2011 AL Silver Slugger Award for the shortstop position. He registered career highs in home runs (25), RBI (92), and runs scored (87) that season while hitting .273 and stealing 17 bases.
After parts of eight seasons with the Tribe, Cabrera was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline in exchange for pitcher Zach Walters.
As with this current trade, he became a free agent following that season and signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Once that season was completed and he was a free agent once again, Cabrera signed his Mets deal.
Early in his career, Cabrera split time between second base and shortstop with the Indians. But by 2011 he was Cleveland’s everyday shortstop. He remained exclusively at shortstop until the Nats acquired him and used him for the balance of the 2014 season as their starting second baseman.
He was back at shortstop with the Rays during his lone season in Tampa, and then during his first season in New York. However, last season the Mets began to deploy him in a super-utility role. Cabrera played 45 games at shortstop, 44 at third base, and 32 games at second base.
Prior to this trade to the Phillies, Cabrera had been used exclusively by the Mets as a second baseman this year. It’s hard to say exactly how Gabe Kapler will choose to integrate him into the mix with his first-place ball club.
Maikel Franco has been playing tremendous baseball for more than a month and has become a key player in the Phillies rise. There is no way that Cabrera is going to supplant him at the hot corner.
At second base, Cesar Hernandez has settled into what is his typical empty offensive type of season. He is getting on-base at a .371 clip – no surprise there. However, he also hasn’t homered since June 20, and has stolen just two bases since June 24 – none in the last 15 games.
The Phillies lost their starting shortstop, J.P. Crawford, to injury early on. They have been playing Scott Kingery there out of position for much of the season to the mixed results that could have been expected with a rookie playing the position for the first time professionally.
The best guess is that Kapler will use him at both second and short liberally. Cabrera has banged 18 home runs and 23 doubles this year. Those figures would put him second only to Rhys Hoskins in those categories in the Phillies lineup. He hit the last of those 18 homers in a Mets uniform just last night in Pittsburgh.
There is a chance that he could simply become the Phillies starting shortstop. Kingery would then slid back into the utility role in which he appeared to be thriving prior to Crawford’s injury.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has reported that “a source said Cabrera will cover the team at second base, third base and shortstop. He will play regularly, but not exclusively at any one position.”
Whatever the case may be for the rest of this season, he will likely again become a free agent in November. He will turn 33 years old on the 13th of that month. It is difficult to see any team offering him a multi-year deal.
Whether Cabrera returns will simply come down to how he and the team feel about one another after this season is complete, and how much money the club offers him to come back in what is likely to be a utility role for the 2019 campaign.
If Cabrera likes what he sees, feels that the team can win, and is willing to take the promise of plenty of playing time at a variety of infield spots next year, then he certainly could return.
Of course, Cabrera could choose to leave, or the Phillies could simply choose to move on without him. In that case, they will have paid the price of Franklyn Kilome, their 10th-rated prospect. Assuming the 23-year-old Kilome reaches the big leagues, he is likely looking at a career in middle relief.
Giving up a possible future middle reliever for a veteran bat with pop who can play multiple infield positions, even if just for three months? It seems well worth the gamble to bring in some real help to a young team that is battling to prove it really is a winner.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Phillies acquire Asdrubal Cabrera from Mets for prospect Franklyn Kilome
- Maikel Franco isn’t making things easy on the Phillies…or maybe he is
- Phillies adding new spark to a lineup that has already caught fire
- Nick Williams may be breaking out just in the nick of time
- Chase Utley disappointed he can’t attend next weekend’s 2008 World Series reunion