O’s May Part with Daniel Cabrera

Eternal enigma Daniel Cabrera and the Baltimore Orioles may part ways this winter, according to MASN Online.

The 6’7″ righthander has had his picture next to the definition of “inconsistency” in the dictionary since coming up to the bigs in 2004. That rookie season is the only one in which he’s had a winning record; he’s 48-59 career in 145 starts. By late May of next season, Cabrera will be 28 years old, and the Orioles may already have lost their patience with him.

Despite Cabrera’s losing record and 5+ ERA, the arbitration process almost assuredly will reward him with a raise — something the Orioles will have a hard time accepting. According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, there is a possibility that they will refuse to offer him arbitration, which in turn would make him a free agent. Baltimore has until December 12 to make that decision.

Personally, I’d be surprised to to see the Orioles let him go for nothing, particularly with the dearth of starting pitching available. More likely, they include him in a trade — possibly with catcher Ramon Hernandez and/or outfielder Aubrey Huff.

Hmmm … you thinking what I’m thinking? The Mets certainly could use a RH bat such as Huff’s, and supposedly are in the market to upgrade their performance behind the dish. The Orioles, who have phenom Matt Wieters waiting in the wings, may like the idea of swapping the $9M owed to Hernandez for Brian Schneider’s $4.9M, while getting an ideal tutor for their young backstop of the future. I imagine the Mets would have to give up someone along the lines of Ryan Church and/or Jonathan Niese to get Cabrera and Huff as well — which might not be a bad idea.

Cabrera is the righthanded version of Oliver Perez, only taller and not as consistent (if you can believe that). One day, he looks like the most dominant pitcher in the American League. The next, he can’t get out of the fourth inning. Maybe leaving Baltimore is exactly what he needs to blossom. It worked with John Maine, after all.

Risky, yes, but so is going into 2009 with Niese penciled in as the Mets’ #5. We’ve been looking at the Orioles as ideal trade partners for a year now … will a deal ever happen? The teams seem destined to make some kind of trade, eventually.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. mikes_mets November 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm
    I believe Huff is a lefty, Joe.
  2. isuzudude November 30, 2008 at 10:17 am
    Mikes mets is right. Furthermore, I’m not keen on the idea of making any trades with Daniel Cabrera as the centerpiece. The comparisons with John Maine are lukewarm, to me. The Mets got Maine as a 24-year old who had brief cups of coffee in the majors, but had been fairly dominant in the minors. The O’s were either very egaer to acquire Kris Benson, or very eager to dump Jorge Julio, so gave Maine to Omar with the knowledge that he still has a lot of time to develop, either into something good or something not so good – and the rest is history. With Cabrera, as you mention he’ll be turning 28 in May, which doesn’t make him an old man but does make you wonder…if he hasn’t put it together yet, will he ever? What plagues Cabrera the most is his control: his walk, wild pitch, and hit batsmen totals are always around the league leaders. Yes, very much like Ollie, but with one major difference. Before coming to NY, Perez had proven he can have an all-star calber season despite the wildness. Cabrera has not. I realize playing in the homer-happy AL East is no easy task, but still some of Cabrera’s stats are rather alarming. Never a season with an ERA under 4.50. Only one season with a WHIP under 1.54. And recently, he has seen his strikeout-per-inning-pitched ratio fall dramatically. 180 innings pitched last year, just 90 strikeouts. That’s Tom Glavine territory. And when you’re putting as many runners on base as Cabrera is with his walks, you are going to need to strikeout a good deal as well to get out of jams. Not to mention, if the Mets are looking to place less of a burden on the bullpen by obtaining starters who keep low pitch counts and work longer into games, isn’t a guy like Cabrera the antithesis of what we’re looking for?

