The Melk man is an All-Star, but how long will he be a Giant?
Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera were selected as starters to the National League All-Star team on Sunday with a major assist from the Giants' marketing department and rabid fanbase. Now would be a great time for the team to extend both Posey and Cabrera's contracts.
The 25-year old Posey might be arbitration eligible for the first time next season as a "Super Two." Typically, players are not eligible for arbitration unless they have three full seasons of service time. However, the Super Two exception is for players like Posey—who made his big-league debut in the first half of 2010—who are in between two and three years of service time.
The Giants will control Posey for four more seasons regardless of whether or not he qualifies for arbitration next season. The Giants should sign him to a long-term contract extension to ensure cost certainty during his arbitration years, and to buy out his first season two seasons of free agency, as they did during spring training with Madison Bumgarner.
The contract extension that the Cleveland Indians gave to their young catcher, Carlos Santana, would be an excellent starting point for contract extension negotiations with Posey. Santana, who is a year older than Posey but has similar major league service time, signed a five-year, $21 million contact extension with a club option for a sixth season at the beginning of this season.
Santana has struggled mightily so far in 2012, but his first year-plus in the big leagues was very similar to Posey's. Santana hit .244/.362/.459 with 33 homeruns during that span while suffering a catastrophic leg injury in a collision at home plate that ended his season in 2010.
Posey has hit .295/.356/.465 with 32 homeruns so far in his big league career, missing most of last season after Scott Cousins injured him in a gruesome collision.
A five-year contract extension for Posey with a team option would ensure that the Giants have Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Posey locked up through at least 2017, with team options for 2018.
For Cabrera, things will be more complicated because he can test the market as a free agent after this season. At just 27 years old, he is younger than other free-agent outfielders hitting the market such as Michael Bourn (29) and Josh Hamilton (31), giving Cabrera a significant advantage.
He's also going to benefit from the "recency effect." The best seasons of his career have been his last two, and teams will likely weigh his most recent performance more heavily when they evaluate him.
For the Giants, extending Cabrera now is not going to be cheap. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who just signed a five-year, $85 million extension, has had a better overall career than Cabrera, but he has not been as good during the past two seasons, and he is also three years older.
Ethier has hit .291/.363/.480 for his career, compared to Cabrera's line of .282/.336/.409. However, when you change the sample size to just the past two seasons, Cabrera comes out slightly ahead at .320/.357/.484, compared to .291/.364/.446 for Ethier.
Is Cabrera the great hitter that he has been over the past two seasons, or is he the player who hit a tepid .267/.328/.379 through the first five years of his career? If the Giants want to lock up Cabrera, they are going to have to pay him as if the past two seasons have revealed the real Melk Man.
Given his youth and improvement, that's a gamble the Giants should make. Cabrera's gap-to-gap approach, speed, work ethic and defensive ability fit AT&T Park and the Giants exceptionally well. It won't be cheap to keep him, but the Giants should try to save a few bucks by extending him now, before teams with deeper pockets can make a move for him during the winter shopping season.
The Giants should lock up their two first-time All-Stars now. Pablo Sandoval will be a Giant for at least two more seasons, and Brandon Belt will be under team control for the next five years. Extending Posey and Cabrera would ensure that the youthful middle of the Giants lineup will be together for years to come.