Asdrubal Cabrera contributes to Nationals’ success in 2014


With the trade deadline looming, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made his move, shipping off Zach Walters to Cleveland in return for Asdrubal Cabrera. It was a big move for the Nats, in spite of the fact that it generated little buzz. At the time, I wrote that the trade was a good move, and should improve the team. Now, after watching the trade play out over the course of the season, I feel confident enough to say, “I believe I had that.”

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It’s impossible to examine Cabrera’s 2014 season without doing a side-by-side comparison with Danny Espinosa. After all, the acquisition of Cabrera from the Indians was made with the sole purpose of upgrading the offensive output from second base.

In that regard, Cabrera vastly succeeded. His average (.229) was slightly below what he hit in Cleveland during 2014 (.246), but his OBP and slugging percentage (.312 and .389) were both higher. More importantly, his numbers easily beat those of Espinosa, who posted a triple slash line of .219/.283/.351.

It’s also worth noting the fact that Cabrera was not an offensive liability like his predecessor. In 175 at-bats as a National, Cabrera struck out 29 times (17%) and walked in 11% of his plate appearances. Espinosa struck out in 37% of his at-bats, and walked only 5% of the time. Given the timing of the acquisition, it’s not a stretch to say that Cabrera helped provide his fair share of the Nationals second half offensive explosion.

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As for the defensive side of the ball, it’s true that Espinosa was the better player. He was very good, though I don’t think that I’d label him an elite defensive talent or a candidate for a Gold Glove. Cabrera, on the other hand, grades out as an average-at-best caliber player in the field.

Cabrera’s UZR, range runs, and dWAR all come up negative. Cabrera doesn’t have the speed to cover a lot of ground, and his arm isn’t really a cannon. But he’s serviceable, and there’s something to be said for that. He isn’t known for showing up on the highlight reel, but he does have his moments.

With all of that being said, the offensive abilities of Asdrubal Cabrera more than made up for his defensive shortcomings, and it’s fairly obvious that Cabrera had a positive effect on the Nationals 2014 season.

In spite of those contributions, the half of a season that he spent in Washington this season may end up being Cabrera’s only stint as a National. He becomes a free agent moving into this offseason, and it remains to be seen whether the Nationals will ask him to come back, hope for Espinosa to improve at the plate, or search for another replacement in free agency.

If it turns out that Cabrera has played his last game in DC, Nationals fans can at least tip their caps to him and say thanks for helping deliver a division title in 2014.