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Cabrera fitting in with Nats

Aug 20, 2014, 12:56 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Since Asdrubal Cabrera arrived in Washington on Aug. 1 – a day after he was acquired at the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline – the Nationals have gone 13-5 overall and 11-4 with him in the lineup. He has reached base at a .348 clip since joining the Nationals and has eight RBI and seven runs in 15 games.

On Sunday, Cabrera sent the Nats and Pirates to extra innings with an RBI single to tie it up in the bottom of the ninth. He also swung a double play ball behind his back in the eighth inning for the top play on SportsCenter that night.

On Tuesday, Cabrera cleared the bases in the third with a three-RBI double off Arizona starter Chase Anderson. It blew the game open between the Nationals and Diamondbacks in an eventual 8-1 Washington win.

There is no replacing Ryan Zimmerman, of course, but so far Cabrera has done more than enough to justify his acquisition. He has helped deepen the Nats’ lineup while also adding sound defense at second base.

“They bring me here to help the team and that’s what I try to do,” Cabrera said. “Every game I try to do my best and help the team to win.”

Cabrera’s impact reaches much farther than his play in the field. The 28-year-old is already a respected figure in the Nationals locker room, just ask Ian Desmond.

“The reputation that he has around the league, what the guys say when they come to second base and what the umpires have to say about him, it’s all great,” Desmond said.

“I know me, personally, when I get to establish myself in the league a little more, I want to be known as a professional and that’s what he is. He’s what you strive to be as a ballplayer. That’s just respected and appreciated and we definitely appreciate him here.”

Manager Matt Williams has enjoyed the versatility Cabrera brings as a player who can play both middle infield positions and who hits switch.

“He’s a pro,” Williams said. “His time at shortstop I think helps everything. Coming in, he hadn’t played second base in a while, but switch-hitting capabilities, been in situations like this, hitting in the middle of the order of a team, and a contending team, helps everything. So he’s been here, he’s done it, and he understands what he needs to do when he goes up there and hits to the situation. He’s played really well.”

What stands out most for Cabrera in his time in Washington so far is his consistency. He has reached base in 12 straight games and only three times in his 15 appearances has he gone hitless.

That’s really all the Nationals can ask for from the veteran, something steady at second base, a rare luxury for them in recent seasons.

  1. nats1924 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    Gotta ask….

    Do the Nats trade Desi and sign Cabrera in the offseason?

    Career OPS
    – Desmond .746
    – Cabrera .742

    Desmond likely will be seeking a 8/150M deal and Cabrera prob 5/75M. Both are the exact same age. Cabrera might be the better SS….what yall think?

    • David Proctor - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      No. And Cabrera is not the better SS, his defensive numbers have been pretty bad over there.

      It is very possible we move on from Desi. If not next year, then in FA. But it won’t be with Cabrera.

    • tcostant - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Sign Cabrera for 3 years or so. Play him at 2B (with Zimm at 1B and LaRoche not resigned) and try to sign Desi. If you can’t sign Desi, you have more options for a replacement since Cabrera could play SS if needed. I don’t think Cabrera’s getting anywhere near 5/75M,more like 3/36 or 4/48.

      • atlerner - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Frankly, I think Cabrera was brought here as a rental – something Rizzo generally doesnt like to do. I think the club has a mutual option on LaRoche for next year and my guess is that they would use it, regardless of RZim’s situation, especially given RZim’s history of injury.

        Here’s something kinda scary though… here are the contracts for all Nats players – http://www.baseballprospectus.com/compensation/cots/national-league/washington-nationals/

        Tons of guys eligible for FA next year.

  2. coollikelivo - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    And who plays 2B?

    • nats1924 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      next year, who knows. Espi? Rendon?

      • water47 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        Hmm. Rendon 3b, Cabrera 2b and Zim 1B. Alas, that mean ALR is gone. He has been good for a while and it will be tought to say good bye.

      • nats1924 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        cabrera is FA at seasons end

      • natszee - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM

        Espinosa? I am not interested in a 6th year of the hitting experiment gone wrong. Way past time to move on.

