MLB Spring Training: Cleveland Indians Make Same Mistake With Orlando Cabrera

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MLB Spring Training: Cleveland Indians Make Same Mistake With Orlando Cabrera
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
If this were five years ago, the Orlando Cabrera signing would make sense.

The official web site of the Cleveland Indians has Orlando Cabrera listed as the starting second baseman for the club. This confirms what has been suspected since the signing was announced last week.

For the most part, reaction to the signing has been positive. All I'm hearing about is how great a player Cabrera is and how he's a big addition to the 2011 team. Did you know he's been to the playoffs six of the last seven years? I've heard about it ad infinitum.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I really don't see the purpose of this signing. All I see is the Indians once again refusing to just embrace the youth movement they're trying to sell to the public. How are we supposed to believe in it when even the people in charge don't?

Orlando Cabrera has never been a great hitter. In his 14 season career, the 36-year-old has only had an OPS+ above 100 (or above average) once, way back in 2003. Last year's OPS+ of 78 hardly inspires confidence that Cabrera will be an average hitter in 2011.

The official Indians press release touts the fact that Cabrera is a "two-time Rawlings Gold winner." The Gold Gloves sound great, but Cabrera's defense has declined significantly in the past two years. His dWAR (Wins Above Replacement strictly from defense) was -2.9 in 2009 and 2010.

He may have won Gold Gloves in 2001 and 2007, but the 2011 version of Orlando Cabrera isn't the fielder he used to be. Moving to second base isn't going to fix everything.

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The real problem with the Cabrera signing is his age. Like the Russell Branyan signing, which took playing time away from Matt LaPorta last year, the Indians keep telling us how excited they are about their young prospects while they sign veterans to play over them.

Maybe the Cabrera signing would make more sense if he were coming off of a great 2010 campaign. The fact is, he isn't.

In the second half last year, Cabrera had a .348 OBP and a .763 OPS. Too bad in the first half he only had a .283 OBP and a .612 OPS. On the year, he was only worth 0.4 WAR, not very impressive at all.

In fact, in the past two seasons, Cabrera's WAR has been a nice, round 0.0. Even Jayson Nix, who I don't think has any real future with the Indians, has a 1.0 WAR in the past two seasons.

Orlando Cabrera has literally only been playing at the level of a AAA call-up in the past two years. With that being the case, what's so wrong with just playing Jason Kipnis? He'd probably play at the same level. At the very least, the Indians should give Jayson Nix another chance to prove himself instead of bringing in Cabrera.

I know that the contract is only $1 million for one year; I know that Orlando Cabrera is great in the clubhouse and I know that he's got great playoff pedigree, but none of that really matters. If the Indians were one piece from competing, maybe this would make sense. If this were five years ago, this signing would make sense.

As it is, the team that is constantly complaining about lack of money is just wasting it here.

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