On the morning of April 29th, Asdrubal Cabrera arose from his bed in the team hotel room in Anaheim amidst an early season slump. His performance in the previous evenings game solidified what was a bad statistical April for the all-star shortstop: Going 0-4 with one strikeout while the Indians lost their 4th straight game during a tough West Coast trip.
When the sun did arise in California, the “oh-for” left Cabrera at .202/.279/.319 on the fresh season. His swing looked long and questions were starting to be asked whether he could handle the pressure of playing in his “walk year,” the season before free agency. Of course, most analysts will warn about paying close attention to April statistics and that it could lead to unnecessary stress about your team. However, the month seemed to be an extension of his previous six: batting far below his career mean. This was discussed on a recent edition of Burning River Radio.
If the saying goes “it’s darkest before the dawn,” then Cabrera exemplifies the quote. That evening, he followed his 0-4 game by going 3-4 with one stolen base. Since then, Cabrera has seen his AVG/OBP/SLG raise in tandem with his increased productivity. In fact, the statistics he saw about himself in the paper that morning would be the lowest his slash categories would be since opening day.
Since then, Cabrera’s bat has started to heat up. He is batting .353/.412/.569 since that woeful game. Both his line drive rate (LD%) and BABIP have increased tremendously and has cut his strikeouts in half. As his impending free agency comes closer to fruition with every at bat, his hitting must add value because his defense certainly does not. His defense has not kept up to par with his bat so far this season. His -0.5 UZR is among the lowest of all starting shortstops in Major League Baseball.
Of course, as Cabrera’s bat heats up with the weather, there’s also the matter to consider that Cabrera may have a pretty decent trade market. At this time, the only starting shortstop still on the free agent market is Stephen Drew, and he has a draft pick attached to him. There are likely a few teams who will have the combination of not wanting to give up a draft pick and see Cabrera’s past success pre 2013 as making him more desirable than Drew. Cabrera is also three years younger, and might be seen as a more durable player than Drew as well. We can assume that Clint Barmes will remain the starting shortstop, but the Pirates started platooning him last year, and there is little reason to think his status around the game has somehow elevated in the interim. In other words, the market may be lining up just right for the Indians to take advantage of that one team still desperate for a shortstop.
Whether the Indians decide to keep him around through this season or not, it is vital that Cabrera continues to hit well for the foreseeable future:
1.) For his value to the Indians
2.) For his value to other teams
3.) For the value of his bank account