  3. water47 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Interesting thought but how about sign Cabrera and play out 2015. Tag Desi after the season and see. I am a little worried that the Nats might fall in love with their own players and end up like the Phils.

    Also, I could see the 2016 Yankees have Desi and JZIm on their roster.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      I think it’s more likely that the Yankees have Asdrubel Cabrera on their 2015 roster. He’s the obvious fallback if they decide that they don’t want to fight with the Dodgers over HanRam.

  4. water47 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Other things 1924, if you are right then Cabrera will be a year younger when deal is signed. That can be worth a lot.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    The important message to me is that Rizzo didn’t stand firm as he could have at the trade deadline. There were numerous options for 2nd base and Rizzo went for a shortstop in the end and showed there were many ways to solve the hole left by the RZim injury in that it didn’t have to be a 3rd baseman or a 2nd baseman to fit the hole. Why not, and while Asdrubal isn’t the offensive powerhouse that Beltre would have been (move Rendon back to 2nd), this is a huge upgrade over sticking with Espinosa.

    One other note is that Daniel Murphy whomany wanted with his better offensive stats would have been a defensive downgrade and I think his -3.7 UZR is better than what he is.

    Asdrbual is improving with his range and clearly has some defensive tricks up his sleeve.

    You worry about what happens when RZim comes back when it happens. For now, this is the best option the Nats have and he fits in like a good teammate. He doesn’t feel like a short-term rental that Rizzo and Marc Lerner have said they wouldn’t do.

    • water47 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      +1

    • therealjohnc - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      Right now he’s a rental. After the season will be time to sort out whether he’s more than that. Given that he’s told Ladsen that his preference to play SS, that he cannot be tagged with a QO because he changed teams during the season, and that the Yankees need someone to replace Derek Jeter, I think Cabrera is likely gone. Even if he stays he would be an expensive insurance policy, and even if they don’t pick up the options on ALR and Soriano the Nats are going to have a heck of a time keeping their payroll below $145-150M.

      I appreciate what he’s doing, but I’d be pretty surprised if he was playing 2b, for the Nats or anyone else, next season.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        Agreed, little chance AC will return. He’s now auditioning for a big FA contract

  6. chaz11963 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    The big question will be what happens this year when Zim returns? If Zim goes back to 3B, Rendon will go back to 2B. Then we have 2 middle infielders on the bench- Cabrera and Espi.

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      Let’s see who is healthy when (if) Zim returns. We know he could play left, third, or first, depending on team needs.

      There will be lots of folks on the bench when Zim returns, with the September call ups. Let’s hope the Nats have a big enough lead to experiment.

    • following thru - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      You are joking, right? There’s no controversy in that situation. Espinsosa gets the heave ho. He’s not half the player Cabrera is.

    • faridrushdi - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      My biggest fear is that the Nationals will reprise the mistakes of the Phillies–overpaying their stars with impossible-to-trade contracts and letting them all get old together. What’s happening there now is pretty ugly.

      The Braves of the mid-to-late 1990’s were great at refreshing the team, moving older players along and allowing them to be replace by young prospects or free agents. Fred McGriff, “Big Cat” Gallaraga and Adam LaRoche all played first within a few years of each other at first.

      That is what the Nationals need to do.

      Adam LaRoche looks like his option year will be a bargain based on what he is doing this year. That means that Ryan Zimmerman returns to left for 2015. Denard Span’s option looks cheap as well based on how he played this year (and the second half of 2013). Jayson Werth’s contract (and his bat) keeps him in right, though the team needs a veteran lefty with power to start 30-35 games to give the aging hippie some rest.

      I think Bryce Harper is worth more in a December trade than his production the following year. Get a quality major league second baseman and a prospect or two. That’s a dominant lineup. But the team needs to decide what to do with Ian this off-season. The team will be in another pennant race next summer and won’t/can’t trade him for prospects the end of July.

      Pitching is a concern. Both Fister and Zimmermann can leave after next season. I’m okay resigning one (I like Fister more) but not both. Too much money. Also, I’m not sure Gio is going to rebound. This is the second year in a row he hasn’t looked like the Gio of old.

