Melky Cabrera is white hot. Not only is he putting on a show with his hitting for the San Francisco Giants, he’s also gunning down runners from left field.
Most big-time talents play at a level that far exceeds expectations in contract years. They play at this level to justify a hefty salary increase. This is a contract year for Cabrera.
Does a line of .376/.420/.556 tell the story?
Cabrera leads the league in number of hits and triples, and is tied for second with four outfield assists. He leads the Giants in every category except home runs, where he trails Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Cabrera tied Willie Mays for the second-most hits in a month by a Giant with his 50th on Tuesday night.
Cabrera has been the missing piece in to the outfield and has raked at AT&T Park. He has filled the hallowed left field spot not-so-recently-occupied by Barry Bonds. Cabrera hasn’t homered yet at AT&T Park this year, but he is using the gaps to his advantage.
Can one player carry the other eight guys? He can’t hit for everybody, but making the ball look like a watermelon helps the other guys around him.
Pitchers most likely will give the hitters in front of Cabrera (currently Brandon Crawford) and behind Cabrera (Posey) more pitches to hit because the pitcher wants to have those hitters put the ball in play.
As a result of Crawford being put in a better position (second spot in the lineup in front of Cabrera), he is hitting .255, a large improvement over a combined .217 average in the seventh and eighth spots.
Posey has hit a couple of key home runs following Cabrera, but hasn’t been as consistent. Now is the time to take advantage of Cabrera’s benefit.
Angel Pagan and the newly christened leadoff man and “White Shark,” Gregor Blanco, certainly have. Both players seem to always be on the base paths as both are hitting well over .300 for the month of May.
Even Joaquin Arias, the injury replacement at third, has kicked it up a notch, increasing his average by more than .025 in the past 10 days.
The only straggler to the Cabrera Effect has been the first base position, primarily Brandon Belt, but he recently made tweaks to his swing. More consistent playing time, along with the swing changes should benefit the Giants.
But Cabrera still will be a free agent at the end of the year. So what do the Giants do and what have power hitters recruited by the Giants done in the past?
AT&T Park is a pitchers' park—a park great for the Giants dominant pitching staff, but not great for power hitters and a horrible recruitment for free agency. No legitimate power hitter is going to sign with the Giants if he is consistently putting up huge home run totals at his current park.
But Cabrera likes it here. As reported by Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com via Twitter, Brian Sabean has said, “stars would have to align” to extend Cabrera during the season, but it has not been ruled out.
For that reason, the Giants need to understand what they have in Cabrera and start negotiations once he comes back to earth. A three- to five-year deal will be expected at $10 million to $14 million per annum to fit someone who is still only 27 years old.
Cabrera is also best friends with Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who is a potential free agent at year’s end. That would settle the infield for years to come.
That is the Cabrera Effect.