Here's a Thought: Analyzing the Orlando Cabrera Deal

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJuly 31, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 28: Orlando Cabrera #18 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Colorado Rockies at the Oakland Coliseum on June 28, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Today, the Oakland A's sent starting shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for minor league shortstop Tyler Ladendorf.

The deal is an upgrade for the Twins, who have been playing the offensively inept Nick Punto and defensively inept Brendan Harris at shortstop this season.

Cabrera is a better hitter than both.

The Twins only gave up Ladendorf, who's struggling in Low-A at age 21 and has a lot of work to do to get to the majors.

So this deal works for Minnesota.

As for my A's, trading Cabrera frees up shortstop for Cliff Pennington. I was hoping to see that.

Cabrera's batting average is about all he has going for him at this point, and while he's clearly the best option in Minnesota, the presence of Pennington made him possibly the second-best option in Oakland.

Cabrera is hitting .281, but only has a .318 OBP and .365 SLG. That means he hits enough singles to get by but contributes little else besides the occasional steal (11-for-15).

Defensively, he's now a minus, as his -9.6 UZR/150 attests. Once a very good gloveman, Cabrera has really declined in the field this season. He's a big defensive downgrade from Punto and about as good as Harris. It's his superior hitting that makes Cabrera a good idea for Minnesota, although being a superior hitter to Harris and Punto isn't that difficult.

Cliff Pennington, on the other hand, is hitting .264/.345/.367 in Triple-A. He's a similar offensive player to Cabrera, except for two main advantages: he's a switch-hitter, and he draws a lot of walks. 

Last season, Pennington hit .242/.339/.293 in a brief look in the majors. That performance (.299 wOBA) is similar offensively to Cabrera's 2009 (.303 wOBA).

Pennington is a legitimate 30-steal threat, and he is rarely caught on the bases (27-for-31 this season), providing another upgrade on Cabrera.

Defensively, Pennington is solid, with average range, and a huge arm that is considered one of the best in the minor leagues.

Pennington should be able to produce at least as well as Cabrera overall, and the A's get younger and save money by trading Cabrera and starting Pennington.

On top of that, the A's acquired Ladendorf. The A's biggest weakness in the minors is shortstop depth. They have first-rounder Grant Green, who has yet to sign, and Dusty Coleman, a decent prospect in Low-A, but there's not much shortstop talent anywhere else in the system (other than Pennington).

Ladendorf is considered an excellent defender with good bat speed and the potential to become something like Cabrera (who used to be much better than this) in the long run. He crushed Rookie League pitching early in the year, hitting .400/.500/.721, but has struggled in 15 games in the pitcher-friendly, Low-A Midwest League.

He's far from a guaranteed big-leaguer, but Ladendorf gives the A's another quality defensive shortstop with some offensive potential, which is their biggest need in the minors right now.

The Twins got their shortstop upgrade for a C+ prospect, and the A's upgraded their own shortstop position, saved money, and added depth to their weakest position in the minors.

Both teams accomplished their goals, so it's something of a win-win, but I think the A's benefit more from this trade than the Twins.