Friday, May 9, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

After his excellent start (and finish) against the Royals, I've seen a lot of discussion about what to do with Daniel Cabrera. There seem to be three main schools of thought on the issue: (1) He's just in the middle of a good streak and can not be depended on to be a consistently good starter - trade him, (2) He's finally turned the corner and is going to be a top-of-the-rotation starter that the O's can build around - keep him, (3) Keeping him or trading him is entirely dependent on what kind of package the O's would get back.

I actually stand at about 2.7 here. I think he really is turning into a quality starter and at age 27 I think he can be an asset to this team for a number of years. However, I realize that career years and hot-streaks do happen and it is certainly possible that he will regress again, and therefore I would trade him only if the players coming back are worth slightly less than Cabrera's ceiling (that is, I'd accept a slightly lesser package to make up for the risk of him reverting to his earlier form, but only a slightly lesser package). Ideally what I would do (and I don't know if I've mentioned this before) but I'd try to sign him (as soon as he has a rough start) to a 3 year $15-18 million deal with a team option or two. With a guy like Carlos Silva getting $12 million a year, I think even $20 million would be fine for Daniel. It doesn't make him much less tradeable, since teams will have the cost certainty that they wouldn't if he was still arbitration eligible. The option years are really the key - if they can keep him at $8-10 million a year if he's pitching well, then I think it's a very solid contract. In four years, $10 million might buy you Kyle Lohse. Plus, I think Daniel would actually be agreeable to such a deal. He seems to like it here pretty well, especially with Rick Kranitz as the pitching coach. Lock him up as an expected #3 starter and fill in around him. The team should have enough pitching depth that they'll be OK if he goes back to being a #4, but they will be in a great position if he gets anywhere close to his (reasonable) ceiling (a top #2). I wouldn't expect Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and three other pieces, but if they can get a middle infielder or two and maybe a third baseman (all that are projected to be at least average major leaguers at their positions) than I'd pull the trigger.

One of Daniel's top comparables is Jason Schmidt, and I'd hate for the O's to make the same mistake that the Pirates did. Schmidt saw an increase in home runs and walks along with a drop in strike-outs and after an injury plagued age 27 season (so it's a year ahead of Cabrera age-wise) he was traded to the Giants for Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong. All he did was become a dominant starter - getting his home runs and walks back under control and increasing his K's to over one an inning. For his five years in San Fransisco (like three years and two option years, mind you) he made about $37 million. The O's could in fact use very similar salary escalations - $5 million, $6 mill, $ 7 mill, $ 9 mill (option), $10 mill (option). Judging by the way MacPhail has handled contracts so far, I doubt he'll sign Cabrera this year, or maybe even after the season (if at all). That's still better than trading him at a discount though.

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