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I really liked Orlando Cabrera when he played all those years with the Expos. Because he played there, he was far from popular, and very underrated. Then he went to the Red Sox in that infamous Doug Mientkiewicz/Justin Jones four team deal, helped the Sox win their first World Series in something like a thousand years, and become quickly very overrated. He spent three years with the Angels, then last year with the White Sox. He signed this spring with the A’s, and then at the July 31 trade deadline, the Twins acquired him for minor league SS Tyler Ladendorf.
He is credited with being a Winner. He has been to the playoffs now five out of the last six years. Of course, with the Red Sox, they also had a couple of decent players like Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, Johnny Damon, David Ortiz… I could go on and on. Those Angels teams had Vlad Guerrero and some very strong pitching. The White Sox, if you believe all you read coming out of Chicago last year, won the AL Central despite Cabrera. They also had Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and strong years from Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
I always felt he was vastly overrated, at least from the standpoint of being in the playoffs and being a major contributor to it. Since 2004, he has not had a season with an OPS of over .742. He has been a solid contributor, but not a star, by any means. He has typically been a good defensive player.
This year, because he was (for some reason) a Type A free agent, he did not sign until late. The A’s offered him one year and $4 million, but also added a clause that says if he remains a Type A free agent after this season, he cannot be offered arbitration.
He responded by posting a .683 OPS with the A’s and become a sub-par defensive SS (14 errors in 101 games). He came to the Twins and was immediately inserted in the two-spot in the lineup. He got off to a nice start, then reality set in. But then in September, he played very well. He hit. He made some nice defensive plays. He had 11 errors in just 57 games with the Twins.
However, he also showed a strong leadership quality. How often did he take it upon himself to go talk to a struggling pitcher? Remember when he and Nick Punto came in to talk to one of their pitchers, Cabrera did the talking, and on the next pitch, there was a 4-6-3 Double Play, after which Nick Punto looked to OC and said, “Wow!” He has seemingly been a terrific fit in the clubhouse. Now he is saying that he wants to remain with the Twins. Following Tuesday’s Game 163, he told reporters that he hoped to stay here for awhile.
So, what do you think? Should the Twins make an effort to keep Orlando Cabrera around? They can’t offer him arbitration, because he remains a Type A free agent. But they have exclusive negotiation rights for a little while following the season, and can continue to talk to him. He is not a strong offensive player, but he’s come up big the last few weeks. He is a declining defensive player. He will soon turn 35 and spend the entire 2010 season at that age. He was an improvement at the #2 hitter over what was hitting there before he arrived. How much confidence do you have that Trevor Plouffe could contribute to the Twins in 2010? Most importantly, how much would you be willing to pony up to keep Cabrera as the Twins every day shortstop? How many years?
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This is one of many, many decisions that the Twins General Manager Bill Smith will have to make after the Twins playoff run is complete (hopefully with their third World Series championship!). And when the Twins 2009 season does come to an end, the TwinsCentric group will give you a ton of great information to help you understand all of the decisions the Twins GM and present you with the opportunity to decide what you would do. (More details to come)