Why Orlando Cabrera Does Not Help The Minnesota Twins

Marty AndradeSenior Writer IAugust 2, 2009

BOSTON - JULY 30:  Shortstop Orlando Cabrera #18 of the Oakland A's tags out Jacoby Ellsbury #46 of the Boston Red Sox  attempting to steal second base in the fifth inning on July 30, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

With just a couple of hours left at the trading deadline, Bill Smith struck a deal with A's GM Billy Beane to acquire shortstop Orlando Cabrera for the 21-year-old shortstop prospect, Tyler Ladendorf.


Ladendorf is a high-ceiling, high-risk prospect with just over 300 professional plate appearances. Beane also paid cash to seal the deal.


It's unlikely Beane paid the Twins enough though.


It needs to be understood that small market teams like the Twins rely on a strong farm system to replenish their supply of major league ready talent. Losing an athletic shortstop before his value and potential was really known hurts the Twins enormously.


This sort of deal needs to result in a clear and immediate advantage over current personnel, so that the Twins have a better chance to win the AL Division.


Unfortunately for Twins' fans, this move doesn't.


Orlando Cabrera has nearly identical offensive numbers to Brendan Harris, with a .687 OPS, compared to Brendan Harris' .674. This wouldn't be a problem if Cabrera was an elite glove at shortstop.


He's not, at least he's not anymore.


In 2008 Harris had a dismal UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games, a measure of defense based on runs saved) of -10.3. So far this year, Harris has recovered well and put up an UZR/150 of just -3.2.


On the other hand, the 34-year-old Orlando Cabrera, has an UZR of -11 this year. That is more than a twenty run shift from Cabrera's 2008 UZR/150.


Cabrera, a good fielder his entire career, is showing clear signs of age.


Simply put, Cabrera is not the player he once was and is not a better option at shortstop compared to what the Twins already had available.


But some would argue Cabrera was better than the man he replaced on the roster, Brian Buscher.


That's true, but the argument doesn't hold up to scrutiny.


Cabrera makes the Twins slightly better in absolute terms because his defense is better than Buscher's. But this absolute advantage is turned into a relative disadvantage because of the way Cabrera will be used by Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire.


Cabrera is now hitting in the No. 2 spot in the Twins' lineup. This is just going to give extra at-bats to a mediocre hitter and possibly kill some late inning rallies by putting a black hole in front of the Twins' best hitters.


Also, it needs to be understood that Cabrera is not replacing Brian Buscher's role on the Twins. Brendan Harris is now a primary bench player and back-up third baseman. So the only upside to this trade is the handful of at bats that would have gone to Buscher that will now be taken by Harris.


But Harris' OPS versus right-handed pitchers is .696. Brian Buscher had an OPS versus those same pitchers of .731 (he was used almost exclusively against righties). Again, no edge, angle, advantage, or value added.


So, the Twins gave up a legitimate prospect, take on part of Cabrera's salary (depending on how much cash Billy Beane gave up for the trade) and give Gardy another low OPS rally killer to throw into the No. 2 spot in the lineup, for nothing.


Congratulations Bill Smith.