Friday, July 31, 2009

Twins get Orlando Cabrera

As was rumored very frequently over the past week, the Twins have finally finished a trade for Oakland Athletics' shortstop Orlando Cabrera. This certainly didn't come out of nowhere, meaning most people have already decided whether or not this would be a good addition before it actually happened. What I said previously was: "I think it would be a mistake to trade for Orlando Cabrera, unless it were just a very marginal prospect, because he figures to be only a marginal upgrade."

I went on to say that he would be a little bit more of an upgrade if he took Nick Punto's spot in the lineup, rather than Brendan Harris'. I'm trying to talk myself into Cabrera, but I just don't think he's going to make that big of a difference. However, with Freddy Sanchez traded to the Giants (for much more than the Twins would have--or should have--given up), and Marco Scutaro seemingly not available unless Roy Halladay is traded, I'm happy the Twins made a move that was at least a slight improvement (as opposed to, say, grabbing David Eckstein).

Now, with Cabrera actually acquired, I'm going to delve much more into the statistics than I did in my last discussion of him. His offense is not so good, but that makes him many times better than Punto, and a tad better than Harris. I realize I'm sort of just ignoring Alexi Casilla in this discussion, but that's because I'm assuming he'll be sent to Rochester to make room for the new acquisition. If Ron Gardenhire puts him in the #2 spot, as I presume he will, that would be a mistake, since his OBP is only .318 (and .322 for his career). Of course, it won't be nearly the mistake that having Casilla or Tolbert there was.

Meanwhile, his normally good defense (5.0 UZR/150 career) has taken a hit this year. He has rated as a pretty sub-par shortstop in 2009 (-9.6 UZR/150), and he's already played almost 900 innings there this season, which makes it hard to blame on a small sample. In fact, according to UZR, Harris has been a significantly better shortstop this year. It's bold, certainly, but maybe it'd be a good idea to try Harris at short and Cabrera at second base. Cabrera played 3 innings at second in 2000, and otherwise hasn't played there since 1998.

I really have no credentials to be judging how hard it would be for Cabrera to adjust to the position, so I won't try. All I'll say is the Twins should give it a shot if they think its doable. Now, I know they never will, and since Gardy hates Harris at 2B, I think that means Punto will still be playing every day.

So, I've talked about Cabrera plenty, but what about the player the Twins traded to the Athletics: Tyler Ladendorf? Ladendorf is a 21-year-old shortstop who was the Twins' 2nd round pick in 2008, and was currently playing at Low-A Beloit. He was hitting pretty poorly (.233/.292/.267) but that was in just 65 plate appearances, so you can't make too much of it. He was promoted to Beloit earlier this year after mashing for 74 plate appearances in Elizabethton (.410/.500/.721). He was ranked #32 among Twins prospects by Aaron Gleeman, but middle infield is a very weak position throughout the organization and he was considered a good prospect by many people.

My overall reaction to the deal is a slight thumbs up. With everything that's been going on--from Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan's comments to groaning fans--I'm glad the Twins were able to put something together. Additionally, it's something that has the potential to help the team, but only if Gardenhire plays it the right way (he almost certainly won't). And they didn't give up anything great to obtain Cabrera. At this point, only time will tell if it was the right move.

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