After a fairly quiet off-season, the Cleveland Indians have agreed to a deal with middle infielder Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera, 36, will sign a one-year Major League contract with the Tribe, and will reportedly be asked to play second base. Over his 14-year career, Cabrera has spent most of time at shortstop, playing just 33 games at second base.
Last year with the Cincinnati Reds, Cabrera hit .263/.303/.354 with a .657 OPS over 123 games. Cabrera had 160 plate appearances during the second half due to an injury and poor performance, which led to Paul Janish seeing a bulk of the playing time at shortstop. Signing with the Indians marks Cabrera's eight team over his big league career, and has hit a combined .274/.320/.395 with a .715 OPS with the other seven teams during his career.
With the Indians expected to have a healthy Asdrubal Cabrera ready for opening day, Orlando will be asked to compete for the second base job alongside Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena. During the 2010 season, the Indians used six different players at the second base hole and all six managed to hit a combined .231/.293/.332 with a .624 OPS.
Along with Cabrera battling Donald and Valbuena for playing time at second base this season, prospect Jason Kipnis is also a likely candidate to see time at second during 2011. Kipnis, 23, is ranked by Baseball America as the third best prospect in the Indians' organization. Between Single-A and Double-A last season, Kipnis hit a combined .307/.386/.492 with a .878 OPS and 16 home runs, but with just two seasons of professional baseball on his resume, a late-season call-up is more reasonable.
With Orlando Cabrera expected to learn the second base position during a short time span, it makes sense that Cleveland may use him more in a utility-role during the 2011 season. With shortstop held down by the other Cabrera, Orlando will fight for playing time at second base and possibly third base. At best, the 36-year-old will help a young Cleveland team by providing a stop-gap while younger players develop in 2011.