Seattle Mariners: Is Asdrubal Cabrera The Key To Winning The AL West?


The Seattle Mariners are contenders. They had the best record of any non-playoff team in 2014, and have already added a strong back-of-the-rotation arm and the reigning home run king. They picked up a nifty platoon outfielder and a presumed lefty-on-lefty relief option, too. They were good, and now they’re getting better. The plan, one would hope, is to keep that up.

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The Mariners are a lot of things, but one thing they aren’t is done. This team still has some adding to do, and beyond the glaring need for an outfielder, there are plenty of positions that could use improving. Luckily free agency is still in swing, and while the team (probably?) isn’t about to sign Max Scherzer, there are still players available for just money that could help the M’s better prepare for the season ahead.

What follows is an idea. Maybe not a thrilling idea, but an idea that has at least a semi-obvious fit on the roster as it stands today. This might make more sense if the roster were to change a little, but this guy could find a role on the Mariners of right now without any tinkering. Here we go, then: Asdrubal Cabrera is the free agent the Mariners need to put them over the top.

Cabrera used to be a Mariner, but was lost as a young talent in a trade that definitely falls under the category of Bill Bavasi Canon. Bavasi is known for his awful deals, of course, and the Cabrera trade was one of his signature set-the-team-back-big-time-while-not-even-bothering-to-get-better-in-the-present moves. But rectifying an old error isn’t why Cabrera to Seattle makes sense.

Let’s say you want to trade one of Brad Miller or Chris Taylor. Fine, do it, I guess, but then you’re low on two things: 1) bats, and 2) middle infielders. Or maybe you want to stick Miller in the outfield and say that you’re set beyond the dirt. Neat idea, but Taylor finished 2014 with an on-base percentage higher than his slugging percentage. Without a strong BABIP, Taylor is probably a liability at the plate.

Insert Asdrubal Cabrera. He’s never not hit, and can play shortstop if needed. He’s probably better suited to third or second, which is neat because the Mariners have Willie Bloomquist as their actual honest-to-goodness only defensive backup behind Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. There’s almost literally nobody to cover for the M’s two best players in they need a day off.

So Cabrera can play short if Taylor can’t. Maybe they’re a bat/glove platoon, or something, with Cabrera nabbing DH days every once in a while. Basically this team can find playing time for him, and if he’s open to play some outfield, odds are he’d cut it there, too. Cabrera is a free agent hitter with enormous defensive versatility. He can fill in everywhere where the Mariners are thinnest.

The M’s need a backup at second. They need a backup at third, and hey, might be nice to have an actual insurance policy there in case one of the stars misses some time with an injury, right? In the meantime, Cabrera could split time between his preferred shortstop and the outfield, where he’s needed most. If the team trades Miller or Taylor for something shiny, then Cabrera’s path to everyday playing time is even clearer.

In order to convince him to come aboard, the team’s going to have to promise him several years and a real chance to play up the middle. That’s why it’s an easier fit if one of the young shortstops is moved, but even if they both stick around it’s not hard to see Cabrera as a Ben Zobrist-type. Everyone wants Zobrist on their team. Cabrera’s not him, but with a little open-mindedness he could at least give the team positional flexibility and an above-average bat.

Asdrubal Cabrera is a shortstop who should be playing elsewhere in the infield. The M’s have strong incumbents at every infield position but first, but based on the roster construction it might behoove them to move some guys around. And, speaking of first, there’s another potential spot to stick Cabrera. He’s athletic enough to play anywhere. If he knows he’ll get to play some short, which seems likely, then a super-utility gig shouldn’t be a huge negotiating sticking point.

MLBTR’s Zach Links predicts a three year, $27 million deal for Asdrubal, and while that sounds fair to me, the Jed Lowrie and Hanley Ramirez contracts probably mean Cabrera won’t even cost that much. But let’s say he’s skeptical about his role in Seattle, so you bump it up to $30 million over three years. Still unlikely to burn the team or clog up too much future payroll. Still a deal worth making.

Without Cabrera, the Mariners are counting on some less-than-sure things while going into the year without any obvious depth at important positions. With Cabrera, the Mariners would be up one more strong bat while adding an element of depth and flexibility that they currently don’t have at all. Do it, Mariners. It might sound weird, but do it. Do the good weird thing.