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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  • Tony_Hall

    Good overall view of this move, as Dewitt was bad, and I just hate paying roster fillers like Dewitt more than the league minimum.

    I’m not sure why you say he can’t hit as well as Barney, with seemingly all evidence to the contrary.

    Career Minor league numbers
    D Barney 287/335/376/711 – 1711 PA’s
    Cardenas 303/368/413/780 – 2802 PA’s

    Cardenas has better numbers across the board and has done it with more PA’s.  From the outside looking in, it sure seems like Cardenas handles the bat better and it is just his glove that will keep him from being an everyday player.

    • Zonk

      I agree, and I bet if he performs as expected, he’ll take some ABs away from Barney vs. RH pitching.

      Barney was really not very good last year.  He is a good defender and team player, which makes him a good reserve, but he should not be a starting 2B.  It would bother me more, except that we are clearly rebuilding this season anyway, so why spend the money to upgrade the position when we can see if Junior Lake or Torreyes makes a big leap this year that makes them a 2013 possibility.

    • paulcatanese

      Have to say you have a good point Tony, but in my view Cardenas for DeWitt,,, two wrongs don’t make a right, think they could have done better within the system. Too many things between them that could bring a youngster in instead.

      • Ripsnorter1

        It was a dumb move cutting DeWitt. At least he could hit .250. Cardenas–we don’t know, except to say that he can’t play SS, 2B, 3B, or LF at all, and is a worse fielder than DeWitt. 

        Makes perfect sense in the Hoyer scheme of things…

        • Chadaudio

          There is no way he is a worse fielder the Dewitt. I hope he never plays SS though… rather see Barney as the backup SS.

      • gary3411

        Rip, wondering why you think he is a worse fielder than DeWitt? Their fielding pct at similar ages at second base is about the same. I would think Cardenas has a little more range as he has 77 career steals to Dewitts 14 (in the minors). Dewitt definitely showed no ability to make diving plays or awareness on double plays, so it’s hard to imagine Cardenas can be a drop off in those 2 categories. Arm strength I am unsure about, but doesn’t really matter if we’re talking second base where I believe he will primarily play.

        Yes, Cardenas may never be able to hit as well as Dewitt has in MLB, at the same time, isn’t it possible he could be a better hitter than Dewitt too?

        Is there something else I’m missing that proves Dewitt as the better fielder?

        Paul, who could we put in this spot from internally? I can’t think of anyone except maybe Marwin Gonzalez, but even if he was still with us, he only had a 701ops at AAA last year, I don’t think he’s quite ready for the Major Leagues, plus rather have him get more reps and develop another year in the minor leagues anyway.

        What it probably came down to was the $500,000 we will save, and that’s just this year, next year Dewitt would have made even more, while Cardenas will stay the same. That’s $500,000 more we might be able to bid on Soler, or use next season, or the one after.

        • Texcubnut

          Absolutely right, Gary. This was simply a money move. They do have internal options(although, not great)  Bobby Scales could be an experienced option this year  and see if any younger option could be ready in 2013.

    • Raymond Firnbach

      Relying on minor league numbers for prediction purposes isn’t a good idea. Look at Rizzo. He put up insane numbers in the minors last season, and struggled in the majors. In this case, Barney experienced a major overhaul in the 2010-2011 offseason regarding his mechanics.

      I suppose it was a stretch to say he definitively a better hitter, but rather that he may not be a better hitter, considering he has no track record.

      • Tony_Hall

        Actually, minor league numbers are a decent way to project major league production.  There have been numerous posts on here from people showing how major league players produce similar numbers in the minors.  Plus when comparing 2 players, one that has 1 year of major league experience and 1 that has zero, that is about the best we can do to compare.

        Check back on Rizzo in a year or 2.