Cabrera's offensive performance has been solid, but he's a major negative on defense at third base, so a player like Cano, a good defender at a position (second base) where offensive levels are lower, is more valuable overall even though Cabrera has slightly higher raw rate stats.
That was the expectation at the beginning of the year. After playing first base for a long stretch and struggling when at 3B early in his Tiger stay, we were expecting an comedy of errors at the hot corner at Comerica Park.
However, that has not been borne out by actual data.
Let's look at the stats, shall we. Six players have played third base in two-thirds of their teams games to date and thus qualify for the fielding title. Of those six, Cabrera is in a three-way tie for second at .966. That doesn't sound bad.
Does he lack range? Not really. He's third in total chances and third in range factor out of that six-pack.
If Cabrera is "a major negative on defense at third base" then American League GMs must have been signing third-basemen from a Special Olympics league, since that "major negative" is a notch above average when the stats are crunched.
Is this year's crop really sucky? Not really. It's actually a bit better. .966 would have bagged second last year and would have tied for 5th of 8 in 2010. For a reference, Evan Longoria was that .966 in fifth two years ago, and I've not heard his defensive game dissed.
As Charles Dickens once had a character say, the Law is an ass.