There was an interesting piece in the New York Post over the weekend concerning former Mets infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera, an unsigned free agent as of this writing, expressed the lament that he would have loved to come back to the Mets but he realized that would not happen after the team signed Jed Lowrie. Let’s examine some stats and background and see if we can determine if the Mets made the right decision.
Both players are versatile infielders, who are a bit long in the tooth. The 35 year old Cabrera is younger by about a year and a half. Lowrie signed a $20 million two year contract with the Mets, while Cabrera remains unsigned as of this writing, but it would seem that the Mets could have signed him more cheaply than they did in signing Lowrie..
The Mets do not have a true backup shortstop on their roster, and Lowrie may fill that role. Lowrie did play some shortstop earlier in his career, but he played zero games at short last year as well as 2017. The year 2014, when he played 130 games at short, was the last time he had significant playing time at that position. Cabrera played 31 games at short last year and 45 games in 2017. For most of his career he was an everyday shortstop.
Both players put up somewhat similar slash lines last year. In 157 games, Lowrie put up a .267/.353/.448 line, while Cabrera slashed .262/.316/.458 in 147 games. The edge goes to Lowrie there with the significantly higher OBP. Both players are pretty slow, neither of them stole a base last year. In Lowries’ whole MLB career, his personal best in SB for a season is only two.
Looking further into last years stats via the Baseball Reference splits tool, we can see the two players were successful clutch hitters. In high-leverage at bats, Cabrera hit .278/.349/.495, quite good. However Lowrie was even better in those clutch high-leverage at bats, posting an almost off the charts line of .315/.408/.541.
In many of these comparisons Cabrera has a slight edge, but that high leverage batting line Lowrie put up stands out, and if that was the key for GM Brodie Van Wagenen signing Lowrie over Cabrera, most fans would be okay with that.
However, ex-agent Van Wagenen has shown an affinity for reuniting with previous clients, such as Robinson Cano and Lowrie. If that fact had any significant role in Lowrie being signed, that could be troubling going forward as management favoring ex-clients of the GM would likely be divisive.