Friday was an eventful day for Asdrubal Cabrera. He was activated from the disabled list, informed that he was no longer going to play shortstop, publicly asked for a trade and then finished the day with a three-hit game – and was semi-robbed of another hit – and had a nice game-ending fielding play at second base.
Allegedly, the Mets promised Cabrera when they signed him that he would only play short. So, when they informed him that this was no longer true, Cabrera tried to leverage the situation. The Mets declined his request to pick up his 2018 option. So, Cabrera went public with his situation.
The bottom line is that neither Cabrera nor the Mets did anything wrong and fans shouldn’t treat either entity as if they did.
While we can all name numerous shortstops who moved to other positions throughout MLB history, we need only to look to the Yankees for a famous example of a guy who couldn’t really play the position demanding that he allowed to continue at the glamour position of shortstop. Derek Jeter demanded to play shortstop and had built up enough aura and mystique with the Yankees to pull it off. Cabrera simply did not have those two cards in his back pocket to pull it off.
Cabrera was placed in a tough situation and didn’t handle it well. Raise your hand if you’ve perfectly handled every tough position you’ve been placed in throughout your life. It happens. The important thing is what transpires going forward. Cabrera can pout or he can play like he did Friday night. If he continues to play like he did last night, no one should hold his outburst against him.
And the thing is if Cabrera’s pride really is wounded beyond repair, the best way for him to get traded to a team where he can play short is for him to excel while playing second. Because let’s face it, no one would consider him excelling previously this year. Cabrera came to the Mets with a poor defensive reputation and then fielded better than expected in 2016. But this year had been a different story. No doubt injuries contributed to his decline. But it’s far from certain that they were the main reason. It’s entirely possible that what we saw last year was the outlier. And what we saw in 2016 was a guy with a (-4.2) UZR and a (-7) DRS. He fielded everything he got to; he just didn’t get to nearly enough balls.
As for the Mets, they needed to have a better defensive shortstop than Cabrera, who currently sits with a (-9) DRS in 369.2 innings, compared to his (-7) last year in 1,154 innings. And DRS is a counting stat. Jose Reyes isn’t really a good defensive shortstop, with a (-4) DRS in 279.2 innings. But in the right here, right now he’s better than Cabrera. And it’s possible that more reps will lead to better play.
Of course, if the Mets were truly concerned about maximizing their defensive infield play, they would call up Amed Rosario to play short and play anyone on the team besides Wilmer Flores at third base. Flores delivered three hits last night, breaking out of his slump at the plate. But he continued to prove he isn’t meant to play third, as he threw poorly to second on a potential DP ball and was saved an error on another throw to first base by a nice scoop by Lucas Duda.
Replacing Cabrera with Reyes is a baby step. But at least it was an acknowledgment that something needed to be done. No one knows what was said during contract negotiations with Cabrera prior to the 2016 season. It’s believable to me that they promised Cabrera he would play short. At that time, Reyes wasn’t on the team and Rosario had just finished a season in Hi-A with a .642 OPS. The only internal options were Flores, who they were looking to replace, and Ruben Tejada, who just had a gruesome injury and was hardly a star before then.
Things changed from December 2015 to June 2017. And if as an organization you refuse to acknowledge that fact, you’re going to be in tough straights. Whatever was said or wasn’t said during negotiations can never be known. What we do know is that there was no language in Cabrera’s contract prohibiting them from moving Cabrera to another position.
Do the Mets have to live with the idea that they allegedly promised one thing to a free agent and went back on their word? Yes, yes they do. Does Cabrera have to live with the idea that he’s not really the team-first guy his “first step” persona led the fan base to believe? Yes, yes he does. Yet neither of those things necessarily prevent business from going on between the two parties, either the remainder of 2017 or even in 2018.
But in our scandal age, this is a big story. Yet it’s big because there’s an entire industry built around creating scandals out of nothing. Right now on June 23/June 24 Cabrera is mad. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be made every single day for the remainder of his Mets career. It reminds me of a bit by Louis CK.
Young guys, they’re afraid of women. They’re afraid of their feelings. “My girlfriend’s mad at me!” Well, later she won’t be, f…ing calm down.”
Everyone’s unhappy when they’re losing and boy have the Mets done a lot of losing in the last 10 days or so. But winning cures everything and hopefully the team can rip off a bunch of wins and get back to .500 sooner rather than later. And Cabrera not playing shortstop makes that a tiny bit easier. Perhaps winning will make him happier, too, regardless of where he’s playing defensively.