      I’d sign Fister to a long-term deal, trade Jordan this winter (he’s worth far more than the first round pick we’d get if he walks), sign a good veteran starter to a one-year deal (someone like but not necessarily Aaron Harang or Ervin Santana) and let him hold Lucas Gioloto’s spot (10-2, 2.20, 10.1k & 2.2bb per 9) until the following year. If Gio has another down year, his spot can be taken by AJ Cole in 2016, who is currently 11-3, 3.07, striking out 7.7 batters per 9 while walking 1.9.

      Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark, AJ Cole and Lucas Giolito in 2016. I mean, who could argue with that?

      • scmargenau - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:13 PM

        I like it. Although I might put Ryan at first, sign A Drub if possible, trade Bryce and get a solid power hitting OFer and prospects.

        There is a reason why teammates and fans dislike Bryce and rg3. Move them out!

  7. philipd763 - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    I would very much like to see Cabrera signed to a new contract. With R. Zim probably moving to first base next season, Rendon staying at 3rd, there’s a gap at second base and Cabrera is just the guy to fill it long term. He’s also a good back up at SS and great insurance if Desmond leaves. If Desmond ends up with 100 RBIs this season, I doubt the Nats will have the money to resign him. He’s already turned down 6 years at $90 million.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      FWIW, Cabrera has been quoted as saying he probably wants to go somewhere he can play short. Maybe that’s just good negotiating?

      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140814&content_id=89633698&notebook_id=89633818&vkey=notebook_was&c_id=was

      He is not sure what he plans to do, and he would like to continue to play shortstop, the position he played while with Cleveland, though he realizes that teams could ask him to play second base.

      “I don’t know if I want to stay here or not. There’s nothing I can do. I just have to see after the season and wait,” Cabrera said. “I like to play short. That’s the position I like to play more. I’m just going to see who wants me to play short, who wants me to play second, and figure it out from there.”

      • Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        I hope we can keep Cabrera here. I think if he has to choose between playing SS next year for a team that has no playoff hopes vs 2B for the Nats ,…..there is a good chance he’ll stick with the Nats:)

      • atlerner - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        Wouldn’t surprise me to see if the Mets try to sign this guy as a FA. They are hurting for a SS and are actively searching for one. Dont want to see that though.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        If that is, indeed, his only choice, then he might. Seems unlikely, but you never know.

      • therealjohnc - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Don’t forget that the Yankees will be in the market for a SS next season with Derek Jeter retiring. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Cabrera ended up in pinstripes next year.

  8. Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Nobody knows who will be playing 1B next year. It might be Rochy, it might be RZimm or it could be someone else. Lets just stop speculating about next yerar and worry about today, next week, and the playoffs. That’s enough to be thinking about right now!!

    • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      Maybe that’s enough for you to be thinking about, but reading this thread and the last one, it’s clearly not enough for a lot of folks.

      I think looking ahead to when (and if) Zim returns is an interesting conversation, at least for a little while), but the offseason is a bit far off, with a few too many moving parts and unanswered questions to make gaming it out now all that worthwhile. The most important is how Zim and the team feel about him moving to 1B, versus staying at 3B, or trying to become an outfielder. Once that call is made some of the other dominos will fall.

  9. natsguy - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    I could see Desi at Tampa, Strasburg in San Diego, and JZIM in Milwaukee when they hit their free agency. Cabrera is a really good rental, but I think he wants to go elsewhere and play SS.

    • David Proctor - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      There is absolutely no way the Rays can afford Desi

    • water47 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Hmm, natsguy, I can see JZim in Milwaukee but only if he takes a huge team discount. As to the other, no way Tampa ponies up $100+ Million for him and Stras will cost more. The Friars rarely can afford a player at that level. He, too, could take a huge team discount but more likely

      Desi – 6/$125 Million
      JZim – 6/$150 Million
      Stas – 6/$180 Million

      • natsguy - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        All three of them are from the areas I mentioned. I know Strasburg misses SD, but who knows, he might go to one of the LA teams. Desmond and his wife are both from the Tampa area. Maybe they consider DC their home. It’ll be interesting. I’m very sure JZIM and Strasburg are not going to stay after hitting free agency.

