Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Melky Cabrera: All-star MVP, Unreal Outfielder, Possible Free Agent

Melky Cabrera was named the All-star MVP last night and carried his career year into the exhibition without a hitch. Cabrera who only 2 years ago was non-tendered by the Braves has been making a strong case for an extension in his time with KC and now with the Giants. As a free agent after this season, the now much trimmer Melky is primed to receive a pretty solid contract. If the Giants don’t make him a satisfying option he will be joining a fair number of pretty serious names on the free agent market. Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton, and (potentially) Ryan Ludwick will all be clamoring for contracts themselves but the Melk-Man’s surge to legitimacy will have interest in the (soon to be) 28 year old outfielder should be pretty serious, especially given his ability to play all 3 outfield positions with aplomb.

Cabrera has primarily played left field this season, but his arm is certainly strong enough that he can play right or center without any issues. Depending on the metrics you use his defense is anywhere from cripplingly inadequate to excellent, sometimes at the same position. Anecdotally from what I’ve seen, outside of his first brief stint with the Yankees where he looked overwhelmed all around, his defense has been excellent any time I’ve seen him in the field, I’m sure that is somewhat colored by seeing his rocket throws from the outfield to some degree.

That much said, Melky isn’t without his faults, his BABIP has been off the charts since joining KC. Sitting with a .388 BABIP is unreal, the results have been undeniable however, he’s getting on base almost 40% of the time, and when he puts the ball in play, it’s finding holes. Playing on the west coast, Melky’s not showing a ton of power, but he still has an outside chance at 20 homers this year and his speed has been passable, if not impressive. Overall Cabrera has managed to put together an impressive 2 year stretch which has fueled his unbelievable turnaround from being a fringe starter/4th outfielder to being one of the better all around outfielders in the game.

Looking at comparable players including Nick Swisher, Nelson Cruz, Justin Upton, Matt Holliday, and Andre Ethier, none of whom is really a great match up for the Melk-Man overall, but all of whom can be called very good to great outfielders.Ethier or Holliday’s contract certainly won’t be good matches for Melky, while Ethier has similar power numbers and a worse batting average than Melky, his contract is based partly on his 30 homer season at 27, his defense, and his consistency. Over the past 2 years Melky has been arguably the better of the two but he hasn’t been as consistent. Cruz is a much stronger power hitter, but couldn’t match Melky’s on base skills and hasn’t been a comparable power threat since 2010, he’s also 31 years old. Upton is much younger, has already shown sustained success and potential for greater power and comparable, probably superior speed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3-4 year deal worth around 10-12 million per year for Melky weighing his relatively short period of true success and the startlingly strong year he’s having.

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