Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera would like to remain with the Rays.
"I would love to stay here," he said. "I feel very comfy."
More than a few Rays would like to see him come back.
"I've already voiced my opinion," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "He's been awesome."
But the reality is Cabrera is going to walk out of the Trop on Sunday as a free man, and a free agent, well-positioned to find the multiyear deal he seeks elsewhere.
You most definitely can't blame Cabrera, who took a pay cut to play under a one-year, $7.5 million arranged deal with the Rays in hopes of building his value. He did just that after a miserable start to now rank among the American League's best overall shortstops.
And you can't necessarily blame the Rays, who typically aren't positioned financially to make multiyear commitments to free agents, much less at a time when they might be cutting payroll, and haven't had good experiences when they have in signing Pat Burrell for two years and James Loney for three.
But, still …
Cabrera, who is finishing his ninth season in the majors and turning 30 in November, has been a tremendous asset for the Rays, not only with his sleight of hand in the field and switching-hitting prowess at the plate but behind closed doors as a team leader, specifically with the younger players.
"We really rally around Cabby," manager Kevin Cash said. "He does a tremendous job on the field, and it might be even more impressive what he does in this clubhouse, and the energy he brings."
Cabrera said he has talked with his agent enough to be set on seeking as long of a deal as they can to play short (preferably) or second — some scouts have guessed three years for $24 million to $28 million — and to know the Rays haven't made any overtures.
"We don't know nothing yet. Everybody is asking me, guys on other teams, my teammates. I got nothing yet," Cabrera said.
"I would love to come back. That's the only thing I know."
That Cabrera was even with the Rays was somewhat unusual — a free agent after being traded from the Indians, where he was a two-time All-Star shortstop, to play second for the Nationals.
The Giants and Yankees (before re-signing Chase Headley) offered three-year deals but to play third, and he said he wasn't ready to abandon the middle infield. The Blue Jays and Rays offered one-year deals to play second. The Jays had an established shortstop in Jose Reyes, the Rays didn't, providing an opening Cabrera would take advantage of in spring training. Add in familiarity with Cash, who was a coach in Cleveland, and proximity to his offseason Fort Lauderdale home, and Cabrera found the Rays the best fit.
Even as he struggled early offensively, hitting .199 as late as June 17, that feeling became mutual based on his defense and attitude. Then when he finally got hot, boosting his average to .267 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs, it became obvious to all how good he was.
"The biggest thing to me was how he handled that struggle and how he came back," second baseman Logan Forsythe said. "That shows you his character."
Cabrera has also shown off his skills, positioning, knowledge and approach. Forsythe said, "I haven't seen anybody with better hands at shortstop." Longoria said there hasn't been better communication and chemistry with a shortstop in his eight seasons, and he learned much from him.
"He's been tremendous. He's saved a lot of runs for all of us," ace Chris Archer said. "If he's gone, it's going to be a big part of our team that's going to need to be replaced."
The way it looks now, that choice will be between equally unproven Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin, with prospects Daniel Robertson or Taylor Motter getting a look.
None of those options sounds as good.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.