The Cincinnati Reds added a seasoned veteran to their middle infield this week by signing shortstop Orlando Cabrera to a one-year $4 million deal, with a $3 million mutual option for 2011 and a $1 million buyout option.
The 35 year-old Cabrera is coming off of a season he split with Oakland and Minnesota, batting a combined .284 with a .316 OBP, 83 runs scored, 9 home runs, 77 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 160 games. He's been a solid hitter and fielder throughout his career, though it appears his 20-plus stolen base seasons are behind him now. Also, it's possible Cabrera's usually solid defense is suffering as he ages, as his Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) for 2009 was an uncharacteristic -15.3 (from 2002 to 2008, his lowest was -2.3).
Regardless, Cabrera his proven throughout his career to be a solid shortstop and offensive contributor, averaging .279, 82 runs, 38 doubles, 10 home runs, 71 RBI, 20 steals and 156 games played per season since 2001 (his first full year). Indeed, Cabrera's biggest asset may be his ability to stay on the field, as he's never played fewer than 141 games in any season since 2001.
Orlando Cabrera's Games Played By Season
Cabrera is expected to begin 2010 as the starting shortstop over 27 year-old Paul Janish, an excellent glove man with limited hitting skills or major league experience. This is really a smart veteran signing for a generally young and inexperienced ballclub like the Reds. Cabrera is reliable, if unspectacular, and should provide some stability on both offense and defense in 2010, assuming his skills don't erode suddenly.
From a fantasy perspective, Cabrera is likely good for roughly what he did last season, assuming he is the starting shortstop throughout the season. He's a pretty decent middle infield or bench option but can't really be relied on as a major contributor in any category. He's essentially the Randy Winn of shortstops, and he doesn't draw walks very often, as reflected by his .322 career OBP, so don't expect too much of him on a fantasy roster.