If we consider 2018 performance and 2019 projections, the Texas Rangers signing Asdrubal Cabrera for one year and $3.5 million might be the biggest bargain a team got for a player taking a one-year deal. Ken Rosenthal had the news first, with Jeff Passan coming through with the contract. After five playoff appearances in seven years from 2010 through 2016, the Rangers fell to third place in 2017, then cut $30 million in payroll last season on their way to a last place campaign. The team appears to be cutting even more this season, but has made a handful of interesting cheaper, short-term moves, adding Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller, and Jesse Chavez. We can add Asdrubal Cabrera to that list.
In our list of Top 50 free agents, Cabrera ranked 27th, just behind Andrew Miller and ahead of Zach Britton. Kiley McDaniel thought Cabrera was in line for a two-year deal worth $16 million; the crowd agreed on the length though had him making a couple million dollars more per season. Eric Longenhagen described Cabrera like this:
The advent of fluid defensive positioning has enabled aging infielders to stay at shortstop longer, and Cabrera, who has plus hands and arm strength but quickly dwindling lateral range, is among them. Fold in a resilient, well-rounded offensive profile, and Cabrera still has value as a multi-positional infielder despite some clear deficiencies. He’s amassed about 2.5 annual WAR during the last half-decade and will continue getting short-term deals until his bat declines beneath playability.
In Texas, Elvis Andrus plays shortstop and Rougned Odor plays second base, leaving Cabrera as the best option at third. Cabrera’s positional flexibility leaves open the possibility that 27-year-old Patrick Wisdom could still earn his way to playing time and allow Cabrera to move around the diamond, but the more likely scenario is that Cabrera simply makes third base his home. Defensively, that’s is probably his best position, as he lacks the range to play shortstop regularly and range is less of an issue at third base compared to second.
Most teams already have decent third basemen. and the market was full of second basemen this offseason, so it is possible that Cabrera’s declining range hurt in terms of opportunities. He did struggle offensively after his trade from the Mets to the Phillies, but we are talking about under 200 plate appearances. On the season, Cabrera put up a 111 wRC+, nearly matching his 112 mark from the previous season. Factoring in a little decline, Cabrera should be average or better offensively and about the same defensively at third base. The Rangers just made themselves two wins better with barely any investment. If he plays well, the team should be able to trade him for a prospect who might help them down the line.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.