One thing that continually pops up in baseball analysis conversations is “the narrative.” Today’s narrative to address: Asdrubal Cabrera is the solution for the Nat’s 2015 second base “problem.”
Here’s the 2014 stat lines for both Cabrera and Danny Espinosa:
Espinosa’s prolific strike-out rate drives down his OPS+ figure. Otherwise, he’s basically a small step down from Cabrera’s performance on the season. But we’re not exactly talking about world-changing offense from Cabrera at the plate: a .229 BA with a bit of power.
Here’s some more quickie stats that will illuminate things. Lets talk about their defense. If we’re saying that Cabrera was a superior defender, here’s the 2B-only defensive stats for both players (UZR/150 and total Zone via fangraphs, DRS via either site, FRAA via baseballprospectus.com):
|Player||UZR/150 at 2B||DRS at 2B||FRAA at 2B|
So, across the board Espinosa statistically was a better defender than Cabrera. You can make the argument that Cabrera was playing out of position; I can make the argument that Espinosa’s full-season stats have been even better than this (he is an elite defender year over year).
Lastly; contract status:
|Player||2014 Salary||2015 contract status|
|Cabrera||$10M||Free Agent, 10-12M/yr projected|
|Espinosa||$540k||1st year of Arb, $1.5M projected|
I dunno. If someone said that the team should go out of its way to ensure they have a switch-hitting, slick fielding second baseman who can hit .220 … I’d say to you, “we already have him.” And he’s pretty cheap. And under team control for 3 more years, for a combined salary that’ll be less than one year Cabrera will fetch on the open market.
In reality, with a weak SS free agent market, Cabrera is going to get over-paid by someone to go back to short, despite his saying publicly that he likes Washington and wants to stay, so maybe this is all moot. I’m not necessarily saying that Espinosa is the solution at 2B either: I think the team has found its Jamie Carroll for the next 3 years; a guy who can play either middle-infield position off the bench who switch hits. I’ve seen rumors that the Nats will go shopping on the FA market: of course, the available player list isn’t exactly inspiring. I’ve seen other rumors that the Nats will work the trade market; that’s impossible to project or guess, but Texas’ glut of middle infielders does present an opportunity (they have Elvis Andrus ensconsed at short, Rougned Odor at second, but have uber-prospect Jurickson Profar ready to play as soon as he’s healthy). Oh, they also have a huge corner infield problem coming too, with Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder under contract for years to come but minor-league homer leading 3B Joey Gallo not really needing to prove much at AA any longer. I like the trade matchup (NL East to AL West) but can the GMs come to an agreement on something?
Or maybe just maybe Espinosa gets talked into giving up hitting lefty (career slash line: .271/.343/.460 for a career .804 OPS figure, which by way of comparison is slightly better than the OPS figure that MVP candidate Josh Donaldson put up in 2014.
Yeah, I’d take that out of my #8 hitter, while putting up good defense at 2nd and proving injury-coverage at short.