There’s no word yet if the option is for the player or for the club, but it’s likely a player option. Cabrera turned 35 in November, and he’s coming off of a 2009 season split between the A’s and the Twins in which he batted .284/.316/.389. Once park and league factors are accounted for, that offensive performance was 11 percent below average (89 wRC+), nearly a perfect match for his career 90 wRC+.
Cabrera has been average or better with the bat just twice in his career: 2003 (115 wRC+; viva Les Expos!) and 2007 (100 wRC+ with the Angels). However, he did at least provide fantasy players with 20-plus steals a year, and at a nifty success rate (78.9 percent career).
O-Cab’s speed appears to be waning, though. He swiped 27 bags in 30 attempts (90 success rate) in 2006, with a 5.7 Speed Score (the MLB average is about five). Cabrera hasn’t been as aggressive since then:
2007: 20 SB/4 CS (83.3%), 5.1 Speed Score
2008: 19 SB/6 CS (76%), 4.5 Speed Score
2009: 13 SB/4 CS (76.5%), 4.7 Speed Score
Cabrera is an upgrade over home-grown option Paul Janish at the plate, as CHONE projects an 89 wRC+ from Orlando and a 77 wRC+ from the 27 year-old Janish.
Whether Cabrera is a better player overall, however, depends on how you evaluate the two defensively. Janish posted excellent TotalZone ratings in the minors, and CHONE considers him about a +7 defender in full-time duty. Cabrera rated poorly in 2009 no matter what defensive metric you employ, but I have a hard time stomaching CHONE’s -15 projection for him. Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Boxscore has Cabrera projected as an average defender in 2010. If that’s the case, then O-Cab figures to be about a 1.8-1.9 WAR player as a full-time starter, compared to roughly 1.7 WAR for Janish. This looks like a lateral move for Cincinnati.