With 47.1% odds of winning the NL East and 63.4% odds of reaching the postseason entering play Friday, few teams ought to be more aggressive buyers than the Phillies as they try to consolidate and improve their NL East-leading position in a year they perhaps arrived ahead of schedule.
The Phillies attempted to improve Friday by acquiring veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets. One of the Phillies’ weaknesses has been a general lack of run production from their infield positions. The Phillies rank 12th in the majors in wRC+ by second basemen (98), 27th at shortstop (75), and 23rd at third base (90).
Cabrera has posted a 122 wRC+ for the season and a .277/.329/.488 slash line. He posted a 111 wRC+ last season and has a 107 mark for his career. The switch-hitter has generally been an above-average offensive player, particularly relative to middle infielders. The 32-year-old impending free agent has produced 2.1 WAR to date this season.
Cabrera, who has been limited to second base in 2018, gives the Phillies roster flexibility in addition to representing an offensive upgrade in the infield. He was primarily a shortstop through 2016, though he also has experience at third base. It’s not exactly clear how and where Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will employ Cabrera.
The rookie Scott Kingery has taken the majority of reps at shortstop and has struggled (66 wRC+). Perhaps Cabrera fits there. Maikel Franco has been a below-average performer at third base for his career but has been hot recently and has a 110 wRC+ for the season. Cesar Hernandez has a .371 on-base mark at second base. If nothing else, Cabrera provides quality depth.
Phillies GM Matt Klentak told reporters Cabrera is an excellent fit.
“I would expect that we’ll see him at times at second, short, and third,” Klentak said. “When he’s not playing, I think he’ll be a very dangerous bat off the bench. He’s an excellent roster fit for this current group of Phillies, and notably, I think, his positional flexibility puts us in a position where we can continue to let our young players play. This acquisition doesn’t relegate any of our young players to a full-time bench role and I think that is important.”
For Cabrera, the Phillies sent 23-year-old pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome to the Mets. Kilome is an interesting addition to the Mets, ranked as the 129th-best prospect in baseball by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel in their midseason ranking. He was also the eighth-best prospect in the system back in the preseason. He projects to have a 60-grade fastball and curveball, though he has a modest 7.3% K-BB mark in Double-A.
In a vacuum, giving up a prospect of significance for two months of Cabrera might seem expensive, but the Phillies are trying to consolidate their division lead. If Cabrera helps the club lock up an NL East title, and perhaps push deep into October, it will be well worth the price.
We hoped you liked reading Phillies Address Need by Adding Asdrubal Cabrera by Travis Sawchik!
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A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.
Good for the Mets to get a real prospect. I assume the Phillies were bidding against the Brewers and Diamondbacks. It makes the Machado deal look awesome for the Dodgers.