Asdrubal Cabrera, Zach Walters, and the Minor League Impact

In need of an infielder, the Washington Nationals agreed to a deadline trade that sent Triple-A Syracuse utility player Zach Walters to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera and cash considerations.

Cabrera is essentially a rental player; his contract expires after this year and his acquisition was necessitated by Ryan Zimmerman’s injury and Danny Espinosa’s lack of production. While he is having a mediocre season, Cabrera is still an upgrade over Espinosa, or as our own Joe Drugan noted, a solid platoon option.

With those factors in mind, it would have been hard for the Nationals to justify moving a vital part of their future. While Walters has been solid as a minor leaguer, it has become increasingly clear over the last two years that he was not a part of the Nationals’ long-term plans. In 261 plate appearances with the Chiefs this season, the 24-year-old batted .300/.358/.608 with 15 home runs, while spending time in leftfield and at every infield position except first base.

While his numbers in 2014 were the best of his career, Walters’ track record does not suggest that they are sustainable. His career-long lack of patience (.327 career OBP) is exemplified with his 7.7% walk rate, which is accompanied by a 23.8% strikeout rate. During his two brief call ups over the past two seasons with the Nationals, Walters batted a combined .234/.308/.489 in 52 plate appearances.

In Walters, the Indians are acquiring a super-utility-type prospect that will provide power from both sides of the plate. It is possible that his power could make him an everyday player, but he must get on-base more and settle into a regular position. Considering that Indians’ farmhand Francisco Lindor is one of the game’s top shortstop prospects, while Lonnie Chisenhall’s breakout season entrenches him as the team’s third baseman, Walters’ best chance to be an everyday player in Cleveland is probably as a corner outfielder.

By giving up Walters, the Nationals did two crucial things for their future. The first was clearing a log jam of solid, but not standout infield prospects. Along with Jeff Kobernus, the Nationals still have players such as Tony Renda and Wilmer Difo in the lower levels of the minors. The deal also frees the Nationals up to make other moves during the waiver deadline. Should another need arise, several blocked prospects, including Syracuse outfielder Steven Souza Jr. are still available.

All things considered, the Nationals traded a blocked prospect to fill a glaring hole at the major league level. While Cabrera probably will not produce enough to make this a steal, it is doubtful that general manager Mike Rizzo and the Nationals will seriously regret it in the future.

Minors Notes:

  • Lucas Giolito improved to 7-2 by leading the Hagerstown Suns to a 1-0 victory on Thursday against the hosting Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees). In 6-scoreless innings, the righthander allowed 2 hits with a walk and 6 strikeouts. This outing closed a month in which Giolito posted a 33:5 K:BB in 28.1 innings pitched.
  • Eury Perez fell a triple short of the cycle in a 3-for-4 performance during the Chiefs’ loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday. Following rehab stints with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Nationals and High-A Potomac, the outfielder returned to the Chiefs on July 19 from a fractured left toe. Perez is batting .269/.327/.358 in 35 games for Syracuse, including a .359/.381/.538 triple-slash line over his last 10 games.
  • Jakson Reetz went 1-for-2 with 2 walks for the GCL Nationals in their 13-10 victory over the Mets on Thursday. Through his first 23 professional games, the third-round selection is batting .276/.449/.362.

About Zach Spedden

Writer for Federal Reserve section of The Nats Blog and co-founder of Hagerstown Suns Fan Blog