Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Asdrubal Cabrera: Above-Average Players and Contract Extensions

 

Eduardo PĂ©rez (Credit: mediamoves.com)

When Asdrubal Cabrera signed a contract extension with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, Manny Acta (rightly) described Cabrera as having carried the offense in 2011. Fresh off a 25-home run season in which he was the third-best offensive shortstop in baseball, Asdrubal Cabrera’s value was at its zenith.

In a sense, it was the worst time for the Indians to sign him.

Fast forward only two years later to April 2014, the two-year, $16.5 million contract set to pay Cabrera $10 million this year is less unambiguously well-received – in much the same sense as John Elway is not unanimously beloved by Browns fans, or in the same sense as LeBron James in 2011 was slightly less Playing For The Cavaliers. Even in the best of times, Cleveland commits to shunning The Astrocab.

His contract is perhaps one of the largest contributing factors to the great heap of disdain. After a 2013 season in which he posted subpar offensive numbers, coupled with the worst shortstop defense in the league, demands for top prospect Francisco Lindor mounted, both locally and nationally, only adding to enmity toward the shortstop – not only was he objectively below-average, he was perceived as the force holding back the best cornerstone shortstop prospect in the game. Given that, bitterness swelled at the idea of giving $10 million to the below-average Asdrubal Cabrera.

Before that line of rhetoric takes off – i.e.: that Cabrera’s contract is a substantial overpay – there are two decisively mitigating factors: service time, and the quality of Asdrubal’s 2014 play. Continue reading

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All-Aught Indians: DH: Travis Hafner (2003-2009)

Travis Hafner

Travis Hafner

The DH slot wasn’t as easy to pick as some might think. From 2001 through 2003, Ellis Burks was the Tribe DH, and he was very good at what he did. Burks had two fantastic seasons as the Indians batting specialist, knocking out 60 homers and driving in 165 runs, while batting .291. Burks would sprain his hand in spring training in 2003, and it would essentially end his tenure on the reservation. Ultimately, Burks couldn’t swing the bat once the season started, and he ended up having season-ending surgery to repair nerve damage.

The man who replaced him defined the position for the Indians during the decade.

The All-Aught Indians DH is Travis Hafner.
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All-Aught Indians: First Base: Jim Thome (2000-2002)

Thome

Thome

Ah, what a tangled web we weave. The Cleveland Indians first base situation has been about as diluted as the nation’s quest for a health plan. How diluted? Well, if you can make it through the Earl Snyder, Jeff Liefer or Lou Merloni eras, you end up with two of the top three dogs at the position being Ben Broussard (380 games) and Ryan Garko (334 games). Both had their moments with the Tribe, but neither set the world on fire.

The All-Aught Indians first baseman is Jim Thome.

Jim Thome was Victor Martinez, before Victor Martinez ever wore the Tribe jersey. He was the Indian that bled team colors, and more than anything else, wanted that World Series ring. I remember listening to Thome interviews prior to every season after 1995, and they all revolved around doing what he could to bring a championship to Cleveland. I know, all players say that, but when Thome said it, you could see the fire burning in his eyes.

When Thome left after the 2002 season, it set off a wave of anger unlike anything I’ve ever seen. More than Albert Belle, and more than Manny Ramirez. Jim Thome’s departure left several fans angry and bitter. Why? People cared about Paul Bunyan-esque first baseman. Fans wanted Thome to retire an Indian, with a belief that as long as Thome toiled at the Jake, there was a chance for something big to happen.

We all know the story. Jim Thome said he would stay in Cleveland. Thome said he wanted to stay with the Indians for the rest of his career. Thome eventually signed a mega-deal with the Phillies that left Tribe fans in disbelief. More on that in a bit. Whether you sided with the Indians management, or sided with Thome, chances are pretty good you were just plain upset to see the heart and soul of the Indians’ teams of the 90’s leave the north coast after, arguably, his three finest years as a player. There were good reasons to be upset.
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