Cabrera's time up

Orioles don't tender starter contract

he becomes free agent

December 13, 2008|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

The Daniel Cabrera era in Baltimore is over.

The Orioles have decided not to offer the arbitration-eligible starter a contract for 2009, and he's a free agent after nearly 10 years with the organization, club president Andy MacPhail said.

The Orioles attempted to deal the right-hander, 27, at the recently completed winter meetings but couldn't find a fit. So they cut ties with the wildly inconsistent but talented Cabrera, who likely would have made between $3 million and $4.5 million this year had he been offered arbitration. He wouldn't have been eligible for free agency until after the 2010 season but is now free to sign with any team.

"Sometimes a change of scenery is in everybody's best interest," MacPhail said.

Cabrera, who made $2.875 million in 2008, was 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA in 30 starts. In his five seasons with the Orioles, he was 48-59 with a career 5.05 ERA.

He could not be reached for comment.

Cabrera's departure leaves the Orioles with just one starter with legitimate big league experience, Jeremy Guthrie, who was caught slightly off guard last night by the news about Cabrera.

"I would say, yes, I'm surprised, because we really haven't been able to sign any pitchers or make any trades, and it takes one of the guys out of the rotation," Guthrie said. "Moving forward, we're going to have to fill that hole."

After a disappointing 2007 in which he lost a major league-worst 18 games, Cabrera pitched well in the first half of 2008, going 6-5 with a 4.33 ERA. From April 12 to May 20 he recorded eight straight quality starts - a career best - and posted a 2.51 ERA.

It looked as if he had finally discovered how to effectively use his 6-foot-9 frame and tapped his immense potential. He was 5-1 before an awful June - 0-3 with a 7.06 ERA. He continued to implode in the second half, posting a 2-5 record and a 7.59 ERA.

Cabrera, who has struggled with control his entire career, nearly completed an infamous pitching triple crown in 2008, finishing first in the American League in wild pitches (15) and hit batters (18) and second in walks (90).

He lost significant velocity on his mid-90s fastball in the second half and pitched only twice after Aug. 24 because of back stiffness, an elbow strain and a league suspension for a beanball incident involving the New York Yankees.

On the last weekend of the season, Cabrera acknowledged that he might have pitched his final game with the Orioles.

"This is a business," he said. "It would not surprise me if one day they do not need my work anymore. That's how this game goes."

At the time, he said he wanted to remain with the club that signed him as a raw 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 1999. No current Oriole has been with the organization as long as Cabrera.

"This is where I have been all my life. Why do I want to change?" Cabrera said in September. "There are a lot of good people here. I can't say nothing bad about anybody."

The Orioles also nontendered reliever Lance Cormier, who became a free agent. Cormier, 28, was 3-3 with a 4.02 ERA in 45 games with the Orioles, including one spot start.

The club tendered contracts to its other arbitration-eligible players: pitchers George Sherrill and Chris Ray and outfielders Nick Markakis and Luke Scott.

Also, the Orioles signed veteran catcher Chad Moeller to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. Moeller, 33, hit .231 with one homer in 91 at-bats for the Yankees in 2008.

The club is also still negotiating with free-agent catcher Matt Treanor.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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