SARASOTA, FLA. — Now that Everth Cabrera is officially a member of the Orioles, his addition creates an interesting dynamic in spring training.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said that Cabrera will have to earn his roster spot this spring -- and that's true -- but it would seem that Cabrera would need to have a pretty bad camp in order for the team to send him to Triple-A Norfolk to open the season.
Cabrera's speed gives the Orioles a skill they haven't had. The club was last in the major leagues with 44 stolen bases last season. Cabrera had that many by himself in 2012, and he stole 18 bases in 90 games last season.
Cabrera said Wednesday that he's 100 percent healthy, but we'll have to watch his left hamstring all spring. That's the one that cost Cabrera 69 games, and for a player who lives with his legs, an injury there prevents him from doing his best.
I like the idea of Cabrera getting a chance atop the Orioles batting order. The big theme of this spring is how the returns of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters from injury -- as well as a bounce-back season from Chris Davis -- can help the Orioles overcome the losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.
While we're on that topic, let's think back to 2013, when Machado had his breakout season. He had an incredible first half batting from the No. 2 spot in the order. And a key part of that success was Nate McLouth's ability to get on base and cause some havoc with his speed.
Cabrera's presence on the base paths alone creates a threat, so him getting on base would help Machado at the plate, just as McLouth did in 2013.
That's not to say that Alejandro De Aza, the team's other leadoff candidate can't do the same. But Cabrera led the Natonal League in stolen bases in 2012 and might have done the same in 2013 if his season wasn't cut short by a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
As for where he plays, Showalter didn't rule out many options. It looks like the Orioles might try to cultivate Cabrera into a super-utility role.
Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop can hold their own around the infield as well, and it's no secret Showalter likes players with defensive flexibility, but it will be nearly impossible to carry Cabrera, Schoop and Flaherty on the roster.
"There's ways you can subtract from other places," Showalter said. "The thing about Ryan and Jonathan, and we hope Everth, is that they're very versatile. Jon can play shortstop, third base, first base. He can probably stand in the outfield. Ryan can play everywhere. We'll see if Everth can do that. I think he can."
The fact that Cabrera is a switch-hitter -- and doesn't have dramatically different splits -- make him a favorite if he can handle his own defensively. The fact that the Orioles are paying him $2.4 million this year is also a factor.
Showalter didn't say whether he has spoken with Schoop and Flaherty about how Cabrera's addition affects them, but he promised it wouldn't become an issue.
"I'm not going to give my hand," Showalter said. "I may have already done that long before we acquired him. … It's something I'll probably delve into in the next day or two if I see there's a need. I think Jonathan and Ryan trust that we're going to do what's best for the club."