Cardenas Gives the Cubs Flexibility

The Cubs claimed utility-man Adrian Cardenas off waivers from the Oakland A’s Monday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Cardenas, Blake DeWitt was designated for assignment. Cardenas takes DeWitt’s role as the backup infielder, and made the one-time Dodger expendable.

Not only does DeWitt really play only two positions–second and third base–and neither one that well. DeWitt cannot really hit enough to be a regular in the big leagues. He has been just below league average at the plate, and his fielding has been from decent at third base, to awful at second.

Last season, the Cubs experimented with Blake DeWitt in left field, which was just as bad as seeing Alfonso Soriano out there every day. The reality is that DeWitt doesn’t have the bat to play third, or the glove to stay at second, and definitely not good enough to field shortstop.

Enter Adrian Cardenas …

Adrian Cardenas profiles very similarly to Blake DeWitt. He’s a pretty bad infielder, and he has a decent, but unspectacular bat that is highlighted by his ability to make contact and draw walks. In the minors, he has never walked below 7%, or struck out more than 16%, both exceptional skills.

Additionally, Cardenas is substantially more versatile than DeWitt, as he is capable of being a decent jack-of-all-trades in the field, yet a master of none.

Cardenas’ ability to play shortstop is critical to manager Dale Sveum’s ability to shuffle moving pieces around the diamond, since the Cubs really lacked a backup shortstop last season. This will keep Jeff Baker as the corner infield backup, thus keeping him healthy and hiding his declining range. Also, if Cardenas proves to be effective, the Cubs could conceivably ship Reed Johnson to a team in need of a fourth outfielder.

Contractually, this move also makes sense. This season, the Cubs agreed to pay Blake DeWitt $1.1 million (Cubs appear to be on the hook for at least $183,000 of DeWitt’s salary for the upcoming season). Cardenas, being that he has never played a big league game, will make the league-minimum. The difference this season is a little over a half million dollars, however DeWitt is due for a second arbitration raise next season, which should bring his salary around $1.7 million, all the while Cardenas’ will remain the same. Cardenas also has two minor league options left which gives the Cubs a little roster flexibility.

In all, this is a move that will not make a whole lot of waves in the baseball world. Cardenas will not challenge Darwin Barney for the second base job, since he can’t hit or field the position as well as Barney.

Instead, this is just one of those little deals that go under the radar that represents an upgrade (albeit a minute one) for a franchise.

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