Thursday, July 23, 2009

Twins Targeting Cabrera?

At, Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Twins have been fairly active in a pursuit for an infielder now that third baseman Joe Crede is also likely headed to the DL.  According to Morosi, the Twins "have already discussed shortstop Orlando Cabrera with the A's" among other possibilities including Pittsburgh's doubleplay combination, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, Toronto's Marco Scutero and even darkhorse candidate in the Royals' super utility man, Mark Teahan
Morosi continues by suggesting that of the four listed, shortstop Orlando Cabrera makes the most logical trade target for Minnesota given his position and his success as a number two hitter.  As Seth Stohs identified in his analysis of the Oakland Athletics for the TwinsCentric Trade Deadline Primer, Cabrera has a strong likelihood of relocating outside the Bay Area given his attractive one-year contract and A's GM Billy Beane's propensity for using veterans to wrangle in prospects.  Two weeks ago, we were apprehensive about the Twins potential of acquiring Cabrera, given his lowly .293 on-base percentage, but since the beginning of July, the right-handed batting Cabrera has hit .387/.410/.547 with two home runs in 17 games.  This sudden burst of production has drawn the attention of teams in need of a shortstop including the Mariners, Reds and Mets in addition to the Twins.  Always the master at leveraging his players in trades, Beane will undoubtedly look to use this inflated production to extract a fairly substantial prospect or two for Cabrera. 
Who would be foolish enough to bite?  Even with the increased productivity, make no mistakes about it, Cabrera's beginning to show his age.  Over the course of the past four seasons, Cabrera has seen his power and his speed numbers drop significantly, resulting in a strong indication that the two-time Gold Glove winner is weakening and slowing down:  

O. Cabrera 

Isolated Power














Part of losing his strength/speed is that Cabrera is no longer pulling the ball with as much authority as he once did. Since turning 30 in 2006, Cabrera's ability to turn on a pitch has reduced. Naturally, scouting reports have picked up on his sluggish swing and have started to throw more fastballs to counter.


Pull Pct

AVG on Pulled Pitches

Fastball Pct

















As a predominately groundball hitter, Cabrera's average has been bolstered by muscling a few more groundballs through the infield, however in the past three seasons his batting average on grounders has declined from .306 in 2007 to .248 in 2008 to .235 this year. 
At 34 years old, Cabrera is no longer the spry shortstop that he was in Montreal.  While his Ultimate Zone Rating had been favorable the previous two seasons (13.1 and 8.9 in 2008 and 2007 respectively), this year his defense has worsened (-9.3).  According the Fielding Bible Plus/Minus system, Cabrera is having a horrendous time getting to balls to his right, misplaying 12 balls that an average shortstop would have been expected to make ranging towards third.  A shortstop whose shortcoming is ranging to his right may have been masked by Joe Crede's excellent ability to make plays to his left (+10 plays) but with Crede's impending DL stint looming, the Twins will be forced to use Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher or Danny Valencia, all of whom fall far short of Crede's defensive prowess.  By the Fielding Bible's accounting system, Cabreras's defense has cost the A's 16 runs.  The contact-heavy, groundball-inducing pitchers, like Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins, would suffer from the loss of coverage on the left side of the infield. 
Considering all of this, would bringing in Cabrera benefit the Twins?  With the probability that his uptick in offensive output will come to an end (based upon his groundball tendencies and dilapidated power stroke) coupled with his problematic defense, the Twins should focus their energy and resources elsewhere.