Melky Cabrera Suspension: 5 Key Ramifications to the San Francisco Giants
Melky Cabrera has been suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a banned substance. The suspension is for 50 games and when this decision was announced the Giants had 45 games remaining in their season.
The Giants were 64-53, when Cabrera was lost. If they make the playoffs, Cabrera will miss the first five of those games. If not, then he will miss the first five games of 2013.
The San Francisco Giants learned about the suspension about an hour before their game against the Washington Nationals. They proceeded to lose to the Nationals and fell one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
To the Giants and their fans, this felt like a punch in the gut. It definitely takes the wind out of their sails and the team must now regroup and find some answers. Let's take a look at five key ramifications to Cabrera's suspension.
5) Tarnished Image of the Giants
Only the Oakland A's with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were more infamous for steroid use than the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds became the villain in the campaign against PED's.
Then, in 2010, only three years removed from the Bonds era in San Francisco, the Giants won the World Series. This was their first world championship in their 52-year history in San Francisco. The feeling in San Francisco was euphoric and it wasn't all from the medical marijuana proponents in town.
The 2010 Giants generated such good will and energized the Giants' fanbase. AT&T Park is sold out for every game and the crowd is spirited and supportive of their beloved Giants.
Now, with the second PED suspension this year, it brings a dark cloud over an otherwise glorious experience at the park by the bay. In addition to Cabrera, relief pitcher Guillermo Mota was suspended for 100 games, earlier this season.
At a time when the media, fans and all of baseball were moving past the PED problems, this again brings the ugly topic back to the forefront. The Giants' image is again tarnished, which is disappointing, given how hard their management and ownership have worked to provide a positive and fun experience at the ballpark.
Major League Baseball did what it had to do and Cabrera has accepted the suspension and apologized to his team and the fans. The Giants are putting the proper foot forward and have also stated they support the decision.
This entire situation is unfortunate and puts a damper on an otherwise exciting season for the Giants.
4) Melky Cabrera May Have Played His Last Game for the Giants
Melky Cabrera is going to be a free agent following the season. The San Francisco Giants had discussions with his agent about a long-term deal. Cabrera had produced on the field and was adored by Giants' fans.
The fans loved the "Melk-Man" and one group even came to the games dressed up as old-time milk men. Then the ladies wanted to join in and several dressed up as "Melk-Maids" and fun was abundant. The milk has turned sour and the Melk-Man fun is gone, possibly forever.
The Giants had made Cabrera an offer for three years and approximately $29 million. Cabrera and his agent turned it down and a decision was made to hold-off on further discussions until after the season.
Cabrera and his agent felt as though he could command a longer-term deal for around $12-14 million per season. Now, given the recent developments, Cabrera has cost himself a ton of money.
It is doubtful that the Giants will offer Cabrera a similar deal at the end of the season. There has to be some question as to whether Cabrera's numbers have been significantly enhanced by the use of the PED's. In addition, the stigma of being a haven for cheats may be more than the Giants' owners are willing to take.
Cabrera may get some team to make a big offer for him, but it won't be the Giants. In fact, the Giants may just decide to part ways because they may not want to deal with the negativity that would accompany Cabrera's return.
I would be very surprised if any team offered Cabrera more than the Giants' original offer, which is no longer on the table.
3) The Loss of Melky Cabrera Leaves a Huge Hole in the Lineup
The San Francisco Giants made two important acquisitions at the trade deadline to strengthen their offense. Marco Scutaro solidified their infield and gives the Giants a professional hitter at the plate. Hunter Pence was acquired to provide some power and run production.
The Giants were expecting to field a lineup with Cabrera hitting in the third spot in the order, followed by Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence. This provided the Giants with strong hitters from the 3-6 spots in the order.
I went to the game this past Tuesday and it was the first time the Giants had Cabrera, Posey, Sandoval and Pence in, all at the same time. Sadly, it may likely be the last.
If Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot or Brandon Crawford got on base or produced any runs, it would all be gravy. With the loss of Cabrera, the Giants need some of these other hitters to come through on a more consistent basis.
At the time of his suspension, Cabrera was hitting .346 and leading the league in runs scored with 84. He also had 60 RBI and led the league with 159 hits. Cabrera's OPS was a very good .906. These are numbers that you simply cannot replace.
2) The Giants Are Scrambling to Find An Adequate Replacement
San Francisco Giants' GM Brian Sabean did a great job at the trade deadline and immediately following. He brought in three players, all of whom are contributing for the Giants.
Marco Scutaro was the first acquisition and he has been exactly as advertised. The veteran utility infielder filled in admirably for Pablo Sandoval at third base and will also play second base and shortstop. With the loss of Cabrera, Scutaro could even find himself in left field at times for the Giants.
