With the possibility of free agent shortstop Jed Lowrie playing elsewhere next season, the Oakland A's are "checking into" Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew as possible replacement options, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Neither of the two shortstops had offensive performances in 2014 that will put them at the top of teams' free agent wishlists, but for the A's, buying low on Cabrera or Drew might represent the best available option. Of the two, let's examine which player makes more sense.
Though it's clear that the days of Cabrera's 2011 production (25 homers, 92 RBI, .792 OPS) are long gone, the former Nationals shortstop (by way of Cleveland) has been almost the definition of league average with 112, 94 and 97 wRC+ totals in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively, a quality that is inherently valuable for a shortstop.
On the flip side, Cabrera's consistently below-average defense could give the A's reason to pause. Though it's questionable how valid advanced defensive metrics really are, the fact remains that Cabrera has produced a negative zone rating in every full season of his career, and he isn't getting younger. To compensate for his poor defense, Cabrera will have to do better than the .299 and .307 on-base percentages he has produced in the last two seasons. Given how much the A's will likely have to drop on Cabrera given his flexibility in the field (he can play second base or shortstop) and his youth (he's 28), Billy Beane might be better served turning elsewhere.
After he put up a solid slash line (.253/.333/.443) in 2013 with the Red Sox one year removed from a 39-game stint in Oakland the previous season, Drew hit rock bottom with a 44 wRC+ last season. Most notably, he did it in the AL East for the Red Sox and Yankees, two of the most hitter-friendly teams (in terms of ballpark factors and strength of opponent pitching) in the league.
That said, Drew is not usually as historically inept as he was last season. His .707 OPS (and 97 wRC+) with the A's in 2012 is perhaps a better benchmark for what we can expect from him, as it falls somewhat in line with his career marks (.747 OPS, 93 wRC+). On top of that, Drew had a .194 BABIP in 2014, which is unusual not just for how absurdly low it is, but also for just how much of a drop it is from his .299 career total. (That total includes his 2014 BABIP, by the way.)
Drew's likely improvement, combined with his cheap price tag, could make him a perfect fit for the A's. Factor in his above-average plate discipline (8.9 career BB%) and favorable defensive metrics in recent seasons, and Drew really starts to look like a solid choice for Beane's club.