CINCINNATI – The Phillies addressed their biggest need, general manager Matt Klentak said, by acquiring Asdrubal Cabrera to provide "more offense in the infield." Now, the Phillies will have to determine where in the infield Cabrera will play.
The Phillies traded with the Mets for Cabrera, who used the 32-year-old this season strictly as a second baseman. The Phils sent 23-year-old pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome to New York.
Cabrera has spent time in his career at third base and was primarily a shortstop from 2009 to 2016. Klentak said it would be up to manager Gabe Kapler to determine where to play Cabrera and "one thing I have learned about Gabe Kapler is that he is excellent at putting players in the best position to succeed and help the team."
"I would expect that we'll see him at times at second, short, and third," Klentak said. "When he's not playing, I think he'll be a very dangerous bat off the bench. He's an excellent roster fit for this current group of Phillies, and notably, I think, his positional flexibility puts us in a position where we can continue to let our young players play. This acquisition doesn't relegate any of our young players to a full-time bench role and I think that is important."
Cabrera is having the best offensive season of his career. He homered 18 times with the Mets and posted a .817 OPS in 375 at-bats. His OPS is higher than that of any Phillies hitter except Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies can benefit from his bat once they find the right place to play him. Cesar Hernandez has played almost every day at second base and leads the team in on-base percentage. Maikel Franco has regained his everyday role at third base and entered Friday with seven homers in his last 14 games.
The most likely place for Cabrera, at least offensively, would be at shortstop over Scott Kingery, who entered Friday with a .619 OPS and could return to the super-utility role he commanded early in the season. First, the Phillies have to be confident that Cabrera can still handle shortstop. Cabrera has the worst defensive runs-saved rating among all major-league infielders. Kingery has improved at shortstop, generally regarded as the most challenging position to play.
"I don't necessarily agree that Kingery will be the one that takes the brunt of this," Klentak said. "I think we really like the way that Scott has continued to develop as a defender at shortstop and we like the way that he's been swinging the bat lately, and obviously we think very highly of the player. So I think Scott Kingery will continue to play fairly regularly and we think Asdrubal will work in at a few different spots, and we will make sure that all of these guys get reps and ultimately that we are running out the most competitive lineup on a daily basis."
Kilome opened the season as the organization's 10th-best prospect as rated by Baseball America. But the publication left Kilome off its midseason top 10 earlier this month. Kilome, 23, had walked 51 batters in 102 innings this season at double-A Reading with a 4.24 ERA in 19 starts. He has a power arm but has been wild.
"To get something good, you have to give something good," Klentak said. "Franklyn Kilome is an incredible organizational success story. Signed by our international department, not a huge bonus guy, really committed himself to our player development process, learning the language, learning the culture, and a terrific leader and terrific teammate. This trade underscores the importance of starting pitching depth. If you have starting pitching, you have a very desirable currency in this industry. We are fortunate, thanks to our terrific international, professional, and amateur scouting, we have starting pitching depth up and down our system. That puts us in a position to make trades like this."