The big story in all of baseball yesterday was the highly anticipated Matt Holliday deadline trade, as the A's received a handsome three-prospect return for sending the best hitter on the market to the Cardinals. Holliday instantly rewarded his new team with four hits in St. Louis' win Friday night.
After allowing myself a few hours last night to both pour over the stats of our three new acquisitions and to reflect on Holliday's contributions during his brief A's tenure, I found myself once again doing what A's fans are trained by habit to do: look toward the future.
After months of speculation and thousands of AN comments, Holliday was finally traded. So what's next?
With the trading deadline still one week away, there's ample time for Beane to continue to be active. And for my money, the player that is most likely to go is Orlando Cabrera.
All four of Cabrera's logical potential suitors are AL contenders: Boston, Seattle, Detroit, and Minnesota.
After the jump, we'll discuss each of those four teams and why Cabrera is such a likely candidate to be dealt in the next week. Hopefully you'll offer your opinions and perhaps even a reasonable hypothetical return prospect package for Cabrera from those teams.
Be sure to vote in the poll below!
I'll start with the reasons why O-Cab is so likely to be on the move in the coming week:
1. He's hitting. Entering Friday's game, Cabrera was hitting .365 and slugging .500 in his last 30 games. Sure, it's an unsustainable BABIP. But it also suggests that he's regularly hitting the ball hard, and I think we'd all agree there's some credence to the notion that, at the deadline, some GM's still value acquiring a guy who is "hot".
2. Beane has absolutely no incentive to keep him through the end of the season. Unlike Holliday, who would've likely yielded the A's two of the top 35 picks in the 2010 draft had the A's kept him through the season, Cabrera will garner the A's absolutely no compensation, despite the fact that he remains on track to finish the season ranked as a Type A free agent. That's because Cabrera actually has it written into his one-year 2009 contract that the A's can't offer him arbitration after the season! Thus, in a clear rebuilding year, Beane has every reason to extract some value for Cabrera from another team and to then give Cliff Pennington a 50-game audition at shortstop for the remainder of '09, to see if Cliff can be penciled as the '10 starter at the position.
3. Cabrera is perhaps the only starting shortstop available via trade this July. Once the Cardinals acquired Julio Lugo this week, a scarce shortstop became even more so. The poor supply puts the A's in the driver's seat, making it all the more logical to shop Cabrera.
4. Four AL contenders are hard up for shortstop production right now. As much as we at AN have collectively bemoaned Cabrera's performance this year, a quick glance around the AL at shortstop production really puts things in proper perspective. The Mariners, Tigers, Twins, and Red Sox all have legitimate postseason aspirations...and yet they each have some serious woes at the glamour spot on the infield.
Let's go through each of them, and also speculate as to whether Cabrera represents a good fit there:
#1: Red Sox. I believe this to be Cabrera's most likely destination. After all, he's done this before - the Sox acquired Cabrera in July five years ago and he was a key catalyst en route to Boston's 2004 World Series title. The Sox can afford to take on his salary, they seem to prefer a veteran clubhouse, and they know that he's succeed under the pressure of Fenway once before. Equally important, they have to be concerned about Jed Lowrie's very slow return from wrist problems and Nick Green's predictable regression over the past two months. The Red Sox were constructed this past offseason with a playoff roster in mind. Is this team willing to enter the postseason with Nick Green as it's starting shortstop? I say no.
#2: Tigers. Detroit has lost four of its past five games by the score of 2-1. Yes, Adam Everett has helped them shore up their defense, but it's hard to ignore his anemic .167/.231/.222 slash line for July, especially given that he's never been a good hitter in the first place. Jim Leyland is complaining about the offense in the media and, like Tony La Russa, he has more weight in front-office decision-making than the typical manager does. He seems like the kind of manager who would appreciate Cabrera's personality and enthusiastically endorse the acquisition. Another small factor here is Tigers owner Mike Illich - the Eddie Debartolo of MLB, who treats his franchise almost as a city philanthropy, willing to lose money in a desperate effort to win a title. He'd take on the $1.5M left on O-Cab's salary, just like the Red Sox would.
#3: Mariners. The Mariners traded away The Worst Starting Regular In The Major Leagues two weeks ago, sending shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to the Royals. Now, Betancourt's Mariner replacement - Ronny Cedeno - is looking to take the mantle from Betancourt for himself. Cedeno's "hot stretch" in July has raised his season slash stats to .182/.232./318. Amazingly, both these guys are better than the player they ultimately displaced - ex-Royals shortstop Tony Pena, Jr., who couldn't outhit Kate Moss's weight for KC this year (.098!) Stories like these make you feel infinitely better about what Cabrera has done this year, even if he hasn't met AN's lofty expectations and propelled the A's to a playoff contention. They also illustrate the league-wide dearth of capable two-way shortstops in MLB. There isn't 30 of them in the world to go around.
#4: Twins. You've probably already read dfa's informative fanpost about a potential Cabrera-to-the-Twins trade, continuing an outstanding series of posts that dfa has done on potential A's trading partners. I've intentionally listed the Twins last here, because of the four teams, I feel the Twins are the worst fit, albeit still a pretty good one. The Twins are the least wealthy of the group, and I'm guessing they'd have the hardest time of the group swallowing Cabrera's salary. But there's a bigger factor at work here - the Twins are the only one of these four teams that already has several million committed to a shortstop currently on their roster. It's true, Nick Punto is hitting horrifically. But he's also owed $6M in the next year and half. And every indication is that the Twins love him and his headfirst-slide-into-firstbase-heart-filled-grindy-grit. MLB teams don't often easily admit mistakes, especially with team leaders, and moving Punto off of short or benching him altogether would seemingly be an admission that their two-year deal was an egregious error. Again, while this is perhaps the correct approach, it's just not one you often see teams make. Teams are far more likely to supplant a cheap, unheralded underperformer (like Nick Green of the Red Sox) than the veteran player to whom they've already committed millions.
(Since every contender could seemingly always use another reliever, I'd like the A's to try and package Springer and/or Wuertz with Cabrera to get the best prospect available via trade. But the Cabrera suitors are the key domino that needs to fall, the one that should dictate the action over the next week, because the A's are probably the only team offering an available productive shortstop to contenders. Plenty of non-contending teams can offer a good reliever, making the A's position less strong on that front).
Now, here's where you come in:
Please vote in the poll above if you have not already. In the comments, feel free to explain why you think Cabrera is headed to that team. Do you agree that Cabrera's hot streak and the scarcity of available shortstops make him the A's player most likely to go next? And for our prospect mavens: who would you want back in a realistic deal from each of these four teams? Do the A's need to get a fringy, major-league ready C/C+ shortstop back in this deal, or are they fully ready to let Pennington sink or swim on his own?