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Monday, December 20, 2004

Put This In Your Dumb-O-Meter: Angels Sign Cabrera

You are a GM of a club with more talent up the middle than you know what to do with, including not one, not two, but three highly touted minor league shortstops. None of them are more than two years away from the big club. Faced with a dimming but still serviceable shortstop in David Eckstein do you --
  1. Hold on to Eckstein for another year? This makes some sense if the title of your 2005 plan is "Let The A's Win -- Again". It's not implausible; consider that the Angels already have come out and said that they're relying on McPherson to pick up the offensive slack at third -- he's batting third or fourth.
  2. Start Izturis? Little Cesar's little brother has so far shown a good similarity to his older brother, so much so that Cesar shows up as one of his PECOTA comparables. If it's true, that's better than what his 2004 projection had to say, essentially that he was a replacement-level player, something his -0.4 VORP this year didn't do much to dispel. This isn't a real option, and considering his glovework has been widely described as inferior to his brother's, we're probably better off not even thinking about this in public -- Stoneman and/or Scioscia might try it.
  3. Sign Orlando Cabrera for four years? Of the two Cabrera brothers, Orlando is unquestionably the better one. Here's his last-three-years numbers:

    Year   AB        Line      VORP
    ===============================
    2002  563  .263/.321/.380  22.7
    2003  626  .297/.347/.460  49.8
    2004  618  .264/.306/.383  14.7
    
Now, since the Angels picked eligible batchelor number 3 to the tune of $32M/4 years, we have to assume there was some reason for this. They are almost certainly overpaying for Cabrera's 2003, and for some reason think he's going to repeat it. I submit this is unlikely to happen. PECOTA agrees with me, tagging him with a high degree of confidence -- 54 similarity score -- that he's not going to see his 2003 ever, ever, ever again. Well, besides the when-pigs-fly theory of team construction, how do you justify this signing? Unfortunately, this means that the Angels are overpaying in both years and dollars for the privilege of having Orlando Cabrera on their team. By every sabermetric means I can find, save for durability, Eckstein was and could be expected to be Cabrera's equal. Since Eckstein was non-tendered, he becomes a free agent and the Angels can get nothing for him.

Beyond the contractual issues, however, is the looming crisis at the top of the batting order. The team is now wholly dependent on Chone Figgins' somewhat streaky bat. While I like Chone, we saw last year how dangerous that dependence can be, especially considering the Angels don't know from OBP.

Finally, the Angels surrender their first-round draft pick because Cabrera is a type A free agent. This, friends, is the signing that just keeps on taking. Frankly, I'd have rather we signed Eckstein for two years and waited for Collaspo.

Update: More on this at Chronicles, Studes wipes the floor with Stoneman for failing to sign just-as-good yet practically free Placido Polanco, and David Pinto concurs, saying

... there's nothing you're getting from Cabrerra that you wouldn't get from Eckstein. And now the Angels are paying a whole lot more money for it.
Oy, vey.

Comments:
Great post, Rob!
 
It will be Eric Aybar who should and will get the first shot at ss, not he's been moved back to 2b, his natural position.
 
Don't forget that Cabrera will be due $9 million in 2008, when he turns 33. In a few years, contracts like Cabrera's and Garrett Anderson's could be a major pain.
 
Sorry, that should be "Garret."
 
Rob, I couldn't disagree with you more. Cabrerra's defense, combined with Benji at catcher and the addition of Finley in center solidifies a great Angel defense. Was he expensive (even too expensive)? Sure, but his signing sets the Angels up even a step further above the competition in the West.
 
hitsnerrors -- Kindly tell me the metric(s) by which Cabrera's defense is rated superior.
 
Rob, I know we always disagree on this, but sometimes metrics don't always tell the whole story. They're helpful directionally, but you can't accurate capture plays that should have been made. Eckstein was painful to watch try to get to balls up the middle, and even more painful to watch try to make anything other than a routine throw across the diamond. Cabrera is a huge upgrade defensively, offensively, and one of the few players who can slide right in to the positive club house position Eck had. Happy Holidays!
 
Good analysis, I cannot believe Stoneman is such an idiot. How long will he continue to hand out stupid contracts? When will this team start using stats?
 
At some point we have to figure out if there's a minimum dollar threshold for useless contracts. I was sure last year that Erstad would be in that pile, but Anderson came around and rescued me. Now we have Cabrera to help out, as well as a final helping of Salmon.
 

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