Red Sox Target Tussle #1: Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Stephen Drew

Hunter Golden pits Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew against each other in a 'Red Sox Contract on a pole' match.

Stephen DrewThe Red Sox have a quasi-opening at Shortstop for 2013. Or at least I think they do.

Jose Iglesias has been an intriguing prospect for some time now and with good reason. Iglesias, in spite of his relative inexperience, might not just be the best defensive SS in the Minors; he might be the best defensive SS in the world. While he excels in the field, he struggles just as much at the dish. In fact, he’s a terrible hitter. He hasn’t hit at AAA. He hasn’t hit at the ML level. We’re not talking in a ‘we’ll get ‘em next time’ tone, either. He’s simply an ‘atrocious’ hitter.

The alternative is Pedro Ciriaco who’s bounced around to several organizations over the years but finally ended up in Boston towards the end of last year. He made the best of his time here, impressing management enough to consider him at least a viable backup player at the ML level. However, based on the way his stats fell off as his time in the Majors wore on, it’s probably safe to say he’s not an everyday player.

Long story, short – the Red Sox are the proud owners of a SS with a lot of question marks and another who’s just not good enough to start. The Red Sox will need an upgrade.

Over the past two weeks, the two names that’ve come up the most are Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera. Both are intriguing fits and bring a wide range of skills to the table for the Red Sox to consider. This week, I’ll take a look at these two, break down their strengths and weakness and do what I do better than anyone else- judge the crap out of people.

Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat vs. Asdrubal Cabrera’s glove… or whatever it is he wears on his hand.

Cabrera, 27, is an interesting fit. There’s no question he’s one of the top offensive SS in the game, posting a nice, neat .333 wOBA over the course of his career. A quick glance at his BIP chart shows him losing HR’s in RF and picking them right back up in LF. He is mostly a spray hitter and would do well hitting into the power alleys, although it’s hard to tell how well he’d use the monster. He’s a decent enough contact hitter and while he’s no On-Base machine, his career .342 mark is nothing to sneeze at. At the end of the day, he’d give the Red Sox an extremely useful switch hitter who could be used virtually anywhere in the lineup.

While he’s quite the find offensively, there are major issues with Cabrera’s near-total lack defensive prowess. Since 2009, He’s compiled a career FLD of -35.8 that places him as the second worst defensive SS in all of Major League Baseball over that period. To give you a sense of just how bad he’s been; Derek Jeter was a full 16 runs better defensively. Yes. Old Derek Jeter.

Given the fact that he’s only 27 and it has to set off some red flags. Even as he enters his prime, he’s probably not good enough to be playing his position. Moving him to 3B would make him a poor player and there’s really no guarantee how he plays well there once he’s inevitably forced to. Because his defensive skills are so minimal, he’s a prime candidate to lose a ton of trade value and lose it soon.

Make no mistake about it – this won’t be like bringing an Elvis Andrus in where you can hold onto him for 2-3 years and deal him for an substantial return. While Cabrera’s bat may continue to surge, its highly unlikely his glove does anything but head south. That’s not good news.

The flip side to that argument is that his incredibly bad defense might be bearable enough if he can continue to bring the goods with his bat. The Red Sox DO have two very capable defensive shortstops in both Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco. The Red Sox may decide that Cabrera’s lack of defensive competence is something they can look past.

Jack of all trades Stephen Drew and his coat of many questions

Stephen Drew is an interesting alternative to Cabrera, largely because he brings a more varied skill set. From 2008-2010, Drew was among the best SS bats in baseball, but with injuries settling in in 2011 and 2012, his performance at the plate has waned.

Defensively, Drew is slightly above average, posting a 10.7 FLD since 2009, placing him 17th amongst all MLB SS during that period. With a pitching staff that could use all the defensive help it can get, having a nice glove up the middle the entire season (backups included) would be valuable.

The issue with Drew is how well he’ll be able to play on the heels (literally) of ankle surgery that needed to be re-attended to in 2012. Drew never seemed comfortable last year, posting a whole swath of career-lows at the plate and struggling mightily in the field. Not even a change of scenery to Oakland seemed to help, as the A’s recently declined his $10 million team option for next season.

In his defense, a full season to get healthy and prepare for the coming season could make him a very strong bounce-back, buy-low candidate for next year. The drop off in power and surge in K% in 2011 and 2012 could likely be tied to the injury, as would his awful fielding. While Drew certainly isn’t the 5.1 fWAR player he was in 2010, there’s a good chance he could provide someone with a lot of value heading forward.

Who’s the better bet?

To me – this is a pretty clear win for Stephen Drew. In a nutshell, the Red Sox are looking to bridge to Xander Bogaerts in the next year or two. I would target a player who could potentially turn into a tradable asset. While I love what Cabrera’s bat brings to the table, he’s an obvious defensive liability. If you change his position, his offensive value changes significantly. The likelihood the Red Sox get a better return than what they’d have to give up to acquire him is very low.

With Drew, that’s simply not the case. His bat won’t kill you. His glove is solid. He’s also been beset by injuries, changes in scenery, etc. With a full offseason to get ready for 2013, there’s a lot of room for optimism that he can bounce back to form, even if it’s not quite what it was in 2010.

The question to answer becomes suddenly simple: If you were to bridge to Xander Bogaerts, would you cough prospects and money for an asset that’s likely to lose value, or plunk cash for one that will most likely provide a decent return on your investment? In that framework, the answer is easy. A short term, short money deal for Drew is probably the better decision.

