Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the Washington Nationals waits on deck against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game Two of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 23, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the Washington Nationals waits on deck against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game Two of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 23, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could use a platoon partner for Colin Moran at first base and Asdurbal Cabrera could be a nice addition for infield depth.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates used a tandem of Colin Moran and Josh Bell at first base and designated hitter. Moran put up career best numbers including a .247/.325/.472 line, 10 home runs and a 114 wRC+ in 200 plate appearances. Bell on the other hand had yet another inconsistent season. Bell’s bottom line .226/.305/.364 triple slash with a 78 wRC+ is a far cry from his outstanding 2019, but it was a two sided season for the switch hitter. His first 110 plate appearances saw him bat just .190/.245/.270 with a 41 wRC+, but then heat up and hit .260/.367/.450 with a 115 wRC+ in his final 120 plate appearances.

If the universal designated hitter returns, Bell will likely get most of his time at designated hitter considering his poor defense but high hitting potential leaving Moran manning first base quite often. If not, Bell could be traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Defensively, he can hold his own at first, but it’s his bat there will be a few questions about, especially against southpaws.

Moran hit .254/.340/.516 and posted a 128 wRC+ vs right-handers, but just a .231/.286/.365 line and 76 wRC+ vs lefties. Both Will Craig and Hunter Owen are two options that the Pittsburgh Pirates could turn to, have reverse splits. That could mean they will look into some infield depth who’s decent vs left-handers, and veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera could fit that role.

Cabrera has put up slightly above league average numbers since 2015. In those six seasons, he’s batted .267/.330/.448 with a 108 wRC+. The only year he hit less than 14 home runs was in 2020 because of the shortened season.

In 2019, Cabrera split the season with the Rangers and Nationals. He got off to a slow start hitting .235/.318/.393 with a 79 wRC+ in 368 plate appearances in Texas. When the Rangers released him, Cabrera signed on with the Washington Nationals and became one of their multiple low-cost veterans who eventually paid dividends late into the season and into their World Series Championship team.

In his next 146 plate appearances, Cabrera hit .323/.403/.565 with six long balls and 10 doubles, with a 145 wRC+. He collected another seven hits in the playoffs, with six coming in the World Series.

Last season, Cabrera didn’t do as good with the Nats as he did in his first go around with the team. In 213 plate appearances, the switch hitter put up a .242/.305/.442 line and 95 wRC+. Notably, Cabrera still put up an isolated slugging percentage above .200 at .205, the first time he’s done that in his career.

However, he did run into some bad luck througout the season. His 89.4 MPH exit velocity was above average in the 63rd percentile and his DRC+ represented a much better hitter coming in at 103. Cabrera’s batting average on balls in play sat at .260. From 2015-2019, he had a .303 batting average on balls in play for comparrison.

Cabrera hit well against lefties last season. Although it was a small sample size of just 57 plate appearances, he still had 16 hits, including four home runs, three doubles and two triples, all coming to a 149 wRC+. Throughout his career he’s been better against lefties. His slash against southpaws is .288/.335/.431 against a .259/.328/.424 line against righties. He’s posted a wRC+ of 120 against lefties six different times as well, compared to only twice against righties.

He also was good when it came time to come through in the clutch with a .308/.357/.462 line in high leverage situations and .273/.343/.509 line with runners in scoring position. He’s also posted an OPS of .800 or higher with RISP and in high leverage situations in 2018 and 2019.

Cabrera was originally a shortstop, but hasn’t played the position semi-regularly since 2018, and hasn’t been a full time shortstop since 2016. Still, he can hold his own at multiple other positions. In the last three years at third base where he has -5 DRS, but a 5.5 UZR/150 and at first base, he has -1 DRS and a -1.7 UZR/150 in 222.2 career innings.

Though he isn’t nearly as good of a defender at second base, he does provide some depth there. Overall, he had +4 outs above average which is remarkably good as it ranked 27th in baseball last season and tied him with Gold Glove finalists J.P. Crawford and Javier Baez.

Next. Potential Rule 5 Draft Target. dark

Cabrera may no longer be the All-Star he was with the Cleveland Indians, but he is still a capable batter who can provide depth at multiple infield positions. He can hit left handed pitching well, which would make him an ideal platoon partner for Moran to start the season. Cabrera would provide a cheap platoon option who could also come off the bench and a potential trade chip at the deadline.

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