Tigers reportedly pursuing Asdrubal Cabrera, but is he worth the cost?

Jason Miller

Jim Bowden of ESPN.com says that the Tigers are interested in Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, but is he worth what it would cost to land him?

Ten points if you read that headline and the first name that popped into your head was "Jim Bowden." The ESPN analyst mentioned yesterday (subscription required) that the Tigers were one of several teams interested in Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

Who is he?

Cabrera is a 27 year old switch-hitting shortstop who the Indians acquired in a 2006 midseason deal with the Seattle Mariners. In exchange, the Mariners received Eduardo Perez, a veteran first baseman who hit .195/.304/.241 in 43 games after the trade. What does this mean? Basically, Asdrubal Cabrera is a poor man's John Smoltz for the Mariners fanbase.

Anyway, Cabrera has made the American League All-Star team in both of the past two seasons, hitting a combined .272/.335/.443 while playing 294 of a possible 324 games.

Why should we care?

Dude can hit. While he has yet to break the .800 OPS mark over the course of a full season, he has gotten pretty close in three of the past four seasons. He is a career .279/.342/.416 hitter who found his home run stroke over the past two seasons, hitting a combined 41 homers and 160 RBIs since the start of 2011. The best part? Cabrera is a switch hitter who does pretty well from both sides of the plate. He is a career .298/.351/.437 hitter against left-handed pitching, a slightly better clip than his .271/.339/.408 clip against righties, but 44 of his 59 career home runs have come off of right-handed pitchers. Cabrera also has decent speed, having swiped 53 bases over the past five years.

While Cabrera won't cut costs compared to Jhonny Peralta, he is signed through 2014 at a fairly cheap rate. He will earn $6.5 million next season ($500,000 more than Peralta) and $10 million in 2014. Having just turned 27 years old, he is three years younger than Peralta and will likely be looking for a big payday in a couple years. This one can go either way, but there is always the possibility of extending Cabrera soon after trading for him, similar to what the Tigers did with Miguel Cabrera in 2008 (Miggy was under team control through the 2009 season when the trade went down).

Why should we stay away?

Despite the popular belief that Cabrera is a defensive wizard, truth is that he's pretty stone-handed. His career UZR is a whopping -34.3 and he has a career UZR/150 of -10.4. He made 19 errors last season alone. By comparison, Jhonny Peralta has made 22 combined errors in the past three seasons, and five of those errors were in at third base as a member of the Indians in 2010. Cabrera's range has been largely overrated as well; the range component of his UZR has been at -7.0 or worse for each of the past four seasons. While he makes the occasional spectacular play, he is nowhere near as sure-handed as Peralta. For those that were in favor of picking up Brendan Ryan yesterday, acquiring Cabrera would be a move in the exact opposite direction.

Will he end up in Detroit?

Like the other interdivisional rumors I've written about, I don't see this one happening. The Tigers don't seem to be interested in parting with Rick Porcello or Nick Castellanos, and I don't think a package of lower-tier prospects will get a deal done. Unless the Indians brass knows something we don't about Brennan Boesch -- or vice versa, come to think of it -- there is little chance of this one happening.

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