Should the Mets Take a Chance on Melky Cabrera in the Offseason?
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Seemingly out of nowhere, Cabrera batted .305 with 102 runs scored, 201 hits, 44 doubles, 18 home runs, 87 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He was indeed one of the few bright spots for the Royals. Then, in the following offseason, the Royals dealt Cabrera to the Giants for southpaw Jonathan Sanchez. Due to Cabrera's mediocre offensive track record, the Royals were initially viewed as the winners of that trade, but right when the 2012 season began, the Giants certainly had the better end. That is until very recently.
Expected to just be a decent role player for the Giants, Cabrera all of a sudden became the offensive leader and started putting up amazing numbers beyond that of anyone's expectations. After a solid April that saw him bat .300 with one home run and eight RBI, Cabrera had a month of May for the ages.
He set a Giants' record with 51 hits that month. He batted .429 in that span with five triples, three home runs and 17 RBI. As the season reached the month of June, Cabrera was instantly part of the discussions regarding the National League MVP.
Cabrera kept up his hitting by batting .304 with three home runs and 13 RBI in June and .355 with three home runs and 14 RBI in July. For the total season, Cabrera was batting .346 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs and 60 RBI. He was also leading the league in both runs scored (84) and hits (159). Combine those numbers with an All-Star Game MVP Award last month and it was obvious that Cabrera was having as good of a season as he could have ever dreamed.
That all lasted until Cabrera tested positive for testosterone on August 15. He now has to serve a 50-game suspension. With the Giants having just 45 games left in their season, the last five games will extend through the postseason if the Giants get that far. If the Giants miss the postseason or do not play at least five postseason games, the remainder of the games will carry over into the beginning of the 2013 season.
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Cabrera was also in his contract season, being that he will be a free agent in the upcoming offseason. For most of the season, it became clear that he was going to get a big payday with his next contract, and most likely with the Giants. However, now that he has gotten suspended, not only will the Giants become very unlikely to re-sign him, but he will certainly not get anywhere near as much money and guaranteed years with his future contracts.
Furthermore, the Giants will be losing their best hitter for the rest of the season, which could prove critical in both their race against the Dodgers for the NL West division title and the NL Wild Card race as well. The Giants will now have to depend more on Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval offensively to carry them the rest of the way.
With all this being said, not many teams will be likely to go after Cabrera this offseason, and any team that goes after him will likely make an offer of no more than two or three years and a maximum of $10 million altogether. This type of situation could actually intrigue a few teams, and one of those teams could be the Mets.
With their decreased payroll, plus an upcoming offseason that is probably going to see them give big contracts to David Wright and R.A. Dickey, the Mets will not have much else to spend this offseason. However, there is a glaring need to improve their outfield. Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are likely the favorites to start in the corner outfield positions in 2013, especially if Jason Bay no longer has an everyday role.
Center field though is a different story. The Mets would like to get an upgrade over the declining Andres Torres and top prospect Matt Den Dekker may not be ready for the major leagues next year. Den Dekker will probably get called up next month as a September call-up in order to evaluate him against major league pitching. But if he is not ready, the Mets will need a new stopgap in the outfield.
Will Melky Cabrera continue to be one of the best hitters in baseball next year?
That plus the Mets' need for another right-handed hitting outfielder could make a signing of Cabrera to potentially be beneficial next year. Cabrera is a switch-hitter, has always played well defensively and hits a lot of doubles and triples, which would make Citi Field a great stadium for him to play in.
Cabrera would not necessarily have to play center field either. Nieuwenhuis is just as capable of playing there, and Cabrera has been comfortable in all three outfield positions throughout his career. He could also help the lineup by giving the Mets some much needed speed at the top of the order and could become either their leadoff hitter or No. 2 hitter.
The Mets have not gotten much production from their outfield this year. Duda and Nieuwenhuis both got off to good starts, but slumped enough in the last month to get demoted to the minor leagues. Torres has been inconsistent at the plate, Bay has been a lost cause since 2010 and Mike Baxter was doing well until he got hurt while preserving Johan Santana's no-hitter on June 1. He is healthy now, but is not an everyday solution. The only real bright spot in the outfield has been Jordany Valdespin, but he has done most of his offensive production as a pinch-hitter and is not a natural outfielder.
Thus, the Mets will have a lot of work to do in the offseason to improve their outfield. Signing Melky Cabrera for a year or two could be a great stopgap for the near future. Even if he doesn't hit as well as he has since 2011, he will still put up better numbers in all areas than both Bay and Torres.
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