The Mets had a busy offseason, with most people focusing on the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes. The acquisition of Neil Walker also drew some headlines, but one pickup that barely moved the needle was Asdrubal Cabrera, who signed a 2-year, $18.5 million deal. And right now, Cabrera is looking like a bargain.
“He’s meant a lot to us,” Mets manager Terry Collins recently said of Cabrera. “He’s come up big. He’s getting on base.”
Cabrera’s most recent clutch moment came with two outs in the fourth inning in Sunday’s eventual 3-1 victory over Milwaukee, where his 2-RBI single provided the difference that sealed a series sweep of the Brewers. With that high-leverage hit, Cabrera boosted his average with runners in scoring position to .313 on the year, with 12 RBI.
Cabrera has also given the Mets a desperately needed defensive upgrade at shortstop, much to the surprise of many scouts.
“When we were at the winter meetings, I talked to a couple scouts and they said he probably can’t play short anymore,” Collins said. “I believe scouts [but] I’ve got to tell you something. They’re wrong on this guy. This guy can really play shortstop. This guy is proving he can play shortstop at a high, high level. He’s made plays that we haven’t made in a couple of years. He’s been outstanding.”
Cabrera recently told reporters who asked him about the skeptical scouts, “I’ve heard that the last couple of years. It just makes me work harder to show everybody I can still play short. People can say what they want. I know I can still play.”
Walker, the other part of the Mets’ suddenly-solid defensive middle infield, has been impressed with Cabrera as well.
“The knock on him was that his range wasn’t as great as a lot of other shortstops, but I’ve been really impressive with the balls that he’s been able to get to," he said. "That has a lot to do with reading hitters, understanding situations anticipating. That’s been the one thing that has impressed me more than anything else.”
Cabrera has turned 22 double plays in 365 innings at short, and has a fielding percentage well above league average this season (.988 compared to .973).
And Cabrera’s health has been vital to a Mets’ squad that’s been banged up all year long. Cabrera’s backup, Wilmer Flores, hasn’t played since May 10 due to a hamstring strain that sent him to the 15-day disabled list. Flores is slated to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday, but with a .180 batting average on the season, he won’t threaten Cabrera for much playing time.
Cabrera has appeared in 42 of the Mets’ 43 games, but he says he doing just fine.
“I’m not that old yet, I feel really good,” the 30-year-old Cabrera said after Sunday’s win. “I love to play every day. I know someday I’m going to need a day off, but I feel good now.”