Following the 2004 season, back before this place existed, I took part in a series of heated discussions about whether the White Sox should pursue Orlando Cabrera. I was adamantly against it, as the Sox had Juan Uribe, who I felt was every bit the defender as Cabrera and was coming off an .830 OPS season at age 25.
I was right. The Sox didn't have the money to spend $9MM per annum on what was then a similar (perhaps inferior) player. And with the money saved, plus the added flexibility from the Carlos Lee trade, Kenny Williams was able to fill multiple holes to patch together a World Championship club, of which Juan Uribe was key member.
Three years later, however, Uribe has gone south while his waistline expanded, and Cabrera has become one of those players you hate to on the other side of the field. His defense, which seems to grade out as average to above average by most metrics, but well above average by fans and awards voters, remains an asset while his bat is (now) a definite upgrade from Uribe's.
As for the trade itself, I'm sure there are many of you who are upset that the Sox didn't get any youth in this deal; or the return doesn't knock your Sox off.
Kenny had obviously discussed trading Garland or Contreras for Edgar Renteria and a package built around Garland for Bill Hall, both of whom would have been bigger upgrades than Cabrera. That he was unable to complete either of those deals should indicate what Jon Garland was worth to other teams. This is it. This is the best package he could get in return.
The real value in the package may lie in Cabrera and Garland's respective Elias Rankings in one years time. Garland will need to match (or even better) his 2005 season to climb to Type A status while Cabrera, a Type A this off-season, needs to maintain a similar production to his last two years to remain a Type A. As I outlined in my off-season plan, with teams currently holding tightly to their young talent, the best way to rebuild this Sox team is to employ an NBA-like strategy of aquiring expiring contracts of likely Type-A free agents.
Digging a little deeper, the deal appears to be Jon Garland for Orlando Cabrera, $4.5MM in added payroll flexibility, and (as long as Cabrera stays healthy) an extra 2009 draft pick (between 16-75). That's not a bad little haul in what originally looks like a 1-for-1 swap.
As for what the move means for the 2008 team, I'm unsure. No single move can be evaluated in a vaccuum, and Williams can still go in a number of different directions.
The biggest question is now what does he do with Juan Uribe and his $4.5MM contract. I would not be opposed to him sticking around to be the primary backup at 2B, SS, and 3B. Paired with Ozuna, who himself carries a $1MM contract, the Sox would have their infield covered dispatching of Alex Cintron and Andy Gonzalez. $5.5MM may seem like a steep price for a couple of backups, but it shouldn't be a problem for a team which projects to have a $110+MM payroll, and isn't much different than the money they handed to Mackowiak and Cintron in '07.
I'm unenthusiastic about the return of Jose Contreras, but there was not going to be a market for his services. His signing should serve as a reminder as to what happens when signing an over 30 pitcher with a declining strikeout rate.
A rotation of Vazquez, Buehrle, Contreras and two of Danks/Floyd/Gio/Egbert/Broadway probably negates any upgrade the Sox have made at SS, but the added payroll flexibility, probable extra draft pick, and the return from a possible Uribe trade make this an overall win for the Sox. Plus there are still moves to be made, as Kenny Williams hinted to in his statement following the trade.
From the Angels persective, adding Garland to an already deep starting staff may allow them to trade some of their young arms for Miguel Cabrera, which would obviously be a big win for them.
- Among active players with at least 25 PA against Jon Garland, Orlando Cabrera trails only Manny Ramirez in OPS. That doesn't include Cabrera's 2-run HR off Garland in game 3 of the '05 ALCS.
- I really had to resist the urge to fill this entry with cliches such as "he's a tough out" and "adept handler of the bat," but the Cabrera of the last two seasons has been just that every time I've seen him play. He's a player I've really grown to appreciate over the past couple of seasons. (Thanks, Uribe.)
- Cabrera doesn't see a lot of pitches, just 3.39 per PA last season and 3.50 for his career, but he makes excellent contact (makes contact on 86% of his swings). He seems to like the ball in off the plate yet has the ability to push the ball off the outside corner into right field. (I'm sure Walker can fix that pesky habit.)
- Cabrera will apparently bat second in the Sox lineup, with which I surprisingly have no problem. That's probably where I'd bat him, in part because of the screwy Elias Rankings which rank plate appearances and batting average as heavily as home runs and OBP.