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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #16: Asdrubal Cabrera

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The team’s Swiss Army knife more or less did what we expected, before departing for pastures Cincinnatti

The Victorinox Voyager Lite Swiss Army pocketknife, $96.00 . This photo is for the annual Travel Se Photo by Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Rating: 4.83
  • Age: Turned 36 on November 13
  • 2021 Stats (combined): 110 G, 352 PA, .230/.313/.366 = .678 OPS, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 0.4 bWAR
  • 2021 Earnings: $1.75 million (there was also up to $1.05 million in performance bonuses, but I’ve not been able to find the details)
  • 2022 Status: unrestricted free-agent.

Asdrubal Cabrera was signed to play his fifteenth major-league season with Arizona as spring training started on February 22. When he signed his $1.75M deal, it came with little fanfare. Bench prices for a bench player is standard operating procedure in today’s value driven game. However, due to some (all too expected) misfortune on the MLB roster he saw playing commensurate with that of a low end regular. In his 90 games with the DBacks he saw 321 PA and in his 20 games with the Reds he saw 31 PA; it’s almost comical how far a semi-competent lineup pushed a player with his skillset down the pecking order. For the purposes of this piece Cabrera’s numbers with the Reds don’t matter all too much (-18 wRC+ says about all one needs to know about those 31 PA), so we’ll be using the context of only his numbers as a DBack beginning with his offense.

We’ll start off by saying that his plate discipline was just “fine”. A BB% that exceeded the league average helped to balance out his close to league average BABIP. His K% wasn’t a huge problem, albeit being higher than all but one stop in his career, but roughly league average K% and BABIP needs power higher than that level (even accounting for a slightly increased BB%) to be considered playable in an extended role.

Early in the year, his power output was a pleasant surprise for the value of his contract. There were spans of games, close to ten at a time, in which his ISO surpassed the league average (at times even approaching .300); those were much simpler times, times in which we weren’t forced to watch Young/VanMeter “field” their position. Times in which Eduardo Escobar looked like the “Artist Formerly Known As Fogo Power”. Good times. Between injuries that forced the bat-first players into extended IF looks and E²’s continued underperformance, the cries for Cabrera to take some of their time were finally acknowledged.

In all fairness, he played about as well as you could reasonably expect a 35-year-old to play in the post-PED era of the game, but his incredibly hot stretches were followed by cold stretches of the same magnitude. Whether through increased exposure or overuse, the highs got lower and so did the lows, and there were also a pair of spells on the injured list for Asdrubal, due to a hamstring strain. In late August, Cabrera was placed on waivers to make room for Jake McCarthy. He was picked up by the Reds where his performance woes intensified: it took nineteen games there before he got his first hit. It was clearly too late, Asdrubal had already gazed into the Void; it was the Void’s turn to gaze back.

The glove was also just “fine”, MLB teams have accepted by this point that Cabrera is an infielder that shouldn’t be playing up the middle. Funnily he did see one inning at SS, but just the number of innings (or inning) played there should tell you that it was more out of necessity than preference. By advanced metrics his range at 3B was bad, but it’s been like that for a couple years now. Mobility is one of the first things to go with more years on Earth; if there’s one thing that Cabrera has more of than most MLB players, it’s years on Earth. Looking again at advanced metrics the majority of his positive defensive contributions came from an ability to turn double plays, but even the positives weren’t of any substantial value.

Looking at the total package, Cabrera was below average both offensively and defensively at 3B; although there was time spent at 1B with some positive defensive value (it wasn’t even a quarter of the innings played at 3B). Every inch that he drew closer to positionally average defensive production was an inch further away from positionally average offensive production. All-in-all, Asdrúbal performed reasonably well when cast in the bench role that he signed up for, but his current approximation of a full time role was more akin to a George Clooney Batman than a Michael Keaton. Whether it was truly a poor performance or a poor script, we were left with something that wasn’t even good for laughs.