The Washington Nationals acquired middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and cash considerations from the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in exchange for SS/LF Zach Walters.
Cabrera, 28, is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and 40 RBIs this season. He is a two-time All-Star with the Indians and is a .270/.331/.410 career hitter in over 900 MLB games.
Cabrera, a switch-hitter, will be a free agent following the 2014 season.
Walters, 24, hit .205/.279/.462 with three homers and five RBIs in 43 plate appearances for the Nats this season.
Cabrera is an instant upgrade over Danny Espinosa at second base. While he isn’t the hitter Ryan Zimmerman is, he provides adequate relief while the Nats miss Zimmerman’s big bat in the lineup. Cabrera is a good fielder that should transition to second base easily, though he hasn’t played the position since 2009.
With reports that Zimmerman sustained a Grade 3 strain of his right hamstring, the timetable for his return to baseball activities is six to eight weeks, meaning he’ll miss most of — if not all — the remainder of the regular season.
Cabrera is a fulltime MLB veteran to replace Zimmerman in the lineup, with Anthony Rendon handling the third base duties, as he has while Zimmerman is on the shelf.
This also allows the Nats to slot Espinosa as a right-handed pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, a position he’s more qualified to fill than everyday second baseman at this point in his career.
Some might lament Walters and the appeal of his Triple-A power, but the Nats obviously didn’t see him as a long-term solution in the Nats infield. His glove and contact skills just don’t play at the Major League level. The Nats tried him at second base in Syracuse this season and just didn’t see him making the necessary adjustments to compete at the big league level.
Consider this: with Ian Desmond eligible for free agency following next season, the Nats didn’t feel the need to retain the 24-year-old Walters as insurance for Desmond departing. That, in itself, should explain what the Nats thought about Walters future in the big leagues.
Overall, this is a big win for GM Mike Rizzo, acquiring an everyday big league veteran with All-Star bona fides, and cash to pay his salary, for a very low-upside minor league hitter.