Acquisition of Cabrera Gives Calzones Defense an Upgrade

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Updated: March 23, 2014

Acquisition of Cabrera Gives Calzones Defense an Upgrade

 

When the Calzones made a surprise move and traded a 5th round draft choice in next years draft to the New Orleans Trendsetters in exchange for CF Pablo Cabrera, the entire Calzones pitching staff exhaled.

 

Cabrera brings top notch glove to centerfield.

Cabrera brings top notch glove to centerfield.

CF Marcos Ramos slumped badly with the bat this past season and the Calzones were forced to play LF Robert Johnson out of position in centerfield, the pitching staff suffered. Johnson is a plus left fielder and has won an all-leather award at the position (2017) but his skill set is not well suited for centerfield. With the addition of Cabrera, the Calzones outfield defense could be as good  as there is in the game.

 

Cabrera, who started just 106 games in CF, still lead all IL center fielders in ZR at +17.5. And his season was no fluke. In 2018, in 107 starts, he posted a +18.5 ZR. In 2017,when he won the all-leather award in centerfield playing 152 games, it was +26.0.

 

There are two knocks on Cabrera, but neither have to do with his glove. First, he is somewhat prone to injury because of his hard nosed style of play. The Calzones know what they are getting, a guy who can fly in centerfield and on the base paths, but who is probably only going to be counted on for maybe 110 games a season. But the Calzones were well willing to take that risk given the huge upgrade Cabrera gives the team in CF when he is healthy.

 

The second knock on Cabrera is his expensive contract. Cabrera made $7.78 million in 2019, and could be due for a raise in arbitration that lifts his salary to just about $10 million in 2020. That’s fairly steep, but given the limited choices in the free agent market this coming off-season, it seemed like a move the Calzones had to make if they hope to return to the playoffs in 2020 after they fell short in 2019. Given the class of free agents in centerfield, it’s hard to argue with the Calzones move here. Free agent to be Jose Camacho is a fine centerfielder, if you take away the fact that he is even more injury prone than Cabrera. The other potential free agent centerfielder, Brad Cain, isn’t even in the same league with Cabrera or Camacho defensively, and Cain has struggled to keep his batting average above his playing weight in recent seasons. Both are also older than Cabrera.

 

It was rumored that the expensive and somewhat injury prone Cabrera was on the verge of being released by the Trendsetters, who had grown frustrated with his stints on the DL and whose large contract was excessive for a rebuilding team. That the Calzones were able to swing the deal for a 5th round draft pick was surprising to many observers, but his excessive contract surely scared some teams off. In the end it seemed the Trendsetters were just happy to get something in return for Cabrera, and the Calzones were more than willing to make a deal.

 

With Cabrera set to man centerfield many days this next season, the defense all the way around the outfield looks to be superb. Johnson can return to LF full time, where he has previously won an all-leather award. He has suffered defensively the last two seasons as he had to shuffle around the outfield plugging holes in CF and RF when they arose. With a return to playing his natural left field position on a full time basis in 2020, Johnson should be a contender for all-leather awards again. Over in RF, Charlie Tucker was arguably the best RF in the IL in 2019, despite the fact that he will likely get overlooked for the award in the voting. His +10.5 ZR in RF was 2nd in the IL, barely trailing Albert Olviera at +12.3. Had Tucker not missed a month of the season, he would have easily topped Olviera in this metric. He committed just 3 errors, and his 9 assists were tied for third in the league. The fourth outfielder in this mix is Marcos Ramos, who won the all-leather award in CF as a rookie in 2018, before slumping badly at the plate and being demoted for a stretch in 2019. The playing time arrangement between the four outfielders needs to be worked out, especially as the Calzones will need to work to keep Cabrera healthy. But these are 4 guys who can get the ball in the outfield, and that should have the pitching staff breathing a little easier on those balls hit into gaps.

 

The teams fifth outfielder heading into 2020 will be Benton Hawkins, who is known more for his bat than his glove. But Hawkins is headed to winter ball this year, with the specific task of working on getting better jumps on the ball. He’ll get worked in to the mix somehow to get his at bats, with the likelihood that he see’s at least a few at bats in the DH slot in order to give Pexego some regular rest.

 

If the team can fashion a return to the playoffs in 2020, the trade for Cabrera will surely be looked back at as the key off-season move for the Calzones.

 

EDITORS NOTE: Shortly before press time, it was announced the Calzones had avoided arbitration with Cabrera and signed the centerfielder to a two year contract extension. Cabrera will make $8.46 million in 2020, and $9.9 million in 2021.