Categories: Asdrubal Cabrera Jose Iglesias Pedro Ciriaco Stephen Drew Xander Bogaerts

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

4 Responses to “Red Sox Target Tussle #1: Asdrubal Cabrera vs. Stephen Drew” Subscribe

  1. Mowses November 21, 2012 at 11:27 AM #

    I'm with you on this one. In a vacuum it just doesn't make any sense to trade away prospects for Cabrera when Drew can be had for money only.

    • Steve November 23, 2012 at 3:33 PM #

      I couldn't agree more. Stay away from Cabrera.

  2. Gerry November 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM #

    IF the Sox were foolish enough to not let Iglesias earn the job, I guess Drew should beat out Cabrera, but he is merely the better of two lesser lights both of whom could stink up the joint.

    Because of the disjointed progress of Iglesias in the minors, his offensive progression must be looked at a little differently so as not to shoot him and the team in the foot. In just 3 years of being accelerated through pro ball at ages 20, 21 and 22, he has actually been a better hitter as he adjusted to each level and worked through injuries which deprived him of AB's and developmental time. The only way I can describe this process is that he took it all in stride, figured out what he had to do as a tough, singleminded kid, and did it. In his final weeks at AAA, for example, he was tearing the cover off the ball before, once again, being moved up in September where he almost predictably struggled, though as he gained experience he was "barreling up fhe ball" and having no luck at all, to quote Arnie Beyeler who ranks among the many who are certain he will hit as well as most SS. This may not be great but offers a better total package than either Drew or Cabrera.

    As a matter of concern, the recent trade rumors of Lester and Ellsbury for Myer and whomever, and the anticipatory buzz of signing Hamilton and Greinke, coupled with constant talk of moving Iglesias, Lavarnway, Kalish, Brentz, etc. Tells me that the idea of building from within while signing complementary players has given way to those who treat the game and its players like a fantasy league. To me, a very long time fan of baseball, and especially the Red Sox and its players and prospects, that emerging fantasy culture sucks absolutely.
    It reminds me much too much of the short sighted and self destructive "what have you done for me today" school of MBA efficiency in which corporate CFO's drain the very life out of American business to maximize profit ("rightsizing" comes to mind). If sports truly buy into this flawed approach, your team will no longer be "your team" but rather a group of well paid hired guns, mercenaries who inspire about as much passion and patriotism as the extraordinarily profitable Blackstone Group.

    • gerry November 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM #

      Sorry for rhe apocalyptic rant. Guess I've been pissed since they traded Pesky, was furious at losing Fisk, Lynn, Boggs and even Reddick. I get the reasoning, but it doesn't help with matters of heart and spirit.

      In ranting I forgot Iggy's numbers. Here they are:
      Signed: 9/8/09, teenager from Cuba, alone in USA.

      2010: learned culture & English. Pro-debut. Broke hand, HBP.
      Lowell. 13G/40AB, .350/.458/.500/.958
      Portland. 57G/221AB, .285/.315/.357/.672.
      In 261AB he showed he can hit, even way,way over his age and expeience level. But no power yet, which will suppress his ability to get GB and LD hits for a couple of years. This led to this offseason's strength and conditioning regimen.

      2011: talk about being needlessly rushed (Hansen anyone?)
      AAA. 101G/357AB, .235/.285/.269/.554 but hitting better at end of year, hence the call up.
      Fenway. 19G/6AB, .333/.333/.667.
      In two seasons, two injuries, 180G/624AB he is learning to adjust, still no power, but look at his OBP as a SS, as an inexperienced kid, at 4 levels with injuries in just two years: .458/.315/.285/.333.

      2012:
      Lowell. 2G/8AB, .375/.444/.500/.944. He's back.
      AAA. 88G/353AB, .266/.318/.306/..624, having raised his #'s from the abyss as he adjusted to AAA pitching after they Had adjusted to him.

      These are all small sample sizes, but that defines the berky-jerky progress of his playing time. In three years he has played twice at Lowell, once in Portland, twice in Pawtucket and twice in Fenway, and NOT in a nice linear progression. Until his 68G at Fenway this year he continued to show progress with the bat as he adjusted to
      each level. And by the end of this stint at Fenway, His final maybe 20AB's (out of 68) he was again hitting the ball well enough that with some luck this discussion wouldn't be taking olace.

      Iglesias was rushed, in a non-linear way which required non-stop adjusting despite his age and experience. The fact is, he adjusted at each level; and his 68AB's this year at Fenway are 66 more than he had in 2011 (363) and 168 more than 2010 (261). He is neither Trout nor WMB with a bat, but he has shown the ability to figure it
      out and to learn to hit at each level.

      In a retooling year and with Xander B breathing down his neck, 2103 is not only the best time to see what he can do in a consistent year at Fenway but probably the only time.

      In the powerful lineup Ben seems intent on building, the bats of Drew or Cabrera will contribute minimally to offensive production, certainly little more than Iggy's if he again adjusts. However, the impact of Iggy's glove on this pitching staff, both struggling veterans and nervous kids, will be enormous. Iggy and D.Ross could combine to insure the Sox have good pitching, pitching, pitching. And if Iggy learns to hit like an average SS, Xander can start learning corner OF or 1B and what a team that will be.