Scutaro has also hit very well as a Giant. In 19 games, he is batting .320 and has 15 RBI. He has provided the Giants with a big lift and fit in very well in the clubhouse.
Hunter Pence was the Giants' biggest acquisition. Although he is off to a slow start average-wise, hitting only .177, he does have 11 RBI in 15 games, including a dramatic three-run homer to give the Giants a win against the Rockies.
Pence is also under the Giants' arbitration control for one more season, so he is not a rental player. I firmly believe Pence will hit for the Giants and this was a great move by Sabean.
Shortly after the trade deadline, the Giants also picked up left-handed relief pitcher Jose Mijares on a waiver claim. The former Kansas City Royal has pitched well for the Giants. In five appearances, Mijares has thrown four innings and has yet to allow a run.
These three moves put the Giants in an excellent position for the stretch run. Now, with the loss of Cabrera, it will be up to Sabean to see if he can pull off a deal for an outfielder who can contribute in the final weeks of the season.
Potentially available players include Josh Willingham, Jason Bay, Alfonso Soriano, Corey Hart and Carlos Lee. Of these five, only Willingham and Hart really make sense for the Giants. Neither of these players will come cheap as the Twins and Brewers know they have Sabean over a barrel.
Willingham is signed through 2014 at $7 million per season. Financially, he would fit for the Giants. The only question is whether his creaky back would stay healthy for another two seasons. Willingham is currently hitting .261 with 30 home runs and 88 RBI. He will be 34-years-old in February.
A very good measure of Willingham's ability to hit in tough ballparks is in 2010, when he played for Oakland. He had 29 home runs and 98 RBI, playing half of his games in a very tough ballpark.
Corey Hart, I believe, would be the Giants' best option. He is under contract through 2013 for just over $10 million. Hart can play in the outfield or at first base, which would be valuable if Brandon Belt regresses.
Hart is currently hitting .265 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI. Both Hart and Willingham are right-handed pull hitters, which is good at AT&T Park. Hart would likely cost the Giants a couple of very good prospects, so he won't come cheap for Sabean.
If Sabean is unable to make a move to acquire anyone from outside the organization, the Giants are stuck with their usual suspects of Brett Pill or Justin Christian. Neither of them inspires much enthusiasm, although if Pill can get hot, he does have the power to make a difference.
Xavier Nady, who the Giants claimed off waivers, is currently playing at their Triple-A affiliate in Fresno. However, he has been woefully unimpressive with the bat. Nady is hitting below .200 at this point.
The other potential option is Roger Kieschnick, who is hitting .319 with 14 home runs and 27 RBI, in 204 at-bats. It would be asking a lot for a rookie to come in and be a major contributor, and I see Kieschnick as more of a September call-up.
The loss of Cabrera, who was also a fine defensive player, is a hole that will be very hard to fill for the Giants. How they do it will play a big role in whether or not this team can make the postseason.
1) The Los Angeles Dodgers Have the Inside Track To Win the NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, Joe Blanton and Brandon League over the past few weeks. As I noted when the new ownership group took over, the Dodgers will not be afraid to spend money and they will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Giants did a great job countering these moves and strengthening their own team with the acquisitions of Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence and Jose Mijares. I believe the Giants had a slight edge in pitching and gave them a 60-40 chance to win the NL West.
Now, with the loss of Melky Cabrera, the entire landscape has changed. Barring a major move by the Giants to bring in Josh Willingham or Corey Hart, the odds have now shifted to the Dodgers. I put the Dodgers' chances at 75-25 to win the division.
Los Angeles has played very well since acquiring Ramirez and Victorino. Their lineup is strong from top-to-bottom and their pitching has been solid. This is not to say the Dodgers will have a cakewalk to the playoffs, but realistically, they do have the inside track.
The Giants Can Still Make The Playoffs
The San Francisco Giants were dealt a severe blow with the suspension of Melky Cabrera. How quickly they react to it and overcome the ramifications of his loss will determine whether they can make the playoffs.
Manager Bruce Bochy and several of the players stated that although they were disappointed, they needed to move on and focus on winning ball games. The Giants are still led by their outstanding pitching staff, which will need to be even better, with the loss of Cabrera.
In addition, the Giants' offense must become more consistent, as players like Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt must step up. Buster Posey has played at an MVP-caliber level in the past month and he also needs to keep it going.
At this point, the Giants trail the Dodgers by a game in the NL West and are also a half-game behind both Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the second wild-card spot. Atlanta is four games in front for the first wild-card race and looks like a lock to earn one of those two spots.
Pittsburgh is struggling, but the Cardinals are playing good baseball and will be the Giants' main competition for that second wild-card berth.
In 2011, the Giants lost Posey and in 2012 they have lost both Brian Wilson and Cabrera. This is a very resilient team and if anyone can pull it off, it is the Giants. The Giants must regroup quickly and make it happen.
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