Why is Asdrubal Cabrera batting cleanup for the Indians?

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Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .243 with eight homers and a .397 slugging percentage in 90 games this season after slugging .423 in 143 games last season, but he’s been the Indians’ cleanup hitter since Nick Swisher was demoted from that role three weeks ago.

Since moving into the cleanup spot Cabrera is 15-for-66 (.227) with one homer and a .364 slugging percentage in 16 games. So why does he continue to bat fourth? Here’s how manager Terry Francona explained it to Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Cabby’s got a pretty good track record. He’s going to get hot. And if you move Cabby too soon–say, down to sixth or seventh–you won’t get the most out of it. So I want to keep him where he is. To be bluntly honest, if he doesn’t get hot, we might not be good enough. I’m not trying to put all that on him, but the reality is, we need Cabby.

Cabby hasn’t swung the bat as well as he’d like, but he handles it. Putting a younger player there, you could mess some things up. And some of the other guys are doing pretty well right where they are.

Cabrera’s “pretty good track record” now includes a .413 career slugging percentage. As for the other stuff about how “he handles it” despite not hitting well and how “you could mess things up” by putting a young hitter there … that’s some textbook manager-speak.

In general batting order gets way more attention (and criticism) than it should, but with the Indians fighting the Tigers (and now the Royals) in the AL Central a game or two could make or break their season and it’s tough to see how putting Cabrera in position to get the most RBI chances is helping.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.