COLUMBUS: What does the Indians’ acquisition of a shortstop mean for the future of Asdrubal Cabrera?
The Tribe dealt promising right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday for middle infielder Mike Aviles and minor-league catcher Yan Gomes.
Although Aviles, 31, is not a household name, he spent last season as the everyday shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, batting .250 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI in 136 games. Of course, the Tribe already has a shortstop in Cabrera, who is under contract through 2014. He will earn $6.5 million in 2013 and $10 million the following season.
When asked if he anticipated that Cabrera will start next season with the Indians, General Manager Chris Antonetti said yes. But that doesn’t necessarily foreclose the issue of whether he will be traded.
“As our roster is currently composed, Aviles will add depth,” Antonetti said.
But the composition of the roster can change over a long winter.
“This is only Nov. 3,” Antonetti said. “So there is a lot of the offseason left.”
What might prompt Antonetti to send Cabrera elsewhere? He could save cash if Aviles were the starter, and even though Cabrera has appeared in the All-Star Game twice, his production has diminished in the second half of 2011 and 2012.
In the first half of 2012, Cabrera batted .286 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 76 starts. In 67 second-half starts, Cabrera’s batting average fell off .251 with 15 doubles, five homers and 26 RBI.
It was a similar story in 2011, when Cabrera batted .293 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs and 51 RBI in 88 first-half starts. In 63 second-half starts, Cabrera batted .244 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBI.
There is one other compelling reason why Cabrera might go: He is one of the few valuable commodities the Indians can afford to trade.
For now, at least, Antonetti sees Aviles as a solid backup to Cabrera, something the club hasn’t had.
“That was part of our motivation,” Antonetti said. “The past couple of years, when Asdrubal was injured, we didn’t have a reliable shortstop.”
Selected by the Kansas City Royals in the seventh round of the 2003 draft, Aviles was the franchise’s minor-league player of the year in 2007 and the Royals’ MVP in 2008, when he batted .325 with 10 home runs and finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.
He was traded last month to the Jays in the transaction that allowed manager John Farrell to become the skipper of the Red Sox.
Aviles also has played second and third.
Gomes, 25, was the first Brazilian-born player to rise to the big leagues when he made his debut with the New York Yankees on May 12 of this year. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he batted .328 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 79 games. He also appeared in 43 games for the Blue Jays, batting .204 with four homers and 13 RBI in 98 at-bats.
Antonetti said that Gomes will compete for a roster spot in spring training as a No. 2 or No. 3 catcher, backup first baseman or even third baseman. He played 20 games at first for the Blue Jays.
Rogers was acquired by the Tribe from the Colorado Rockies for cash on June 12. Blessed with a 96-mile-per-hour fastball but plagued by a lack of control before coming to Cleveland, Rogers seldom walked a batter once he joined the Indians’ bullpen.
After working his way into a middle relief role, Rogers quickly climbed into the small group of relievers who pitched in the late innings. He compiled a 3-1 record, 3.06 ERA, walking 12 and striking out 54 in 53 innings.
“Esmil did a great job for us,” Antonetti said. “He had a very big year and was very effective. He is not a guy we wanted to trade, but we have some depth in the bullpen.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.