"Stuck in the middle with you"
Hey, look, the Indians did something.
Just as the electricity of the Austin Kearns signing was dying down, the club reportedly reached agreement with infielder Orlando Cabrera on a Major League contract today.
I like this move, not because the new Cabrera will light up the lineup (78 OPS+ for the Reds last year… yowza) but because, in case you haven’t noticed, there is a great deal of uncertainty and instability in the Tribe’s infield this year, and a guy like Cabrera – a veteran of six postseason clubs – can be a stabilizing force, regardless of how impactful his offensive numbers may be.
A couple years ago, while talking to the Chicago Tribune, Cabrera summed up his role in this game.
“My whole career,” he said, “I was brought into places when they have something to fix. And once the problem is fixed, they move me on because someone else requires my service.”
So, what are the Indians fixing?
Well, for starters, this Cabrera can spell the other at short, and that’s important.
Asdrubal Cabrera has had some durability issues (not that any of us wouldn’t have had durability issues if Jhonny Peralta smacked into our forearm). It’s encouraging that Asdrubal is taking his conditioning more seriously than he once did, but the Indians have been wise to avoid any talks about a long-term extension with him until he can actually get through a full season without any issues with his performance or his body. His range at short had diminished quite a bit upon his return from the forearm fracture last year. Whether that was related to the return from the injury or is a serious cause for concern is something we’ll have a better feel for once Spring Training ends.
(By the way, if I’m Asdrubal, I’m a little perturbed by this move… no player wants to have to put his first initial on his jersey to differentiate himself from his teammate of the same surname.)
Orlando Cabrera also takes some of the instability out of the second base picture. Jason Donald gets points for the consistency he displayed in his rookie season. He never went through any prolonged rut, and he is clearly a determined gamer who wants to prove himself as an everyday player. But there is a very real possibility that Donald’s bat (.690 OPS in 88 games last year; .711 in 98 games at the Triple-A level) will ultimately suit more into a utility role. Donald has also endured his share of injuries at a young age, and the Indians must take that into consideration at this juncture.
Donald and Cabrera will both vie for time at second. Luis Valbuena? I won’t even go there.
Count me among the skeptical that Donald has the arm to play third (and Cabrera has never played there). It still seems to me that Jayson Nix is the favorite to land the most opportunity at the hot corner. We shall see.
But if you think Jason Kipnis is likely to win the second base job outright this spring, you haven’t been paying much attention to the methodical way the Indians do things. Kipnis just transitioned to second base a year ago, and his only Triple-A experience came in the International League playoffs last fall. He’ll be Columbus-bound.
So given all this youth, uncertainty and instability, the Indians made a wise move in bringing in a veteran stopgap. One who clearly is understanding of his role as a fixer.