    Quite frankly, I’d rather Niese be my #5 and know he can develop into something and cost nothing than acquire a guy in Cabrera who appears to be regressing and will see his pricetag go up despite some pretty piss-poor numbers. Especially considering if acquiring Cabrera is going to cost a prospect along with potentially our starting RF and C. Ramon Hernandez and Brian Schneider are the same age, and while Hernandez may provide a couple more home runs throughout the year, I don’t see Hernandez as being that significant of an upgrade to invest $3-mil more in the position per year (Hernandez will make $8-mil in ’09 and $8.5 in 2010 if his option is picked up – and if it’s not, then yet again the Mets are in the market for a catcher). Huff is mostly a DH at this point so I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling him to play OF in a brand new ballpark, and I don’t see many more players Baltimore has to offer that they’d be willing to give up in exchange for what the Mets have on the block.

    If Cabrera is going to be non-tendered, why bust your ass looking to trade for him? Pick him up off the scrap heap later on in the offseason if you still have a need at SP. In my opinion, he’s simply not worth putting a package together for.

  3. joe November 30, 2008 at 11:47 am
    Thanks Mike …. my head’s not as clear after waking from the turkey coma … but I really WANT Huff to be a RH hitter … he throws righty, dammit!

    ‘dude, interesting points. I wouldn’t call Cabrera the “centerpiece” of a deal that includes Huff and Hernandez — more like the afterthought, which was why I brought up the Maine comparison. Probably I could have made that more clear. And you’re right, Maine isn’t a good comp because he was younger … again, I was thinking (but not writing) the “throw-in” thing.

    Maybe Jorge Julio is a better comp to Cabrera, now that you’ve reminded us of Julio.

    As for Schneider, I love him but the Mets can’t afford to have his punchless bat in the lineup. Hernandez is just as strong defensively and can hit for power. He’s no cleanup hitter, but it would be wonderful to have his bat at 7 or 8. I’m not going to think twice about spending a measly $3M of the Wilpons’ money to get that kind of production at the bottom of the order. It’s not like they need to save it for CC Sabathia.

    And I have to beg to differ — significantly — with you on Huff. First of all, the plan right now is to go into a brand new ballpark with Fernando Tatis and Dan Murphy in the outfield. Are you comfortable with that? The Mets’ #1 alternative to that duo, supposedly, is Raul Ibanez — who will transform fans’ memories of Shawn Green’s in RF more fondly.

    Have to say though, I’ve been high on Huff for years. The guy hits, hits, and hits some more. Gobs of line drives and doubles and balls over the fence. And he takes his walks. And would you believe he’s never struck out as many as 90 times in a season?

  4. mikes_mets November 30, 2008 at 1:03 pm
    The reason I knew Huff was a lefty was because back a couple of years ago I identified him as a RH hitter, too. Must be something about him. He is a pro hitter, though, I agree. I really think the Mets need to balance their lineup with a solid RH bat.

    By the way, I am comfortable with Tatis and Murphy platooning in LF, for what it’s worth. I don’t think the Mets do enough of that. I love the attitude that both Tatis and Murphy bring to the game, and a platoon increases the chances of getting productivity out of the position. I’d like to see the Mets spend their resources on pitching and putting together a deeper bench than they had last year. I’d love to see a RH bat with some pop on the bench that can spell Delgado at 1B and play some outfield.

  5. joe November 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm
    That’s funny Mike … maybe Huff WAS a RH hitter who switched to LH recently 😉

    If my hairbrained deal became reality, then Ramon Hernandez’ RH bat would replace Schneider’s LH bat and then balance out the LH bat of Huff. But then, it IS hairbrained!

    I also like a Tatis/Murphy platoon, for the same reasons. But what bothers me is I don’t see them being as great as they were last year. What I’m seeing from them, combined, is .270 / 15 HR / 70 RBI. That’s OK if you’re getting enough punch elsewhere, but we’re looking at a potential lineup that includes Castillo and Schneider. I’m fine with going forward with Tatis/Murph if the Mets can make a significant offensive upgrade at 2B and/or C. Perhaps they will.

  6. mikes_mets November 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm
    Great minds think alike, or something like that. And Huff does throw RH.

    Don’t forget that the productivity you get from Beltran in CF gives you a little leeway in that regard. I think I’m a little more optimistic than you are about the Tatis/Murphy platoon.

