With spring training coming right around the corner, it is amazing to see how many quality free agents are still out there with virtually no buzz. One of the guys who has been hit hardest by the market is SS Orlando Cabrera.
Like so many other free agents, Cabrera is a quality player who can help many teams. He can hit for a high average, score 90+ runs, steal 20+ bases, and play quality defense at shortstop. In 2008, Cabrera hit .281 with 8 home runs, 57 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, and an impressive 93 runs scored. Those numbers are more productive than lots of other shortstops around baseball...(I'm looking at you Cesar Izturis and David Eckstein).
But for some reason, Cabrera has been unable to find a home or any suitors this off season and there seems to be end in sight. So what gives?
1. Type A
Because the White Sox offered Cabrera arbitration, any team that signs Cabrera would have to surrender their first round pick to the White Sox. As we have discussed before, in this terrible economy, there are not too many teams who are willing to do that.
By no stretch of the imagination is Cabrera a spring chicken. He is 34 years old and is no longer in the prime of his career. Teams are going to be very hesitant to offer Cabrera a long term deal out of concerns that he will eventually decline. No one wants to get stuck with a terrible, suffocating contract to a middle infielder (i.e Luis Castillo). So it's very likely that Cabrera will have to settle for a one year deal worth considerably less than what he previously expected.
3. Who needs a shortstop?
By my count, there are only a few teams who are actually in need of a shortstop. This is obviously a gigantic problem for Cabrera. There has been some talk of Cabrera moving to second base, but I'm not too certain how serious those discussions have become. With that said, who should/could make a run at Cabrera?
Athletics: They have a glaring hole at shortstop as it has become apparent that Bobby Crosby is not the answer. Cabrera would be a great stop gap and table setter for the Athletics, who could actually compete this season if they are able to bring Cabrera aboard. We'll see if the normally frugal Athletics are willing to spend to sign Cabrera to a one year deal.
Blue Jays: This would be a wonderful fit for Cabrera. The Jays do not have a starting shortstop who can hit and Cabrera would be a great fit at the top of their lineup. He would instantly make the Jays more competitive and make their lineup much deeper, but I doubt that Jays management wants to spend any money.
Braves: If the Braves were to go after Cabrera, they would be looking for him to play second base. This move would allow them to move Kelly Johnson back to left field, which would help fix their glaring problem in the outfield. Cabrera would provide a stable force and table setter at the top of the order and it would not surprise me if he scored 100 runs in this lineup. I could actually see them going after Cabrera if his price continues to drop and if he agrees to play second base.
Mets: If, and this is a BIG if, the Mets are able to trade Luis Castillo, then I think they would have interest in Cabrera to play second base. However, at this point, I don't see it happening.
Mariners: If, and this is another big if, the Mariners want to move Jose Lopez to first base, then I could see them having interest in Cabrera to play second base. However, at this point, I do not see a match.
As we can see, the market sucks for Cabrera. It's hard to believe that free agents Cesar Izturis, David Eckstein, and Edgar Renteria have starting jobs with new teams while Cabrera, who is arguably the best of the bunch, is on the outside looking in. That's just how the market works sometimes.
On a personal level, I just hope that Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson both sign with the same team. How incredible would an all Orlando middle of the infield be? Would it rival the Mets Jose Reyes-Argenis Reyes infield combination? Absolutely...needs to happen.