By: T.J. Zuppe
The Indians came to terms with the last of their arbitration eligible players on Friday, inking shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year deal, worth $4.55 million. The signing ensures the club will avoid the arbitration process once again – as they have since 1991.
That raise was well deserved. The switch-hitter set new career highs in 2011, with 25 home runs and 92 runs batted in.
A one-year contract may not be exactly what Cabrera wanted. In fact, the all-star shortstop told us recently he wanted a long-term contract, preferably staying with Cleveland.
But simply settling on a short-term fix may in fact be the smartest move for the organization.
Even with his Silver Slugging season in the rearview mirror, Cabrera still has a few hurdles to clear. Getting past those will go a long way in deciding his fate.
Cabrera played in 151 games in 2011. However, it is well documented how he struggled in the second half. (Through July 1st - .295 / After July 1st - .247)
A big reason?
He wore down physically. He run out of gas after a grueling year in which his manager, Manny Acta, could not afford to take his bat out of the lineup. Even so, Acta said Cabrera would have to improve his consistency in 2012.
Can he string together a steadier season this year? Very possibly.
Should the team jump out of their shoes to offer him a long-term deal? Why should they?
That is not to say Cabrera should never be signed to a multi-year contract. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The type of dynamic he brings offensively and defensively should factor into the team’s long-term plans. Working towards an extension should be near the top of the "to-do" list.
But what is the rush?
The Tribe still controls Cabrera for two more seasons (He becomes free agent eligible after the 2013 campaign). Even under the specter of another off-season of arbitration eligibility, the 26-year old is very affordable.
Following the blue print the front office has recently put in place, simply extending long contracts to every young player is no longer the Indian way. That is a direct result of being burned by that philosophy in recent years.
So why not become more diligent in how players are locked up?
Let him earn a deal the old fashioned way – through his play – not as a byproduct of the fear of losing him to free agency.
If Cabrera can contribute another year near the level of 2011, stay on the diamond and remain consistent, he will have answered every question the organization could have had.
When – or if - he clears those barriers, there is no doubt general manager Chris Antonetti will work endlessly to keep him in an Indians uniform for years to come. Remaining patient will naturally reveal all the answers.
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