With Cabrera Now a Ray, Who in the Infield is Expendable?

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Sure he still has a physical to pass, but we might as well get used to pronouncing and saying Asdurbal Cabrera’s name here in Tampa Bay. His $8 Million 1-year deal will eat some of that fat cabbage the Rays have saved on a few deals already completed this off season, but his addition also means someone will surely be dealt in the coming weeks. 

The only real question remaining is when the Rays make a move to shed another high profile player.

images (7)You have to think the signing of Cabrera a shuffling of the Rays infield as the Rays would not have signed him as an everyday DH, or keep his defensive skills on the bench.

Now the question is which part of the Rays prolific 2014 double play tandem could be packing their gear? Do they entertain offers only for Ben Zobrist, or does the team also put Yunel Escobar on the trade block as a second viable option?

While most people would immediately point to 2B/INF Zobrist as being the odd man out, I am not so sure. Even though Zobrist is entering his walk season in 2015, the former AL All-Star might just be more valuable to the Rays.

images (4)Zobrist does have huge trade value in his “plug-him-in-anywhere” versatility that every team covets.

Of course this is just my opinion, but I think the Rays should keep a firm grip on Zorilla and possibly look a little more towards the Shortstop position for a guy who is expendable, especially with the Cabrera signing.

People tend to forget Cabrera was the Cleveland Indians starting SS in 2015 before his late season trade to the Washington Nationals who used him primarily as a Second Baseman.

With the Rays currently having Logan Forsythe and Nick Franklin on their roster, 2B is becoming a mighty crowded space and quite possibly the Rays could look a bit west of the pivot for some roster reevaluation.

So let’s take a gander at both Zobrists and Escobar’s number from 2014 and see who might be offensively expendable:

images (2)Zobrist played in 146 games in 2014 posting a .272 average with 10 HR and 52 RBis while maintaining a sparky .749 OPS. He also posted a .983 Fielding average with 8 errors, 224 assists and 44 double plays.

Stats might be viewed by some as close, but the reality is that Zobrist can be plugged into more offensive scenarios like hit and runs, suicide squeezes and running the base paths.

downloadIn comparison, Escobar played in 137 games, posted a .258 average with 7 HRs and 39 RBis and .664 OPS. Yunel posted a .965 Fielding average with 16 errors, 267 assists and 50 Double plays.

One last glaring stat about the pair: Zobrist had 10 stolen bases in 2014…..Escobar had 1 SB.

Escobar to me has been a great Rays player, but the switch-hitting Zobrist give the Rays more options both in the field and at the plate.  And Cabrera is a step better than the Rays current SS option of Escobar both on the field and with his bat and that combo could spell Escobar’s name being shopped harder than Zobrist right now.

images (8)So let’s compare Cabrera’s combined 2014 stats at the plate and in the field to further show Escobar might be a name to watch closely in the coming weeks.

Defensively Cabrera posted a .964 Fielding percentage with both the Nats and Indians in 2014, but he also posted a .995 Fielding percentage in 48 games with Washington as a Second Baseman.

Cabrera had a total of 15 errors in 2014, 14 with Cleveland, and 1 with Washington. If you combine his two teams, he posted 255 assists and 57 double plays.

images (6)These stats might conclude a dead heat for Escobar and Cabrera defensively, but when you look at their offensive numbers Cabrera might be the better offensive weapon for the Rays than Escobar.

Cabrera posted a combined .241 average, which might not be as appealing, but his 4 Triples and 14 HR show he still has some pop in his bat. Cabrera also had 61 RBIs and posted a .694 OPS.

Cabrera’s offensive totals might not get you jumping for joy, but put his name into the bottom half of the Rays lineup and the team instantly gets a second burst of potential power to drive in runs and provide stability for the bottom of the lineup.

images (9)Let’s not even remind ourselves Cabrera as a member of the Tribe was the AL All-Star in 2011-12, a Top 20 vote getter in the AL MVP Award, plus a Silver Slugger winner in 2011.

Escobar also was a Top 20 NL MVP vote getter in 2009 while with the Braves, but has never appeared in an All-Star game in while at the MLB level.

Ultimately you and I will not be making this decision, but you have to think that a offensively-challenged team like the Rays would keep their best power option not matter the salary.

Cabrera and _______ seems like a better double play tandem option in 2015. Now the Rays just have to decide if they pencil in Escobar’s name or Zobrist’s in that sentence heading into 2015.

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