As, Khia once said, “my neck, my back” and that appears to be the problem with the Indians’ short stop. Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday’s game in the second inning with back spasms and was kept out of the next game as well with Terry Francona stating he was still “locked up.” With the possibility that he would be out for awhile, the Indians brought Jose Ramirez back from AAA today and sent T.J. House to Columbus to make room. This injury came at a terrible time for the Indians as both the offense and defense were beginning to come together as a unit and it will deprive the team of a center piece of both parts. This will affect the team in three distinct ways; directly at the short stop position, in the potential trade market and indirectly, by forcing the Tribe’s hand in the starting rotation earlier than they would have wanted to.
First, the simplest effect Cabrera’s injury will have is in the center of the diamond. He is a below average defender, but his replacement, Mike Aviles, is not much better. Jose Ramirez will likely provide that extra defensive boost while the Indians best defensive option, Francisco Lindor, is currently in his first week in AAA. The biggest place Cabrera will be missed is at the plate. While he may not be appreciated in Cleveland, he is one of the best and most powerful short stops in baseball and is currently second on the team in doubles (22) and fourth in home runs (9). As a top of the lineup hitter, he has been a better than average table setter and has gotten on base more often than David Murphy, Nick Swisher and Aviles as regulars. Directly in the lineup, while he is out of commission, the Indians will essentially be losing a number two hitter and replacing him with an eight or nine batter, with everyone else having to move up and take on more responsibility at the plate.
Another reason why this timing is terrible is that Cabrera is the Indians most tradeable player. At a minimum the Dodgers have been interested in both Cabrera and Aviles as they look for a new second baseman. In general, almost every team in contention could upgrade their lineup with Cabrera either playing short stop or second, but not if he is hurt. The Indians have to want to move Cabrera as they won’t want to offer him a qualifying offer when he becomes a free agent this off-season. If they don’t make him an offer, they risk not gaining anything by losing Cabrera and if they do make him an offer, they risk him accepting it and having to pay a below average defensive short stop over $15M next season. With Lindor almost Major League ready and Aviles and Ramirez already in town, the last thing the Indians want is Asdrubal Cabrera in an Indians uniform in 2015. If he has to go on the DL, he will be untradeable until after the July 31st trade deadline and will have to clear waivers to be traded. If this happens, the Indians will have lost out on the opportunity to grab a few prospects for a few months of Cabrera.
Finally, in order to avoid placing Cabrera on the DL, the Indians had to make a separate move to bring up his replacement from AAA. This move was to send T.J. House back to the Clippers, showing what they planned on doing with the rotation a week earlier than they might have otherwise. House struggled in his last start, giving up three runs in five innings, while Zach McAllister was much better, giving up one in 5.1 IP. McAllister was brought up as the 26th man for Saturday’s double header and is eligible to come back to the Indians this Saturday, House’s normal start day. While there may have been some debate prior to this move, it is now obvious that McAllister will likely make this start and rejoin the rotation on a more or less permanent basis. For the moment, the rotation stands with Trevor Bauer (Wednesday), Corey Kluber (Thursday), Josh Tomlin (Friday), McAllister (Saturday) and Danny Salazar (Sunday). While it is possible for House to return if Cabrera is placed on the DL, based on his recent performance, he has to be seen as the Indians sixth best available starter.
The Indians other obvious trade piece, Justin Masterson, is also hurt. While it is more likely that the Indians would want to give him a qualifying offer, a prospect now would be worth a lot more to the Indians than a potential draft pick. At the beginning of the season it looked like the Indians had two of the most valuable players to trade on the market, but injuries and poor performance have completely turned things around. While the Indians could have traded either Masterson or Cabrera at any point over the past two seasons, they wanted to wait until the last second to make the move. Now, that waiting has cost them from a possible return of multiple high level prospects to possibly absolutely nothing.