The Washington Nationals added Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera at the trade deadline yesterday in a move that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on the surface. This is a sentiment that I share for the pair of moves that the Yankees made yesterday, as well. It’s not that I disagree with either move, or that I think that this somehow signals either front office has had one too many conversations with Ruban Amaro (or Jim Bowden….zing!!). It’s just that neither GM made their team all that much better and appear to have made the moves in the heat of Trade Deadline madness in an effort to give me a heart attack.
The Yankees two moves both make sense, seperately. Of course you trade Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew. The difference in salary for the rest of the season, and the opportunity to put Xander Boegarts back at shortstop are the only reasons that the Red Sox agreed to this trade. They were clearly looking to wave the white flag on the last two months of the season and dumping Drew represented a way to better prepare Boegarts for 2015, while also saving some money. For the Yankees, Drew begins his audition to replace Derek Jeter next spring, while also providing value by replacing Brian Roberts at second base. For a price of a few million and Kelly Johnson, it’s a no brainer.
The other move the Yankees made yesterday was to acquire Martin Prado. Gloating is due here; Off The Bench’s Max Frankel nailed this one back in May. For all the reasons that Prado made sense then, he makes even less sense for the remainder of the year. The Yankees added Chase Headley to man third base a few weeks ago and only minutes before had agreed to a deal for Stephen Drew to take over at second base. Prado’s versatility, the main reason that Max advocated for the Yankees pursuit of the Diamondbacks’ player, is much less valuable now. Prado can take over in RF for Ichiro, but his bat will be less appreciated at an outfield position where offensive expectations are higher. He’s the type of guy that is immensely useful on a playoff caliber team, but needs a larger opportunity to play.
These two trades were not a complete disaster. Evaluating them by considering only the roster composition over the next two months is unfair. Prado will be around for $11 Million the next two years and the Yankees gave up a prospect that will probably never produce in the Majors. Keith Law compared him to a poor man’s Mark Trumbo and that is not good. All in all, the two trades make the Yankees a better team at a minimal cost. Marginal improvement over the rest of the season while keeping Martin Prado through 2016 makes it a good day in the Bronx.
When news broke that the Nationals had acquired Asdrubal Cabrera, I was confused as to why. Sure, Ryan Zimmerman had just been diagnosed with a hamstring pull that would keep him in the dugout for 6-8 weeeks, but the Nationals were prepared. The fix was simple. Slide Anthony Rendon to third base and stick Danny Espinosa at second. Espinosa spelled Zimmerman all year while he was nursing whatever was wrong with him and Danny seemed prepared to do it again. Espinosa’s .221 average and .281 OBP were reason for concern, but going out and acquiring an improvement was not a necessity.
The guy that the Nationals got should be considered an improvement, but not a marked one. Cabrera’s OPS is just 50 points higher than Espinosa’s and it was just as bad last year. The Nats figure to be on the hook for about $3 Million for 50 more points of OPS out of second base for the next 6-8 weeks. When Zimmerman returns, he’ll likely slide into third base and force both Espinosa and Cabrera to the bench. The economics alone are not worth it, but the Nats also gave up a player.
Zach Walters will likely never be an everyday player, but that does not mean he shouldn’t be in the Majors. He’s a switch hitting shortstop with a career .806 minor league OPS. He’s under team control, cheap, and versatile. The Indians did well to get him for two months of Asdrubal, who may be worse right now than Francisco Lindor, their top prospect.
In reading through the quotes from yesterday, the Nationals brass cited “battle-tested” “playoffs” “veteran” and “pennant races” in their thought process for targeting Cabrera. Any time those words are used, I am going to disagree with the trade.
It’s not that these two clubs made their teams worse. It’s more that the Yankees got marginally better this year and better next year without giving up too much, while the Nationals are overpaying for a veteran for the stretch run.