Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rockies Lose Out On Cabrera, Look To Mora

The Colorado Rockies are doing everything possible to fill out their bench. Specifically, they need a right handed bat who can play both second and third base. Any other position is also a plus in the double-switch happy National League.

With two and a half weeks before the start of Spring Training the Rockies have been in hot pursuit of some of the remaining names on the market. The names that continue to pop up on the Rockies radar are Melvin Mora, Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson.

On Saturday the Rockies found out that Cabrera would not be their man.

After weighing offers from the Cincinnati Reds and the Rockies, Cabrera opted to sign with the Reds because of the fact that he would be considered the starter at shortstop going into Spring Training.

Frankly, this is a win for the Rockies.

Cabrera is one of those players who is always one of the top guys available on the market. He is known for his glove work and his ability to get on base, but there is a problem.

The problem is that despite his ability to be coveted by a new team every season, his old teams never seem to mind that he is leaving.

In 2004 he was dealt from the Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox, with whom he won the World Series. It would be easy to think that a defending World Series champion would want to keep their shortstop. However, the Red Sox made little noise in offering their mid-season pickup a contract. Instead, Cabrera became a "highly-coveted" free agent and made his way to the Angels where he signed a three year deal.

In Anaheim it was quickly noticed that Cabrera's range left something to be desired. He was also supposed to have a rocket arm, but was hardly a step up from his replacement, the 5'7" David Eckstein, who was said by every Major League scout to have the arm of a second baseman.

After the three years in Anaheim were up, the Angels made like the Red Sox and did little to convince the shortstop to return. So Cabrera made his way to the White Sox, where he promptly made a terrible impression on Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen and became a free agent after the season.

The Oakland A's stepped in, acquiring him in hopes that he and newly acquired Matt Holliday could lead the Oakland clubhouse to the postseason. After it was clear that the A's would not be playing in October, they sent him packing to the Minnesota Twins. Cabrera took much of the credit for helping the Twins to the playoffs, but once again, when it came time to re-sign him, the Twins were content in letting him walk away.

It is an interesting scenario that seems to play out in baseball often. A guy like Cabrera, who does not have special numbers, gains a reputation of being a better player than he really is. He is highly coveted, but then the team that finally lands him quickly sees that his skills are slightly better than average and finds a way to dump him.

In Cabrera's case it seems that his half season with the Red Sox was where he gained his positive reputation. He displaced Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop and was the captain of the infield when Boston finally shed the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series. Cabrera at that point became a name that everyone knew about, and despite his deficiencies was seen in a positive light.

Another example of this is Edgar Renteria. Few baseball fans will forget when the 20 year-old Columbian knocked in the game winning run in the seventh game of the 1997 World Series. Instantly Renteria became a household name, and therefore a coveted shortstop.

After just one more year in Florida that shortstop headed to St. Louis for six years, but then bounced from the Red Sox, to the Braves, then to the Tigers, and finally landed in San Francisco after signing a huge contract worth $18 millon over two years. Not bad for a career .288 hitter whose range has dropped tremendously over the last few years.

It is an anomaly in baseball. It seems that guys get great reputations around the game, but disappoint the team that they sign with. However, the disappointment does not seem to be too noticeable because there is always another team right behind them who is willing to dish out the cash for such a "highly-touted" free agent.

The point is, the Rockies might be disappointed that they lost out on Cabrera, but they are not going to be missing too much. He is an overrated player who is aging quickly.

The Rockies will now set their sights on Melvin Mora, a far more accomplished hitter, and a player who should have a strong desire to win after being stuck in Baltimore since 2000 and never finishing better than third place. Mora will also bring a better glove and a better arm to the field.

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