Williams said during pregame availability on Thursday that Cabrera brings to the Nationals postseason experience.
“He is a guy that has been in pennant races,” Williams said. “He understands that. He understands the pressures of this time of year and getting where you want to go. He’ll be a welcome addition for us. We’ll plug him in as soon as we get him here.”
Nationals general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said Cabrera’s experience in the pennant race last season during the Indians march toward an appearance in the wild card game, plus his 11 games in the 2007 American League playoffs, were important factors in the decision.
“I like that he’s battle-tested. He’s been in the playoffs before,” Rizzo said. “He’s been through pennant races. He’s a terrific two-way player. He’s a great defensive middle infielder. He’s been a terrific shortstop defensively. He played second base early in is career and played that outstanding, and very balanced hitter from both sides of the plate and really just a big league hitter. Did a lot of work on his makeup and his character before he gets into our clubhouse. Heard nothing but positive things about him.”
Williams said Cabrera plays an important role in the lineup because of the seriousness of Ryan Zimmerman’s hamstring injury and the distinct possibility the veteran third baseman will miss the rest of the regular season.
“It’s important for us to be able to get a guy if we can get a guy like that right now,” Williams said. “We don’t know to the extent Zim will be out, what kind of timeframe we are looking at. Nonetheless, (Cabrera) can play both middle infield positions and that switch-hitting ability with some power from both sides of the plate is important to us.”
Rizzo said he could not deny the trade discussions regarding Cabrera would never have been on the table had Zimmerman not hurt his hamstring last week in Colorado.
“It factored into it,” Rizzo said. “With a healthy Zim and a healthy eight players that we had, we certainly wouldn’t found the need to go out and acquire a player as skillful as Cabrera. But like we’ve always said, we like the team that we have. When Zim went down, to protect ourselves, we felt that we should go out and get a good veteran person to fit into the lineup.”
Rizzo said it was certainly difficult to have to trade a player with the multiple tools that the Nationals had developed in Zach Walters.
“Although it was tough letting a talented, young player like Zach Walters go, we felt that it was worth the risk,” he said.
Williams believes adding Cabrera gives the Nationals more depth and more choices in the infield and in the batting order.
“I certainly like Anthony (Rendon), too,” Williams said. “There’s options there, though, with the ability to switch-hit in the two-hole and his being familiar with that spot in the lineup. On any given day, we can shoot Anthony to the five-hole.
“He’s about .350 this year in the five-hole, a little higher than that in the seven-hole in the lineup. So there is flexibility there. He has experience hitting in all those spots, which is good.”
Cabrera was the opening day second baseman for the Indians in 2008 and 2009. He has been the opening day shortstop for the Tribe from 2010 to 2014.
Does Williams have any concerns with Cabrera not starting at second base since 2009?
“He’s got 150-plus games at second base, so it’s not something that’s new,” Williams said. “Their team certainly dictates that he plays short. He’s an All-Star shortstop and they have a pretty good second baseman over there in (Jason) Kipnis. It certainly worked for their club. He’ll be fine. That’s almost a whole year of big league experience at second base. He’ll be able to get back into it quickly. “
Williams is hoping Cabrera will arrive soon and possibly be in the starting linup Friday night against the Phillies.
“He told me he would be here as quickly as possible,” Williams said. “Does that mean tomorrow? Potentially, yeah.”
Blake Treinen will be with the Nationals tonight. They will go with an extra pitcher tonight.
Danny Espinosa has played a great deal of second base as a starter this season for the Nationals. Does this change his role now that Cabrera is on board?
“He’s going to be impacted. Danny is certainly also in our lineup tonight,” Williams said. “It’s not fair, certainly, to say that he’s going to be impacted because he expects to play just like everybody else expects to play on an everyday basis. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. But he continues to prepare himself every day like he would be in the lineup. And there will be days when he will be.
“I think he’s had a fantastic attitude. I think he continues to work hard. He’ll be ready whenever the team needs him to be ready to do whatever it take on the field to win.”
Rizzo said the trade talk took some time to ripen. The landscape was much different on July 21 when Zimmerman was in the lineup.
“We started talking several days ago, kind of exchanging names and exchanging our different platforms,” Rizzo said. “As we worked through a couple of other opportunities and trades that we thought about, we felt that this one worked out the best for us, not only in the performance of the player we got but in the players that we are giving up.”
He acknowledged that the Nats did talk to several teams about various scenarios, which may or may not have involved pitching or improving the team’s bench. But in the end, the Cabrera trade was the best one for the Nationals on trade deadline day.
“This is the one deal that made the right sense for us and we made it,” Rizzo said.