NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- No sooner did the ink on Ben Zobrist's four-year deal with the Cubs begin drying than the Mets regrouped at the Winter Meetings, overhauling their infield in a completely different way. The team agreed to terms on Wednesday on a two-year, $18.5 million deal, with a third-year club option, for infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, a move that became official Friday. That agreement Wednesday came approximately three hours after the Mets finalized a trade with the Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker.
Cabrera, 30, hit .265 with a .744 OPS in 143 games last season for the Rays. He is capable of playing both shortstop and second base, though after acquiring Walker, the Mets figure to use him almost exclusively at short. The move leaves incumbent shortstop Wilmer Flores without a starting job, but Flores should still find plenty of playing time at second, third and short as a reserve.
A two-time All-Star, Cabrera is a nine-year veteran, having played for the Indians, Nationals and Rays. His best season came in 2011, when he clubbed 25 homers with a .273 average in Cleveland. Since that year, the switch-hitter has been extremely consistent from both sides of the plate, averaging 15 homers and eight stolen bases per season. Cabrera's on-base percentage over that stretch is only .315, and advanced defensive metrics peg him as a below-average shortstop, but the Mets already had one of those in Flores, who could develop into a super-sub for a Mets team that values versatility.
There is precedent for such a move. Last season, the Mets attempted to play with a static infield before overhauling things in July, when they acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. This offseason, the Mets did not wait that long to give manager Terry Collins a full array of options, adding Walker and Cabrera at the Winter Meetings. Those additions should all but ensure that prospects Dilson Herrera and Matt Reynolds begin next season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets are still in the market for a left-handed outfielder to pair with Juan Lagares and a fifth starter to replace Jon Niese, whom they traded for Walker. They are also seeking help at the back of their bullpen. All of those markets could take time to fully develop, and it's possible that the Mets -- whose 2016 payroll will rise to more than $100 million -- could be done with major expenditures this offseason.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Cabrera is among the steadiest fantasy shortstops, having compiled at least 14 homers, 58 RBIs and 66 runs in five consecutive seasons. But given that he does not make a notable impact in any single category, he will be a late-round option in 2016 mixed-league drafts. Still, Cabrera is a useful middle infielder in all formats given his reliability.
This signing will end the mixed-league value of Flores unless a Mets infielder deals with a significant injury in '16. Having compiled 16 homers and 59 RBIs across 483 at-bats in his first full season in the Majors in '15, Flores would have been a popular late-round target in mixed formats.