Earlier this month, Buster Olney ranked the top-10 players in baseball by position. Five Mets made the cut or were listed as honorable mentions (Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson). That got us to wondering where other prominent Mets rank. This article series takes a look.
It appears that the Mets’ priorities this offseason were certainty and versatility, and they got a little bit of both with the acquisition of Cabrera. Cabrera has played in at least 135 games in each of the last five seasons. He’s hit 16, 14, 14 and 15 home runs the last four seasons. His OPS has fluctuated between .694 and .762, but was a respectable .744 in 2015. He has played 867 games at shortstop, 210 at second base.
One stat that might have gone overlooked in regard to why the Mets might need Cabrera is the performance of their shortstops against right-handed pitching last season. They combined for a .252/.301/.347 slash line. Cabrera’s batting average is five points worse during the last two seasons, but his on-base percentage is 17 points better and his slugging percentage is 58 points better.
Cabrera does not rate well by advanced defensive metrics, but as we previously noted, he’s considerably better than Tejada and Flores. The Mets allowed an abundance of hits in the shortstop-third base hole last season and the presence of Cabrera might turn some of those balls into outs.
What the scouts say
The name that came up repeatedly in a conversation about Cabrera with a major-league scout was Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta, a former teammate in Cleveland. Though much of that was related to defense, it applied to offense, too. Each was valued at 1.8 wins above replacement last season. Peralta’s OPS was .745, one point better than Cabrera’s. Cabrera’s advantage over Peralta moving forward is age. Cabrera will be 30 in 2015, four years younger than Peralta.
“I don’t think he’s a top-15 shortstop, but he’s in the middle of the pack,” said the scout. “What I like about in him is his ability to switch-hit, and I like his hands defensively. Everything he gets to, he’ll catch. Range-wise, he’s limited, but he’s still a quality baseball player. He knows how to do little things that help his team win. He may not match up to the kids at shortstop athletically, but he’ll surpass them in baseball intelligence. His brain is top-10. He’s still a very good guy to have on a major-league roster.”
ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski’s ZiPs projections are reasonably bullish on Cabrera, giving him a .258/.315/.421 slash line for 2016. Even with minus-10 defensive runs saved thrown in, that still translates to 2.2 WAR, which would make the first year of Cabrera’s contract ($8.25 million) a good value. That would be 1.5 WAR more than what the Mets got out of Flores and Tejada, combined, in 2015.