Overpaying Orlando Cabrera Could Be Dangerous Risk for Red Sox


November 2, 2009

Overpaying Orlando Cabrera Could Be Dangerous Risk for Red Sox As the Red Sox continue to rotate quick fixes in and out of the shortstop position on their depth chart, they're not opposed to the idea of recycling familiar faces. That much we learned this past season.

After 2006, the resume of Alex Gonzalez as a Red Sox shortstop was anything but spectacular. His defense was solid, featuring excellent range and good hands (just seven errors all season), but the man couldn't hit in the American League. After one season with an embarrassing on-base percentage of .299, the Red Sox cut Gonzo loose.

That didn't stop them from bringing him back in '09.

And if the Red Sox are willing to grant second chances to Gonzalez, who seemed to be past his prime and had found little success in the American League, why wouldn't they grant the same courtesy to Orlando Cabrera?

It's an interesting question. Cabrera, a sentimental fan favorite after his late-season contributions to the 2004 world champion Red Sox, is a free agent again this winter. He's bounced around to four more AL teams (the Angels, White Sox, Athletics and, most recently, the Twins) since winning his first and only ring in '04 — and Cabrera, who just turned 35, is now looking to catch on somewhere new. His last contract, a one-year deal for $4 million, is up, and he's on the open market again.

Cabrera's stock might be higher at the moment than it should be. After the A's traded him to Minnesota at the deadline this July, the shortstop went on a relative hot streak — 13 doubles, three triples and five home runs equals a monster couple of months for a man brought in mainly for his glove. The Twins went 35-25 after acquiring O.C. on July 31, and their new shortstop was a big reason they went from a .500 ballclub to a division champion.

The Twins were Cabrera's fourth playoff team of the past half-decade — after Boston, Cabrera also got a whiff of October baseball with L.A. and Chicago before arriving in Minnesota.

The Red Sox know all about Cabrera's ability to ignite a playoff run, but they had better be careful not to overpay for that ability.

The Sox have a logjam of candidates for the shortstop position, and they all have their flaws. They can bring back Gonzalez, but only if the price is right and Gonzo's demands for playing time are reasonable. They can bring back Nick Green — he'd be cheaper, but his production level isn't ideal for a full-time starter. There's Jed Lowrie, but there are doubts about him living up to the promise the Red Sox saw when they first drafted him. There's the Cuban defector Jose Iglesias, but he's not ready for the big leagues just yet at age 19.

While Cabrera is yet another contribution to the "maybe" list, he might not be the most appetizing one. His offense has declined steadily over the last two years, his glove isn't quite the same and he's not getting any younger.

Cabrera made $4 million last season between Oakland and Minnesota and after his torrid second half, he won't be looking for a pay cut. That's a lot of money to shell out for a guy with no guarantees of being a productive starter in Boston.

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