    I really appreciated this discussion, Joe. I think maybe it will spur me into a post or two on my own blog.

  7. joe November 30, 2008 at 6:48 pm
    Ah … good point on Beltran …. I always forget that few centerfielders hit 25 HRs / 100 RBI. I suppose what you give up from behind the plate, you make up in CF.

    It’s true I’m guardedly pessimistic about Murphy/Tatis, as much as I enjoy both and hope they stick around for 2009. Problem I see is that when you take out his red-hot July, Tatis hit .260 with 5 HR and 29 RBI in 200 at-bats — which happens to be right in line with his career numbers. I wonder if he simply took everyone by surprise in July, and took advantage of pitchers not being too careful with him, since he had been out of MLB for two years.

    Similar thing with Murphy, who while I really like his approach and patience at the plate, I fear he has peaked. This based on the fact that he is a career .290 hitter with a little power in A and AA. While I do believe a player can get better and develop power after the minors (i.e., Don Mattingly), I simply don’t see the great bat speed that would suggest him being more than a .290 guy with 10-15 HR. He reminds me more of Mike Hargrove than anyone else (which ain’t too shabby).

  8. isuzudude November 30, 2008 at 10:02 pm
    Joe, regarding your points on Murphy, it’s all the more reason to trade him now while his stock is highest. Yes, it would be a horribly unpopular decision, and yes there is a chance Murphy keeps developing and maintains a .300+ batting average for his career. But all projections have him lower – much lower – than that, and now would be the time to strike while the iron is hottest if the Mets want to get maximum value in return for him. Think of all the times the Mets have held on to a prospect or an aging star too long and had to settle for a crappy exchange rather than premium value when the player “peaked.” Sometimes it’s very hard to determine just when a player has peaked or reached his end point for satisfactory production, but with Murphy I think it’s pretty clear that the time is now. He finished off 2008 as the new Wade Boggs, and kept his impersonation bit going in the AFL until he got hurt. At the very least I hope Omar is tossing Murphy’s name out there to see if he can get somebody to bite. With names like Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Lee potentially available in a trade, there’s no way anyone should think Murphy is too valuable to part with.

    Also, for the record, I like Huff, I just don’t envision him as the solution we’re looking for in LF/RF, especially if acquiring him means giving up Ryan Church – which means you’re filling one hole by digging another. It’s funny how you talk trash about Ibanez yet shine a good light on Huff. To me, the two are pretty much one in the same. It’s just that Huff would potentially cost the Mets Church or Niese, while Ibanez would cost a draft pick. Personally, I’d pass on them both, but if I had to pick I’d go with Ibanez. Call me crazy.

  9. joe November 30, 2008 at 11:44 pm
    ‘dude, are you old enough to remember Gregg Jefferies? LOL

    Thing about Murphy is, his stock is highest with Mets fans — most outside organizations see Murphy similarly to me, and aren’t going to get too excited about a guy who was a moderate prospect prior to performing fairly well in his first 120 big-league at-bats (think: Mike Jacobs, Shane Spencer, Mike Vail, Phil Plantier, etc.).

    As for Huff — Church for Huff straight up is not a deal I’d make. However, if the deal involved getting Huff, Hernandez, and a young starting pitcher, then it’s something I’d consider. I like Church a lot, but not as much as Huff. For the record, I really, really hope Church returns to the Mets in ’09, but I find it hard to believe they can make a deal for a strong starting pitcher or closer/setup man without including him.

    As for Huff vs. Ibanez, it’s no contest. First of all, Ibanez will be 37 and Huff 32 — and from what I’ve seen of Ibanez, his bat is slowing. And my opinion is that Huff runs circles around Ibanez in the field, PLUS he can play both corner infield positions. Otherwise, the two players are very similar offensively — though I give Huff the edge because he strikes out slightly less often.

    If Ibanez still put on the tools of ignorance, I might think differently. But maybe that’s what I have against him … he, like Carlos Delgado, is terrified to get behind the plate again. 😉