Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs picked up one utility infielder and dropped another. Adrian Cardenas came in from the A’s and Blake DeWitt went out by way of a DFA (which could see him traded, released, claimed, or sent to AAA Iowa within the next seven to ten days).
The broad consensus is that the Cubs dropped DeWitt in favor of a cheaper, younger, better-hitting (though less power), more versatile, slightly worse defender. On the balance, it’s easy to see why the Cubs made the move, even if Cardenas isn’t anyone who’s going to knock your socks off. Like DeWitt, Cardenas is no lock to make the Cubs’ 25-man roster out of Spring, but, because he’s theoretically able to back up shortstop (where DeWitt wasn’t), he’s got a leg up.
In the wake of the move, there were a number of reactions, pontifications, etc. about Cardenas, and there are also a number of useful background bits on him:
- Cardenas was, before the Gio Gonzalez trade, the A’s 12th ranked prospect according to Baseball America – that’s a pretty nice prospect to pick up for free. He’s frequently described as having an excellent approach at the plate, good contact skills, uses all field, etc. But he’s also frequently described as lacking any semblance of power, and having only mediocre base running skills. His defense is called “fringy,” and he apparently doesn’t look particularly fluid at shortstop or second base. He played a fair bit of left field last year, and can also play third base, so he’s passable in a number of positions – he just doesn’t play any of them particularly well.
- Before 2010, Cardenas was consistently considered one of the best prospects in baseball. He was the high school player of the year in 2006, and was a supplemental first round pick that year by the Phillies (he came to the A’s in the Joe Blanton trade). He was roundly considered a top 100 prospect in baseball back in 2008 and 2009. But the defense didn’t come along, and the bat didn’t explode to such a level as to overcome the defensive issues. He’s got a great bat for a middle infielder, but he doesn’t have the glove to be a regular in the middle infield, according to most.
- BP’s Kevin Goldstein wasn’t all too impressed with the pickup, questioning why, if Cardenas was someone worth giving a job, he was even available in the first place. He went on to say that Cardenas “can hit,” but is “a really bad infielder.”
- On a battle between Cardenas and Darwin Barney, such as one would ever exist, Goldstein was clear: “Darwin Barney shouldn’t play every day, but he’s a wonderful defender and 80 makeup guy. He’ll still be in MLB when Cardenas is forgotten.”
- That all said, I asked Goldstein whether he thought DeWitt would be claimed off waivers (if the Cubs can’t find a trade partner), and, if so, whether the Cubs are better off with Cardenas and $600k (the difference between DeWitt’s and Cardenas’ salaries). He indicated that DeWitt would probably be claimed, and that the Cubs are probably better off with Cardenas and the cash. In other words, even someone who’s unimpressed by Cardenas thinks the move was probably a net gain for the Cubs.
- When Cardenas was DFA’d by the A’s a week and a half ago, Yankees’ blog River Avenue Blues gave him a pretty thorough review. RAB went through Cardenas’ pros and cons, and lands about where you’d expect – good hitter, nice upside, bad defense.
- One thing to keep in mind on Cardenas – he’s still got two option years left, so it’s not as though the Cubs have to either open the season with him or lose him completely. He could make some time at AAA Iowa to start the year, if it were required.