    • npb99 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Rays can’t afford Desi.

    • jd - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      No one is hitting free agency. They will be signed long term or traded.

      • faridrushdi - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        I agree, they are worth far more to the team than a low first round pick.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        Maybe; there’s still the Qualifying Offer = draft pick to consider. They might not get offers Rizzo likes better than a draft pick.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        Plus, there is every reason to think they’ll be in contention, and I don’t think they’d pull that there particular plug if they are playing for the big money in the playoffs.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        Not sure that is true. Yes, trading them would yield a bigger haul than a draft compensation (for a declined QO), but a team that hopes to contend has to think about now, and not just the future value the prospects to be had in return.

        Dealing Desi and/or JZimm would leave big hole(s) on a team that hopes to contend next year.

      • npb99 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        I agree with Soul and HH. Nats are in the window of opportunity this year and next, and who knows after that. I’d be surprised to see Rizzo trade any of the big guns next winter.
        Then again, Rizzo is creative and resourceful as heck. It’s not like he traded for Fister because we were clamoring for it. Who knows what he’ll do next winter.

      • jd - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        First of all there is absolutely zero historical evidence that free agents tend to sign with their home town teams. It’s a nice theory but in reality players sign with whoever gives them the best contract.

        I understand about window of opportunity but I don’t think there’s any way JZimm or Desi go into next year without a long term deal. Rizzo can flip one or both of them for major league ready talent. My guess is he gets one done and trades the other. I think that this is also a way to extend the window of opportunity.

        Just an example of something interesting (just of the top of my head), the Cubs need pitching, they have a bunch of major league ready young talent in the infield. There’s something potentially there.

        In any event that’s all for the off season. I think how this season plays out also has a large effect on what Rizzo and ownership decide to do in the winter.

      • bowdenball - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        Totally disagree. Trading away pending free agents for prospects is something you do if you’re not a contender. Contenders rarely do it- even more rarely under the new CBA where you can get a first round pick if your free agent doesn’t return. See for example the Tigers with Scherzer, the Dodgers with Hanley, the Giants with Panda, etc.

        The Nats will not trade Desmond or Zimmermann prior to free agency unless either (1) they get back something that can provide at least something at the major league level immediately, (2) the 2015 season is a disaster and they’re out of realistic contention in July, or (3) someone with a loaded system like the Cubs makes them a prospect offer for Zimmermann that they can’t refuse.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        trading [Desmond or Znn] would yield a bigger haul than a draft compensation (for a declined QO)

        Maybe. Possibly more likely than not. But it’s not a department store out there; Rizzo can only trade for players other GMs agree to send him. One never knows what the market will be on any given day.

        Although I have to think Jordan Zimmermann would look pretty good to most anybody.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        Sofa

        True, but remember how low a bar we’re setting: better than a sandwich round pick. Only about 1/2 of those guys ever even reach the majors.

  10. thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    if nobody else get injured (knock on wood), then when RZim returns, i still see him platooning LF & 1B depending on SP. If RHP, then Cabrera sits with Rendon (2B) & RZim (3B). Issue comes with LHP, Cabrera (2B), Rendon (3B), RZim (1B) & ALR sits. This is before playoffs. In Oct, I don’t like sitting ALR no matter if it is a LHP

    • langleyclub - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      I agree with the RZ platoon theory when he is healthy. I think RZ plays LF against lefties (and Harper sits), and may be gets a few starts at 3rd against righties, with Rendon moving to 2nd. Generally, the lineup will not change much when RZ returns other than a Harper/RZ platoon. I cannot see sitting Cabrera or LaRoche or Rendon or Span right now, other than to give a random day off.

      • thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        i’d sit Cabrera against RHP with RZim (3B), Rendon (2B), Harper(LF). I mis-spoke with using word platoon, i meant sub in LF or 1B

  11. Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    We armchair managers and GMs kind of like a musical chairs, mix and match approach to lineup construction and defensive alignment. But remember when Harper came off the DL when MW suggested there would be some musical chairs for Zim? It didn’t happen and the team went on a run.

