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O-Cab to Cincy, Mora to Colorado

Cincinnati Reds signed SS Orlando Cabrera to a one-year, $3 million contract with a $3 million option for the 2011 season ($1 million buyout).

There’s no word yet if the option is for the player or for the club, but it’s likely a player option. Cabrera turned 35 in November, and he’s coming off of a 2009 season split between the A’s and the Twins in which he batted .284/.316/.389. Once park and league factors are accounted for, that offensive performance was 11 percent below average (89 wRC+), nearly a perfect match for his career 90 wRC+.

Cabrera has been average or better with the bat just twice in his career: 2003 (115 wRC+; viva Les Expos!) and 2007 (100 wRC+ with the Angels). However, he did at least provide fantasy players with 20-plus steals a year, and at a nifty success rate (78.9 percent career).

O-Cab’s speed appears to be waning, though. He swiped 27 bags in 30 attempts (90 success rate) in 2006, with a 5.7 Speed Score (the MLB average is about five). Cabrera hasn’t been as aggressive since then:

2007: 20 SB/4 CS (83.3%), 5.1 Speed Score
2008: 19 SB/6 CS (76%), 4.5 Speed Score
2009: 13 SB/4 CS (76.5%), 4.7 Speed Score

Cabrera is an upgrade over home-grown option Paul Janish at the plate, as CHONE projects an 89 wRC+ from Orlando and a 77 wRC+ from the 27 year-old Janish.

Whether Cabrera is a better player overall, however, depends on how you evaluate the two defensively. Janish posted excellent TotalZone ratings in the minors, and CHONE considers him about a +7 defender in full-time duty. Cabrera rated poorly in 2009 no matter what defensive metric you employ, but I have a hard time stomaching CHONE’s -15 projection for him. Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Boxscore has Cabrera projected as an average defender in 2010. If that’s the case, then O-Cab figures to be about a 1.8-1.9 WAR player as a full-time starter, compared to roughly 1.7 WAR for Janish. This looks like a lateral move for Cincinnati.

Cabrera should only be on your radar if you’re in a deep NL-only format.

Colorado Rockies signed INF Melvin Mora to a one-year, $1.275 million contract.

Turning 38 this month, Mora played with Baltimore since a July 2000 trade shipped him from the Mets to Orioles. He compiled a 103 wRC+ from 2006-2008, but slipped to an 82 wRC+ in 2009 while battling a hamstring injury. Mora’s ISO dipped to .098 last year, as fastballs gave him fits. Since 2002, Mora has a +0.59 run value per 100 pitches against heat. But in ’09, he was at -0.93 runs per 100 pitches. That was the 7th-worst mark in the majors among batters with 450+ plate appearances.

CHONE projects an 88 wRC+ for Mora in 2010. Going to the NL and to the best hitter’s venue in the game can’t hurt, but his fantasy value appears limited. He’s being touted as an across-the-diamond utility type, but it’s been years since Mora saw substantial time at a position other than third base.