The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Indians Indians Archive Should the Indians Trade Asdrubal Cabrera to St. Louis?
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

1asdrubalWith the news that St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal will miss the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Asdrubal Cabrera to St. Louis rumors are about to pop up again. The Indians and Cardinals discussed Cabrera at the Winter Meetings. Discussions presumably ended shortly after the Winter Meetings, as the Indians became buyers in the free agent market and made big strides to improve the team. With Furcal’s injury and a need for pitching, should the Indians pull the trigger on a Cabrera deal now?

The consensus opinion will probably be “No”. The Indians are built to contend now, having improved their offense and outfield defense in hopes of covering up their questionable starting rotation. Trading Cabrera would weaken the team’s offense, as the step down from Asdrubal Cabrera to Mike Aviles is fairly sizable. Against left handed pitching, Aviles can be an everyday player. Against right handed pitching, Aviles is below league average. Cabrera, by virtue of being a switch hitter, is above average against both. Aviles is a defensive upgrade to Cabrera, but not enough to offset the drop in offensive production.

The Indians would be wise to check and see what St. Louis has to offer. Names that may have been off the table in November may now be back on the table as a panic move. The Cardinals are very rich in pitching prospects. In any Cabrera deal, as has been the case all along, the Indians would target starting pitching. According to Baseball America’s list of the top Cardinals prospects, written by long-time Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold, five quality right handed pitchers make the top 10 list.

0shelbymillerThe cream of the crop is Shelby Miller. Miller is a hard-throwing righty who new Houston Astros Pro Scouting Director, and former Baseball Prospectus contributor, Kevin Goldstein once compared to Matt Cain. In his 2010 Baseball Prospectus scouting report, Miller, who was drafted in 2009, is described as having a “free and easy” delivery and has “frontline” potential. In the minor leagues, Miller has a 3.73 ERA over 383.2 innings. He has struck out 472 and walked only 138.

Miller pitched in six games for the Cardinals in 2012, making one start, and was impressive. He struck out 16 and walked four in 13.2 innings, allowing just two runs. Baseball Prospectus ranks Miller as the #16 prospect for 2013. Baseball America ranks him sixth.

Miller’s 2013 season didn’t start well, shut down early in Spring Training for shoulder tightness. He was back on the mound a week later, but, it could continue to be a concern.

Miller would seem to be one of the more untouchable Cardinals prospects, especially for Cabrera, but if there was any way his name would pop up in the deal, the Indians would have no choice but to jump.

0rosenthalA more likely scenario could include the name Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals are viewing Rosenthal as more of a bullpen arm instead of a rotation candidate for this season. Rosenthal is another guy who lights up the radar gun, touching triple digits during the Cardinals’ 2012 playoff run. In 285.1 minor league innings, Rosenthal has struck out 293 and walked just 98.

Between the regular season and playoffs, Rosenthal made 26 appearances for the Cardinals and allowed just two runs. He struck out 37 and walked nine.

Rosenthal is listed at #45 on Baseball Prospectus’s top prospects list. Baseball America lists him at #39.

The Indians have a lot of bullpen depth and that could also help facilitate a Cabrera-for-Rosenthal swap. If the Indians were to include one of their Major League caliber relievers, the Cardinals may be more willing to part with Rosenthal.

Both Miller and Rosenthal have made Major League appearances and, at worst, will start the season in Triple-A, while the remaining names have not. The Indians wanted Major League-ready players for both Shin-Soo Choo and Cabrera according to all reports earlier this offseason. For a Cabrera deal to work, one of Miller or Rosenthal probably have to be included.

0carlosmartinezCarlos Martinez is the next name of interest on the list. Martinez has not pitched above Double-A and is 20 years old. In 248 minor league innings, he has posted a 2.76 ERA and has struck out 268 against 90 walks. Baseball Prospectus considers him the third-best prospect in the Cardinals organization and 43rd overall. Baseball America lists him at #38.

In 2012, Martinez ranked 27th in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects and was described as having one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues. Once he went to Double-A Springfield, he became a ground ball master, inducing ground balls on 57.4 percent of balls in play. For frame of reference, the league average was 45 percent.

Martinez’s biggest issue appears to be projection. Goldstein suggested in a February 2012 piece detailing the Cardinals’ prospects that Martinez’s small frame (6’, 165 lbs) and a max effort delivery may eventually put Martinez in the bullpen. With a fastball reaching triple digits, Goldstein adds that Martinez could be a future closer. In a subscription-only article, Baseball Prospectus’s Jason Parks disagreed, saying that most of the people he has spoken with believe Martinez will remain a starter.

1michaelwachaThe next name of interest from the Cardinals’ pitching pool is Michael Wacha. Wacha was the Cardinals’ first round pick in 2012 out of Texas A&M University. He made just 11 appearances last season in the minors but his stats were off the chart impressive. In 21 innings, he struck out 40 batters and walked four. He allowed two runs.

Wacha is a big kid at 6’6” with a frame to grow into. The Indians would certainly be familiar with Wacha because he played with first round pick Tyler Naquin, whom the Indians scouted at length for last June’s draft. In Goldstein’s mock draft from last June, he had Wacha going to the Oakland A’s at 11th overall, citing that Wacha was a “safe pick” with upside. Scouts rave about Wacha’s change-up.

Like everybody on this list, Wacha sits in the mid-90s and can hump up to 97. Parks wrote that Wacha has the potential for three above average pitches and could be pitching in a Major League rotation as soon as 2013.


The final name from the Cardinals’ top 10 prospect list is Tyrell Jenkins. Jenkins is the biggest project of the bunch. Jenkins will turn 21 this July and his struggles at Single-A Quad Cities bumped him from Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. He ranks 94th on Baseball Prospectus’s list.

Jenkins is very raw, with 141 innings in the minor leagues at the lowest levels. He is the high-risk, high-reward player of this group. Goldstein raves about Jenkins’s athleticism, but admits that his secondary stuff needs a lot of polish.

The Indians could wait on Jenkins, but with the offseason that they have put together, they would want big league ready talent for Cabrera.

The decision with Cabrera would not be an easy one for the front office, if a trade possibility is being entertained. It would go against the entire plan that has been set forth this offseason. The Indians would be trading from a position of organizational strength, but Francisco Lindor, the shortstop in waiting, is likely two years away from being ready and Dorssys Paulino could be further away than that. Cabrera’s contract ends after the 2014 season, which could be perfect timing for Lindor to step in and take the reins. However, trading Cabrera now would leave a two-year hole at shortstop. Mike Aviles is signed through 2014, with a 2015 option in case Lindor is not ready, but, Aviles is a fringe everyday player at best.

Depending on which of these pitchers the Cardinals are willing to part with, a Cabrera trade could make the most sense for the organization going forward. The top levels of the minor league system lack impact pitching, with the exception of Trevor Bauer, who will probably start the season in Columbus. Adding at least two of the arms listed above would suddenly give the Indians some serious pitching talent.

If the Cardinals do come calling, Chris Antonetti and staff need to listen. The chance to acquire bona fide pitching talent cannot be taken lightly. The two teams couldn’t reach a deal before, but the Furcal injury could open the door for the Indians to get a big return for Cabrera. And, if that’s the case, the Indians can’t say no.

The TCF Forums