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Oswaldo Cabrera is primed to shine in a super-utility role with the Yankees

The Yankees have a lot of holes in their lineup, but saving Cabrera for a jack-of-all-trades role would be ideal

Division Series - New York Yankees v Cleveland Guardians - Game Three Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Yankees, as of December 2022, don’t have a clear plan at shortstop, third base, and left field. You can go ahead and add second base to that list if you want, since there is a non-zero chance Gleyber Torres is traded at some point between right now and spring training.

Aaron Boone and company have Josh Donaldson at third base, but probably don’t want to enter the 2023 campaign with him at that role (or on the roster at all). They theoretically have Aaron Hicks in left field, and the same can be said about him. Isiah Kiner-Falefa will compete for the shortstop gig in spring training, presumably with top prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe.

Then, the Yankees have two versatile players whose roles will probably depend on what they do with the aforementioned names: DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera. The former will play at least semi-regularly, whether it is at second or third base; but the latter doesn’t have a clear role.

As a reminder, Cabrera hit .247/.312/.429 with six home runs and a 111 wRC+ in 44 games and 171 plate appearances. He accumulated 1.5 fWAR in 2022 — more than IKF, Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and the departed Joey Gallo with fewer games than all of them.

It took awhile for Cabrera to get up to speed and adjust to MLB pitching. From August 17th to September 9th, he looked overmatched with a .187/.225/.253 line and a 34 wRC+ in 80 trips to the plate. After that, he slashed .304/.389/.595 with a 180 wRC+ in 91 plate appearances. As always, his true talent level is somewhere in between both numbers, and ideally, its around the 111 wRC+ figure he posted in his MLB stint.

Fans have debated about Cabrera’s ideal 2023 role with the Yankees ever since the season ended. Some say he should be made the starting left fielder, and that is certainly an option worth exploring. Others suggest he could be third baseman instead of Donaldson, but while it is feasible, it would require him to get more familiar with the position as he only logged 28 innings there in 2022 (though left field was of course also a fairly new experience).

Cabrera, however, would be perfect as a super-utility player for the Yankees next campaign. He has the talent, versatility, arm, and athleticism to excel at various defensive positions and earn 400-450 plate appearances in the process.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had Chris Taylor in this role for years, and the St. Louis Cardinals had rookie Brendan Donovan on it this past season with excellent results (he won a Gold Glove at the newly created utility spot).

Cabrera can be the Yankees’ Donovan. In 2022, the Cardinals rookie played 58 innings at first base, 264.1 at the keystone, 189 at the hot corner, 56 at shortstop, 144 in left and 143 in right field. In his short MLB stint in 2022, Cabrera did showcase his ability to play multiple positions. He logged 13.1 frames at first base, 19 at second, 28 at third, 28 at shortstop, 70 in left field, and 208.2 in right field.

According to DRS, Cabrera didn’t rate negatively at any position and was a positive at second (1), third (1), shortstop (2), and right field (9). He was also in the 90th percentile in arm strength per Baseball Savant, so he has another weapon in his arsenal.

Cabrera could alternate in all those positions, keeping the whole team fresh with an occasional off day and earning semi-regular playing time in the process. When somebody inevitably gets hurt, he could spell him at that position for as long as that hypothetical is on the shelf.

Ideally, the Yankees would bring in another left fielder, hand the keys to shortstop to Peraza (or Volpe, later down the road) and play LeMahieu or another free agent or trade option at third, keeping Cabrera as a super-utility type. He has the tools to shine in that role.