"As we worked on a couple of … [trade possibilities] … we thought this one worked out the best for us, not only from the performance of the player, but the player that was given up," Rizzo said.
The move means Cabrera will be the everyday second baseman, while Danny Espinosa will remain a reserve. Espinosa will be a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner.
Cabrera was having an average year, hitting .246 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. He has played most of his career at shortstop. This season, he's made 14 errors. The last time he played second base was in 2009, and he has played a total of 162 games there, committing only five errors.
A two-time All-Star, Cabrera represented the Indians in the 2011 and '12 Midsummer Classics. His initial All-Star berth came in his finest offensive season, as he hit .273 and established career highs with 25 home runs, 60 extra-base hits and 92 RBIs to garner an '11 AL Silver Slugger Award. His on-field contributions twice helped Cleveland qualify for the postseason (2007, '13).
"I like that he is battle tested," Rizzo said. "He has been in the playoffs before. He has been through pennant races. He is a terrific two-way player. He is a great defensive middle infielder. He has been a terrific shortstop defensively. He played second base earlier in his career and played that outstanding. He is very balanced from both side of the plate. He is a big league hitter. We did a lot of work on his makeup and character. He fits in our clubhouse. We heard nothing but positive things about him."
Cabrera could bat in the second in the lineup as well as fifth and seventh.
"There are options there, though, with [Cabrera's] ability to hit in the two-hole and his being familiar with that spot in the lineup," manager Matt Williams said. "On any given day, we can shoot Anthony [Rendon] to the five hole if we need to. [Cabrera is hitting .462] this year in the five-hole.
"So I think there's flexibility all over there, depending on certainly any experience he has with that particular pitcher or any discrepancy we may have in our lineup in that spot. I think it's kind of flexible. But he has experience hitting in all those spots."
The Nationals made this move after learning that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman could be out for at least the regular season because of a Grade 3 hamstring injury. Rendon will continue to serve as the everyday third baseman.
In fact, Rizzo said he may not have made a trade if not for the Zimmerman injury. Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Wednesday after straining his hamstring while running to first base against the Rockies the previous day. He was scheduled to see the doctor Monday, but the Nationals have been mum on his health status.
"[The injury] factored into it. With a healthy Zim and a healthy eight players that we had, we wouldn't have a need to acquire a player as skillful as Cabrera," Rizzo said. "Like we said, we like the team that we have. But when Zim went down, to protect ourselves, we felt we should go out and get ourselves a good veteran person that fits into the lineup."
On Thursday, manager Matt Williams said there was no new information beside the fact that Zimmerman would "do nothing" for two weeks before the team reevaluates his condition.
Walters, meanwhile, was a utility player for the Nationals and had two Major League stints this year, going 8-for-39 (.205) with three home runs and five RBIs. He originally came over from the D-backs in a trade for right-hander Jason Marquis in 2011
"He played well coming up throughout our Minor League system," Rizzo said. "Our developers did a great job with him. The scouts recognize something in him. He is a player that has some tools, some athleticism and has strong power from both sides of the plate."