According to multiple reports this morning, the Rays are near a deal with former Cleveland Indians middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera.
The switch hitter played seven seasons with the Indians as the primary shortstop before a mid-season trade to Washington last season, taking over second base.
Now 29-years old, Cabrera was considered the best short stop available on the open market this season, as comparable to Jed Lowrie or Stephen Drew. The caveat to that statement would be the presence of Hanley Ramirez early in the off-season, though he eventually signed with Boston as an outfielder.
There are several reasons the reported signing is a surprising move for the Rays.
MLB Trade Rumprs projected Cabrera's next contract to a $9 million AAV, requiring a three year deal. It has yet to be seen if the Rays are shelling out that kind of money. First reports are pegging this at a one year deal, which normally requires a higher dollar amount.
The Rays are also a team that prioritizes defense, and Cabrera has not scored well over his career or lately. He totaled -17 Defensive Runs Saved last season between the middle infield positions, and -16 as a shortstop in 2013.
Furthermore, the Rays have a great deal of depth in the middle infield. Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist are under contract next season, each projecting to more value than Cabrera is expected to offer next season. The platoon of Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe will also be available in 2015, as will prospects like Ryan Brett and Hak Ju Lee in the near future.
On offense, Cabrera is not necessarily an upgrade either. He has not performed above average with his bat since 2012, and although he hits from both sides, Cabrera is without a clear platoon advantage.
The only connection here is recently hired manager Kevin Cash, who came from the Indians coaching staff, but there's not much else to Cabrera's game that makes this seem like an obvious move for Tampa Bay.
If the Rays are nearing a trade of Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar the signing receives more credence, but that wouldn't appear to make the Rays better or cheaper next season.