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St. Louis Cardinals free agent rumors: Cards reportedly interested in Asdrubal Cabrera

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This would be an excellent addition by the Cardinals brass.

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals' offseason roster makeover may not be over yet. Jon Heyman of CBS tweets that the Cardinals are one of five teams to have shown interest in free agent Asdrubal Cabrera. The Giants, Athletics, Twins, and Mets are the other clubs who have, according to Heyman, expressed interest in the infielder.

Cabrera's name should be familiar to followers of the Cardinals rumor mill.

During the 2012-13 Hot Stove, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated in a chat, according to this stltoday.com post, that the Cardinals had "real interest" in acquiring Cabrera, then the starting shortstop in Cleveland. Rumors of the Cardinals' interest in Cabrera resurfaced in July, after St. Louis had lost Rafael Furcal to season-ending Tommy John surgery and as the nonwaiver trade deadline approached. ESPN's Buster Olney reported at that time that there had been additional discussions between Cleveland and St. Louis about Cabrera.

Obviously, the trade talks between Cleveland and St. Louis didn't come to fruition. Cabrera stayed in Cleveland and didn't play particularly well. His Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) sagged approximately 20 points and his batting average fell by about 40. The result was that his batting production, which had been comfortably above average for most of his career, fell to slightly lower than average. For a bat-first shortstop with defense that the fielding metrics tend to grade as subpar, this eroded a fair bit of his value.

Last year, Cleveland ultimately traded Cabrera to the Nationals at the trade deadline. In Washington, Cabrera played second and shortstop. Heyman's tweet regarding interest in the free agent lists Cabrera as a second and third base option who can also many short. Thus, it appears that Cabrera's days as a big-league shortstop might be over.

As Jed Lowrie signs a three-year, $23 million deal with Houston, Cabrera might be one of the better values on the free-agent market. Might the Cardinals' rumored pursuit of Cabrera be an example of general manager John Mozeliak's professed opportunism? Have a look at the numbers over the last three seasons (the time span most projection systems use) for Lowrie as he enters his age-31 season and those for Cabrera on the eve of his age-29 season.

2012

Player

PA

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

rWAR

Cabrera

616

8.4

16.1

.270

.338

.423

.762

.153

.332

112

2.8

3.3

Lowrie

387

11.1

16.8

.244

.331

.438

.769

.194

.336

110

2.5

2.2

2013

Player

PA

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

rWAR

Cabrera

562

6.2

20.3

.242

.299

.402

.700

.159

.307

94

0.5

1.2

Lowrie

662

7.6

13.7

.290

.344

.446

.791

.156

.345

120

3.5

2.3

2014

Player

PA

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

rWAR

Cabrera

616

8.0

17.5

.241

.307

.387

.694

.146

.308

97

1.7

0.9

Lowrie

566

9.0

14.0

.249

.321

.355

.676

.106

.300

93

1.8

0.8

2015 Steamer Projections

Player

PA

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Cabrera

598

7.8

18.0

.251

.316

.397

.713

.146

.315

100

1.4

Lowrie

558

8.5

15.0

.258

.325

.397

.722

.139

.319

105

2.1

Cabrera is a viable major-league starter at three positions, which makes him a valuable bench player. If the Cards dump Descalso and effectively replace him with Cabrera, Mozeliak and his lieutenants will have another personnel coup to their credit. To be sure, like Descalso, Cabrera is not a particularly talented glove man. However, unlike Descalso, Cabrera's offensive production projects to be about league average with above-average upside, which is rather valuable for a middle infielder. Remember that league-average hitting was the reason the whole Skip Schumaker, second baseman, experiment worked for a couple of seasons in spite of his abysmal fielding.

On top of the quality of Cabrera's hitting, it's the sides of the plate from which he bats that make him an even more versatile bench player. Yes, "sides"; Cabrera is a switch-hitter. He doesn't have much of a platoon split over his eight-year career, but has hit lefties better than righties. Against southpaws, Cabrera has posted a .280/.331/.420 (.328 wOBA, 106 wRC+) in 1,234 career plate appearances. This makes him a nice complement to the lefty-batting starters at third and second the Cards have in Carpenter and Wong. Even though neither man has shown much of a platoon split during their short professional careers, due to the longstanding and league-wide lefty-on-lefty platoon split, it's still likely best to give them days off against a tough lefty starter with a good breaking ball. Cabrera's ability to bat lefthanded makes him a complement to the righthanded-hitting Jhonny Peralta as well.

At present, Fangraphs projects the Cardinals to win 87 wins, which puts them one game better than the Pirates' projection. This means the addition of talent will help the Cardinals at the margins, which could mean the difference between winning the division or a wild card berth. Consequently, even if the Cardinals pay a premium for Cabrera's 2015 services, this is just the type of improvement a contending team like St. Louis should be making via free agency.