    MW likes a set lineup (he especially likes Harper batting 6th), and he doesn’t seem to want to move players into different positions. Based on that track record, if Zim is able to come back this season, here’s my prediction. And I also think this is what they should in light of his offensive production potential:

    1. Zim will go back to playing 3B until multiple bad throws make a change necessary.
    2. Not a chance Harper sits against lefties.
    3. Cabrera becomes the utility infielder and late inning defensive replacement for Zim.
    4. Espi doesn’t make the postseason roster.
    5. Cabrera plays 2B in the World Series in the AL park with Zim as DH. :-)

    • thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      ironically, Cabrera has a better against RHP then LHP this year.

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      +1, although I could Espi making the roster over Frandsen.

      Also, if Zim has throwing issues immediately, things get very tricky.

      And, as I suggested earlier, let’s see what the team health situation is when Ryan returns. It rarely happens that everone on a team is healthy, especially at the end of a long season.

      • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        That’s certainly true. I very much doubt that Espi makes it over Frandsen. They’ll want a bench guy who can pinch hit in NL parks. Espi has minimal value on that score.

        Of course, all bets are off if Zim has serious throwing issues. Didn’t happen the last time, and I doubt it will this time either. That’s not to say that he’ll be flawless. But MW is willing to live with that to have his big bat in the lineup and so am I.

      • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Frandsen is also more versatile defensively than Espi.

  12. ehay2k - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Cabrera has really exceeded my expectations. Granted, he played in the other l league and I don’t follow the players there much. But is was ready for a big defensive letdown with Espi on the bench, and it hasn’t happened. There a some balls Cabrera didn’t get to that I’m pretty sure Espi would have, but Asdrubal has made some nice plays that Espi may not have, so to me it’s a wash.

    However, at the plate, Espi is, in my view anyway, a AA player compared to Cabrera. Asdrubal has a plan and executes it. Espi has a bat and swings it.

    Small sample size in the NL, for sure. And maybe pitchers develop a plan for Cabrera as time passes, but right now, he is the upgrade we wish we had from ST on.

    • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      +1. He’s hitting like we wish Espi could.

      • ehay2k - Aug 20, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        I bet he’s hitting like Espi wishes he could!

      • thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        and it seems MW thinks Frandsen hits better then espi wishes as well

  13. Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    ironically, Cabrera has a better against RHP then LHP this year.

    What’s ironic? Most switch hitters hit better from one side or the other. Cabrera’s career splits are pretty similar:

    LH vs. RHP (2733 PA) — .266/.333/.408/.741
    RH vs. LHP (1198 PA) — .280/.330/.418/.748

    Last year, he did better against righties:

    LH vs. RHP (387 PA) — .247/.309/.421/.730
    RH vs. LHP (185 PA) — 232/.276/.363/.639

    This year his numbers are better, but still favor his left side:

    LH vs. RHP (333 PA) — .253/.327/.392/.719
    RH vs. LHP (149 PA) — .237/.275/.381/.656

    I’m not that interested in checking what his splits with the Nats are so far — sample size is way too small. But his gamewinning HR against the Mets in the 8th inning on Aug. 13 came from the left side. His three run double last night was from the right side.

    Basically he’s a decent, but not great, hitter from both sides of the plate. If Espi could hit this well, he’d probably still be starting at 2B. I don’t blame him for not wanting to platoon, and I’m glad he let MW know that. I also don’t blame him for preferring to play SS. But I’ll bet he’ll enjoy going deep into the playoffs with the Nats.

  14. thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    ironic because in my thought process, he would be in lineup against LHP instead of Espi. the original platoon thought when we traded for him. his career numbers are better against LHP then this year.

    • Section 222 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      Oh, this is under your theory that Harper and Zim would platoon in left? With ACab playing 2nd against lefties and Zim playing 3rd against righties?

      • thomaswell - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        kinda, Cabrera platoon with espi at 2B.

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