Not content with Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Beltran as trade deadline acquisitions, the San Francisco Giants added veteran middle infielder Orlando Cabrera to the mix. In exchange for Cabrera, the Giants sent 23-year-old outfielder Thomas Neal to the Cleveland Indians – who had little use for Cabrera after Jason Kipnis was promoted.
Prior to the 2011 season, Marc Hulet rated Neal as the sixth best prospect in the Giants’ system. Following a breakout campaign in 2009, Neal has been unable to recapture his Cal-League production while advancing through the system. He currently has a .335 wOBA in Triple-A, and could be a decent platoon player or fourth outfielder down the road.
While the Keppinger move solidified one side of the middle infield for the Giants, the other side remains a black hole of offensive production. Cabrera provides the club with another option, but not much of an upgrade from what is already in San Francisco. As a group, Giants shortstops are hitting .221/.279/.299. Their collective .261 wOBA is just behind the Brewers (.258) and Braves (.251) for the worst mark in the National League at the position.
With that in mind, you could call Cabrera’s .244/.277/.321 slash line and .268 wOBA an upgrade. That said, it is far from a solution to the current problem. While Cabrera may be able to turn the position’s offensive production from horrible to miserable, any minimal gain (if that) is likely negated by his work on defense.
As a member of the tribe, Cabrera shifted from his customary shortstop to second base; however, the move could not mask his diminishing range. Sliding back to shortstop should only make matters worse. Despite that fact, O-Cab figures to get the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop for the Giants. This should be the case even as Tejada – who currently on the disabled list with an abdominal strain – returns to the club as soon as next week.
After finding value in the Keppinger move, I’m struggling to find a silver lining with this one. Cabrera may be a slightly better option than Tejada or Crawford, but I do not see much of an upgrade over Mike Fontenot (.288 wOBA); certainly not enough to give up a mid-level prospect to secure his services. On the one hand, Cabrera is playoff tested and has been durable for the last decade-plus, but without production those attributes do little to help the Giants run for another championship.