Monday, December 5, 2011

Dissecting the Bill Smith era: The Cabrera trade

Since playing for the Twins,
Orlando Cabrera has been with
Cincinnati, Cleveland and
San Francisco. He is currently
a free agent.
When: July 31, 2009
What: The Twins acquired SS Orlando Cabrera from Oakland for minor league SS Tyler Ladendorf
Values: Ladendorf has yet to play in the majors. Cabrera had 0.2 WAR in his two months with Minnesota, 14 total win shares for the season (my resource for the win shares doesn't split them between the two teams).
Twins motivation: Stabilizing the infield for the stretch run.

The Twins made no significant trades in the 2008-09 offseason. The 2008 season had ended just shy of a divisional title (they lost a tie-breaking Game 163 1-0 to the White Sox), but it also ended with the organization confident that the young starting rotation of the second half (alphabetically Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Franscisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey) was good for years to come and confident that Alexi Casilla had nailed down second base.

So they brought in Joe Crede as a free agent to play third. LaVelle Neal wrote going into spring training that the infield of Justin Morneau (1b), Casilla (2b), Crede (3b) and Nick Punto (ss) might be the best in Twins history.

September's infield was Michael Cuddyer (1b), Punto (2b), Matt Tolbert (3b) and Cabrera (ss). Morneau and Crede were out with back problems, Casilla got bounced for ineffectiveness, and Cabrera was brought in to play short.

The O-Cab didn't do much with the bat  in August (.259/.283/.375), and he committed plenty of physical errors and showed limited range in the field throughout his Twins tenure. But he (like Punto and Tolbert) hit in September (.315/.338/.477), and he didn't make mental errors.

The Twins didn't bring Cabrera back as a free agent in 2010. He was a two-month rental, and he got by on defense in part because he was flanked by two other shortstops in Punto and Tolbert. It worked; the Twins caught the Tigers in the final weekend of the season and won Game 163, with Cabrera contributing a crucial home run.

Ladendorf was a second-round draft pick in 2008 who put up some impressive numbers in junior college ball.  He remains in the Oakland farm system but has not hit, even though the A's affiliates play in pretty strong hitters' environments.

This mid-season rent-a-vet move worked, and it doesn't appear to have cost the Twins much at all.

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