02/01/10 4:50 PM EST
Reds formalize deal with Cabrera
Shortstop receives one-year contract with option for 2011
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
With Spring Training less than three weeks away, the club knew free agents wanting jobs would lower their salary demands and become more affordable. In need of a shortstop, Cincinnati landed one of the last available.Cincinnati's signing of veteran Orlando Cabrera became official on Monday after the two sides agreed to terms on Saturday night. Cabrera will pull down $2.02 million this season, of which $770,000 will be base salary and $1.25 million will be bonus. There is a $4 million mutual option for 2011. If he declines the option, his buyout is $550,000. If he wants the option and the team declines, the buyout is $1 million. "We are very excited," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said during a press conference at Great American Ball Park. "We talked about trying to improve at shortstop but we didn't think we would be able to do it. A right-handed hitter, Cabrera, who passed a physical on Monday, batted .284 with nine home runs, 77 RBIs, 13 steals and a .313 on-base percentage last season for the A's and Twins. Cabrera, the brother of former Reds utility player Jolbert Cabrera, will be installed as the Reds' No. 2 hitter in the lineup. His 557 starts at that spot are far more than he's had at any other spot in the lineup over his 13-year career. The 35-year-old Cabrera is a .275 career hitter with 114 home runs, 761 RBIs and a .322 OBP. He's reached the postseason five times, including a World Series victory with the Red Sox in 2004, and most recently reached the playoffs with the Twins last season. Cabrera is durable, having played at least 160 games in a season five times and 150 games eight times. "I've talked to a number of people he's played for and with," Jocketty said. "They all give him high marks not only as a player but as a person and with how he is in the clubhouse. He's a leader and a winner. To me that says it all." Cabrera's low on-base percentage over his career could be reason for critics to dislike the signing. Jocketty acknowledged that but wasn't concerned. "Not for what he does. I talked to some people about that who had him," Jocketty said. "He makes up for it as a contact guy. He moves runners around, drives in runners and sometimes that's as important or more than the on-base percentage." The Reds secured Cabrera's services over at least two other suitors. Both the Rockies and Nationals were in the chase, but both of those teams already had established shortstops and instead offered opportunities at second base. "The truth is I'm a shortstop. I'm not a second baseman," Cabrera said. "Maybe in three or four more years, I'll consider it. I think I can still play shortstop every day and stay at the level I've been at the past six, seven years." Cabrera also cited Reds manager Dusty Baker as a big reason he chose to join the organization. "He's kind of my type of manager," Cabrera said of Baker. "He's a guy that lets the guys play and reacts with common sense in situations. He's not always about the book. I love that. He's always trying to put the best out there to win." After he took over in August following the trade of Alex Gonzalez, Paul Janish was the incumbent shortstop and had prepared to enter camp with the chance to start. Now the job is Cabrera's and Janish will spend Spring Training vying for a spot on the Reds' bench. "This was an option that we considered the whole time," Jocketty said of adding a shortstop. "It was a just a question of whether we'd be able to afford it or not. Quite honestly, the second part of the transactions today helped make that a little easier." Jocketty is referring to the other piece of Reds news on Monday. The club traded center fielder Willy Taveras and infielder Adam Rosales to the A's for Aaron Miles and a player to be named later. Taveras was due to make $4 million while Miles will make $2.7 million, with the savings to help pay for Cabrera. Although Cabrera is a two-time Gold Glove winner -- with the Expos in 2001 and the Angels in '07 -- Janish is considered the stronger option defensively. He has more range and, after the Gonzalez trade to Boston in '09, led all Major League shortstops with a .995 fielding percentage. However, Janish is a .205 career hitter in 128 big league games over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old did show improvement at the plate down the stretch last season, and hit 21 doubles in 256 at-bats overall. Baker and second baseman Brandon Phillips both voiced approval last weekend for entering the 2010 season with Janish as the shortstop. Janish would have also been significantly cheaper for the budget-minded Reds. He is likely to make something near the $400,000 league minimum this year. In the end, the Reds believed that Cabrera's track record as a hitter couldn't be ignored -- especially for a club that finished 15th out of 16 National League teams in hitting and 11th in runs scored. "In our case, it means a lot," Jocketty said. "One area we felt we still had to improve was our offense. Obviously Paul is an excellent defensive shortstop, we were going to give him every opportunity to see him play on an everyday basis. But when this deal came to us where we could afford it, we felt we had to go forward."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.