Yesterday the Cubs claimed Adrian Cardenas off of waivers and to make room for him on the 40-man roster they designated Blake DeWitt for assignment. The Cubs signed DeWitt a couple weeks ago to $1.1 million. The Cubs will owe DeWitt $183,333. He wasn't going to provide much or any value to the Cubs this year or next so there was little reason to retain him. While Cardenas may not be much of an improvement, it's actually more fun talking about what he once was rather than what he is now.
Cardenas was the 37th player taken in the 2006 Draft. The Phillies used their supplemental first round pick to grab the talented player from Monsignor Edward Pace HS (FL). His teammate Chris Marrero was also taken in the 1st round (15th overall). Those were the only two chosen from that high school and both were 1st round selections. Neither has reached the potential they once had.
He started off just fine. He had a wRC+ of 146 in 177 PA after being drafted. He followed that up with a wRC+ of 109 as a 19 year old in A ball. At the age of 20 (2008) he had a 140 wRC+ in nearly 300 PA and was then traded to the A's. The rest of the season it was below 100, but he followed it up at 21 in AA with with a wRC+ of 127. He struggled (80 wRC+) in AAA that season, but was only 21. Back at AA in 2010 he hit as well as he had the year before in AA, but was even worse in AAA that year. Although his 2011 batting line of .314/.374/.418 looks good, it's a .356 wOBA. The league average was .356.
Prior to 2008 he was the 76th ranked prospect and moved up to 74th the following year. He hasn't been seen on the list since.
At the time of the draft, Baseball America had this scouting report for Cardenas:
No player in Florida took a bigger leap forward this spring than Cardenas, a hard-nosed throwback player with good makeup and feel for the game. He's savvy and bright, and he even plays the piano. He made the most of hitting in front of Chris Marrero in his high school lineup by putting together one of the most impressive high school seasons in South Florida in years. He hit safely in 29 of his first 37 at-bats with eight home runs, broke a Dade County record for home runs and was batting .630-17-56. Cardenas has good strength and a short, compact lefthanded swing. He allows balls to get deep in the hitting zone before driving them to all fields. He should hit 10-15 home runs annually in the big leagues with a .275-.295 average. He won't make it there as a shortstop, however, which hinders his value. He's a fringe-average runner, and his lower half has some stiffness. Most scouts believe he profiles at second base fine, though others insist he'll wind up in left field. His hands are average, as is his arm at second base.
After his strong rookie league performance he was ranked 3rd in the Phillies organization and Baseball America wrote this:
Strengths: Cardenas has good strength and a short, compact swing from the left side. He has a knack for squaring up balls, making consistent hard contact and driving the ball to all fields. He profiles to hit 15-20 homers annually in the majors. He's presently a solid-average defender at shortstop, though most scouts believe he'll have to change positions down the road. His intellect is on par with his athleticism, as he graduated in the top 10 percent in his class.
Weaknesses: The Phillies recognize that Cardenas best fits at second base, where he played exclusively during instructional league. He lacks first-step quickness and the range to play short, and his speed and arm strength are fringy.
He was ranked 2nd the following year:
The Future: Cardenas will move to high Class A Clearwater for 2008, but his bat could push him to Double-A by midseason. He has middle-of-the-order potential, though the Phillies already are set at second base with Chase Utley.
After his poor performance following the trade he dropped to 5th, but that was in another organization. He dropped out of the top 10 the following year.
CAIRO projects a .284 wOBA for Cardenas. We could bump that up now that he's moved to the inferior league. Oliver projects a .310 wOBA. CAIRO projected DeWitt to have a .323 wOBA while Oliver projected .303. The Cubs probably got a bit worse in terms of projections, but they added a player with multiple options and 6 years of club control. Several of those would be at league minimum. They got rid of a player who would probably have made about $3 million over the next couple seasons. They added someone who does still have some potential to be a decent big leaguer.