At around noon today, the news flash reported that the Twins had acquired Orlando Cabrera from the Oakland A's, in a deal that had been rumored to go down for nearly a week. In return the Twins gave up last year's second-round draft pick, a young shortstop named Tyler Ladendorf. The A's also sent cash to the Twins, thereby deferring even more of the $1.4 million still owed to Cabrera for the rest of this season. It's a safe move, relatively low-risk but not too high in terms of return. Sure, Cabrera's spot on the roster most likely means that the Alexi Casilla experiment will end for the third time this season, and it also means that Nick Punto can play second base instead of giving the Twins limited range at shortstop. But that also means that Cabrera's limited range takes over at shortstop, and it means that Nick Punto is still in the everyday lineup. And if you take a look at Cabrera's numbers this year, they're very, well, Brendan Harris-esque: he's hitting .280, but his on-base percentage is a paltry .318 and his OPS is just .683 (in comparison, Harris' OPS is a near-identical .676, and Harris' range is similar to Cabrera).
So in essence, the Twins got rid of a minor-league prospect in favor of a 34-year old version of Brendan Harris. Considering that Harris might actually be a better defender than Cabrera, the trade can be interpreted as a downgrade from what they have on the roster. But here's how the Twins management will spin this: a) the Twins made a move, which, save for an August acquisition like Eddie Guardado or Phil Nevin, they can't say they've done in six years and b) Cabrera is a playoff-tested "experience" guy who will bring a sort of veteran leadership to the clubhouse. Ron Gardenhire never liked Brendan Harris from the moment the guy put on a Twins uniform, and even though Cabrera and Harris are virtually identical players, Gardy probably will be more likely to use Cabrera and stick with Cabrera. As to the second "benefit" from getting Cabrera -- wasn't this the same player that the Chicago White Sox (and manager Ozzie Guillen in particular) criticized as being somewhat of a clubhouse cancer for the Sox last season? Sure, the guy's got a World Series ring, for being a deadline acquisition by the Red Sox in 2004. The more I consider the trade, the more I dislike it, even if this Ladendorf was a low-level prospect. But it will force Ron Gardenhire to not play Alexi Casilla, and in that long-shot possibility of Mark Grudzielanek being able to play this season, that may mean that Nick Punto can ride the pine like he should be.
And, of course, the Twins did nothing to address their bullpen issues or their pitching issues in general. With the Cabrera trade likely to make little impact for the Twins, it's interesting to consider that the moves that will most affect the Twins' chances of getting in the playoffs were ones that other teams made. Cleveland traded both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez this week, and that's important for the Twins, because they still get to play the Indians 12 times down the stretch. Those games are even more winnable now with those players off the team. But you have to look at the other teams in the Central Division and clearly say that the Twins made the third-best acquisition out of the divisional contenders. The Tigers' acquisition of Jarrod Washburn was a great move for the current division leaders, as Detroit had a need for a quality starter and they sure got one in Washburn, who has the third-lowest ERA in the league at 2.64. And then the White Sox came calling at the eleventh hour and came through with Jake Peavy, who, though on the disabled list, now makes Chicago a viable contender in the divison. Though the Cabrera trade may slightly benefit the Twins, in reality it's a low-impact acquisition, and though I still hope that the Twins can pass the Tigers, I have to look at the pitching disparity and give the edge to Detroit at this point, and now the White Sox' rotation is as formidable as any in the American League. But here's to Cabrera hitting .410 as a Twin down the stretch and the Twins winning the division by seven games.