The Cleveland Indians have dropped 14 of their last 19 games. Two of those five wins were by one run.
Long story short, the team is reeling.
If they were truly going to push to contend this year, they were going to have to make a change. The first of these changes (directly or indirectly) involved Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cabrera has truly been one of the breakout stars of 2011. He's hitting .301 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI. Cabrera has also been a regular on ESPN's Web Gems.
The 25-year-old switch hitter has truly come into his own this year. A big catalyst for his ascension has been the veteran presence that the Tribe's front office brought in at the end of the offseason, Orlando Cabrera.
The elder Cabrera saw power behind his double play partner's swing and challenged him to explore that potential.
In his first four seasons with the Indians, Asdrubal had 18 home runs. He has 12 home runs in just 64 games this season. The power surge spurred manager Manny Acta to move Cabrera to the cleanup spot for last night's game against the Yankees. He responded with an RBI single in the fourth, which proved to be the only run of the game in the 1-0 Indians' victory.
Much to the Tribe’s frustration, the elder Cabrera, who began the season on a hot streak, both offensively and defensively, has fallen on hard times. He has struggled both at the plate and in the field. The Tribe waited for him to break out of his funk, but it never happened.
They finally made the decision to call up prospect Cord Phelps from AAA Columbus. The switch-hitting Phelps has been a solid hitter and a versatile defender throughout his minor-league career.
The organization tried to move him around to different defensive positions to try to get his bat in the lineup and keep high-ceiling prospect Jason Kipnis at second. Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled defensively and has been streaky at the plate.
Phelps, however, has only one hit since his promotion and is averaging more than a strikeout per game. With Orlando Cabrera failing, Phelps not performing up to expectations and Kipnis not proving worthy of promotion, the Tribe is left searching for an answer at second base.
The answer: Asdrubal Cabrera.
Why would they move an All-Star caliber player from his natural position?
The simple answer is to make Cabrera a better all-around player. Even though he has been a regular on ESPN highlight films, Cabrera is actually a below-average defender. He does have a flair for the incredible, but he also has far below-average range.
According to Fangraphs.com, Ryan Theriot of the St. Louis Cardinals is the only shortstop worse than Cabrera defensively. He has five errors already this season and had 12 in only 95 games last year. In 162 career games at second base, he only has five errors.
Cabrera’s bat will play any position, but his defense would be best at second.
The only problem is it would force the Indians to find a shortstop to plug the gap. The currently have no one of consequence at AAA and 2011 first-round pick, 17-year-old Francisco Lindor, is unsigned. Even when he signs, he would probably be at least four years from the big leagues.
That is a small problem to deal with, however, when it helps to mold one of the best all-around players in the majors into a superstar.