- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

The Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

The Twins picked up shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the As, looking to solidify their middle infield as they chase the Tigers and fend off the White Sox in hopes of a AL Central title.

Cabrera replaces Nick Punto at short for the Twins, a major offensive upgrade. Cabrera has a rest of the season ZIPS projected wOBA of .316, while Punto a meager .287. Over the maybe 200 at-bats he will get this is a 5 run upgrade. Calculating the difference in defense is a little tougher. Cabrera’s UZR has been very bad this year, but UZR is prone to rather large fluctuations. It is better to just use his career numbers, +5 UZR/150, as our best guess for him going forward. Over Punto’s career he is a +15 UZR/150 shortstop, but that is over only 1.5 seasons, not really enough to be confident. Plus he is only a +3 UZR/150 second baseman. Combining those and regressing our best guess is that he is around a +7.5 UZR/150 shortstop. So the difference is fielding is probably less than a run over only 50 games.

EDIT: It looks like I was wrong here. The Twins are going to shift Punto to second and Brendan Harris to the bench. So Cabrera’s offense replaces Harris’ and Punto defense at second replaces Harris’. Harris has a projected wOBA of .296, so Cabrera’s .316 over 200 PAs should be worth 3.5 runs. I think Harris is probably about -5 run defender at second while Punto something like a +5 run defender. Over 50 games this is another 3 runs. So over all probably still about half a win. Thanks to the commenters for pointing this out.

All told this is about a half a win gain for Twins, not an insignificant number in the thick of a playoff race. Cabrera does not have any value beyond that. His contract says he cannot be offered arbitration, so he will not be any worth picks if the Twins do not resign him. Last year Cabrera was a Type A free agent and he felt, rightly, that status depressed his value, so he included this clause in his current contract.

The Twins gave up their 2008 second round pick, 21 year old shortstop Tyler Ladendorf. Ladendorf had a great 74 plate apperances in rookie ball with an OPS over 1.2, but has had a tough 65 at-bats since being promoted to A ball, with an OPS of 0.559. He fell just outside of John Sickels top 20 Twins prospects, but Sickels likes him thinking he has the tools to stay at short.

I like the deal. The Twins are exactly the type of team, in tight contention for a playoff spot, who should be dealing. Thus even half a win is quite valuable to them. Cabrera’s contract limited his value, because he cannot be offered arbitration, so the As did a nice job getting something of value for him.