The Yankees and Diamondbacks have already made one trade this month, in which the Bronx Bombers flipped minor league pitcher Keegan Curtis for the speedy outfielder Tim Locastro. Could the two sides come together for another deal, this time for infield depth?
The 35-year-old Asdrúbal Cabrera is currently in his 15th season and on his seventh team. A shortstop for much of his career, he has been a full-time corner infielder over the last two seasons, and he began this season as Arizona’s Opening Day third baseman after signing a one-year, $1.75 million contract this past February. Cabrera has emerged in trade rumors as a popular target for contenders throughout the league thanks to his oncoming free agency and the glacial pace that the Diamondbacks are picking up wins.
At this point in his career, it’s hard to see Cabrera filling a starting role for a contending team: he’s posted a .240/.332/.385 slash line in 223 plate appearances (63 games), good for a 96 wRC+; additionally, he ranks near the bottom of the league in barrel percentage (6.1 percent, the 30th percentile), average exit velocity (88.2 mph, the 30th percentile), and xBA (.211, the 6th percentile). As a backup, however, it would be hard to find a better infielder on the market, since his high walk rate (11.7 percent, the 80th percentile), high percentage of extra-base hits (5 HR and 13 doubles out of 46 total hits) and strong defense (2 Outs Above Average, 4 Defensive Runs Saved) have allowed him to accumulate 0.4 fWAR/1.0 bWAR despite missing time and losing his starting job.
In the right spot, Cabrera could be a major contributor as a role player, thanks to his ability to play all over the infield. Although he can’t play shortstop anymore, he played an above-average second base as recently as 2019, and the prevalence of shifts would certainly help cover for reduced range at the position due to age. That spot, however, should not be the Bronx. Don’t get me wrong, he would absolutely be an upgrade to Tyler Wade on the bench — it certainly would be hard to be worse than Wade’s 58 wRC+ and -1 OAA/-3 DRS. It’s just that, at this point in time, the Yankees aren’t exactly in a position to ship prospects for rentals, even the types of low-level prospects that would be sufficient to acquire Cabrera.
Yes, the Yankees need a lefty bat, and as a switch hitter, Cabrera would certainly provide that. In this case, however, that would simply be plugging a lefty bat into the lineup for the sake of plugging a lefty bat into the lineup, and as we’ve seen with Wade, Brett Gardner, and Rougned Odor so far this season, that’s a big mistake.
Were the Yankees in a better spot, and not floating around a .500 record several games out of both the division and the second Wild Card, the calculus might be different. With Luke Voit on the injured list with a bone bruise and Gio Urshela out for the foreseeable future after testing positive for COVID-19, Brian Cashman would be smart to bring in a veteran in case the team’s young depth — Hoy Park, Trey Amburgey, and Chris Gittens — weren’t ready for the show. Somewhere in the multiverse, that’s happening right now. But that’s not our reality, and at this point in time, it would be infinitely better for the Yankees to let the kids play.
Best-case scenario, the kids go on a tear and power the team to a second-half surge that lets them sneak into the playoffs — worst-case scenario, at least we know what the Yankees have with them. Either way, the focus ought to be on 2022 and beyond, not just this season, and Asdrúbal Cabrera simply does not fit that timeline.