It is time for the Cleveland Indians to part ways with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. The time is now and there never may be a better opportunity during his entire career.
Cabrera is a free agent at the end of the season at the conclusion of his three-year, $21.05 million deal signed with the Indians in 2012. While teams may be shied away from Cabrera and want to create a long-term relationship with him, this could also be a good thing for others. Cabrera could be less risky than players who still have many years left on their contract. If a team does not want him to return, they do not have to worry about it, he will be a free agent anyway. If they do, they can just re-sign him in free agency or extend him during the season.
Cabrera's free agent status could be bad for the Indians as well. If they decide to re-sign Cabrera, he would be due for his "big" contract. At age 28, and after finishing up his "middle 20s" contract, he is ready to sign the contract that many stars do. He is a two-time All-Star, and is one of the main on-base guys in the Indians lineup. While he may not be due for a deal worth over $100 million, he could see an average annual value (AAV) of around his salary this year, which is $10 million. That could mean the Indians could be paying Cabrera a salary north of $50 million, if they sign him to a five-year deal or longer.
While an AAV of $10 million does not seem like a lot of money for a large market team, the Cleveland Indians salary is only about $80 million. Do the Indians really want to lock up a guy that is not quite of "elite" status to a deal that could be worth an eighth of their total payroll? That could hurt the talent they bring in into the future and hurt their chances at the postseason later on. They need to do a quick turnover if they want to stay young and fresh. Moving Cabrera also could open the door for top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor right away, which would help the Indians quick turnover. He would not have to wait in the minors, or be forced to find a new position, like many other prospects have to do.
For a good example of quick turnovers, the Indians should turn their heads west. The Oakland Athletics are the best at doing that. They take production from the players in their "middle 20s" contract (the deal right before the player's mega deal) and when that contract is up, they are fine letting him go. In this case however, the Indians do not have to let Cabrera go completely. If they deal him at the trade deadline, they could get a good return for him, especially in a market that is deprived of right-handed hitting (Cabrera is a switch-hitter) and shortstops in general.
Cabrera's name has come up in trade talk, or at least rumors, but the Indians have been reluctant to move him. While his value could be higher, in this type of situation it seems ideal that the Indians decide to go ahead and move the anchor on their team. While it may not pay off now, it could really be the right decision into the future. It could really help the Indians turnover and continue to be good for awhile.
On the season, Cabrera is hitting .251/.312/.398 with eight homers and 37 runs batted in. He has provided a 1.0 fWAR this season in just 375 plate appearances. That is already a larger total than his fWAR last year, which was 0.6 in 562 plate appearances. Defensively, Cabrera is below-average. He has a -7 defensive runs saved and a -6.9 ultimate zone rating.