Melky Cabrera: The San Francisco Giants Should Bring Back the Outfielder in 2013
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On Wednesday, Cabrera was suspended for the rest of the season for testing positive for testosterone, which is a performance-enhancing substance.
While losing Cabrera for the remainder of the season impairs the Giants NL West title hopes, it could actually help them next year. Cabrera's mistake will likely cost him millions of dollars in free agency this winter. Instead of getting a long-term deal, he may now have to settle for a one-year, make-good type of contract to prove that not all of his improved performance was the result of testosterone.
The Giants should bring back Cabrera on a one-year deal for 2013 with a club option for 2014 to protect the organization in case he proves that he is a star even without the drugs. If he has another great year in 2013, the Giants will get to bring him back for 2014. If he flops like he did in Atlanta in 2010, the Giants can just move on.
The old saying goes that there's no such thing as a bad one-year contract. Even though Cabrera let the team down by failing a drug test and getting suspended, he also drastically helped the organization by giving them 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) through the first four-plus months of the season by playing MVP-caliber baseball. Those wins are in the books, and without them, the Giants would be well back of the Dodgers right now.
The San Francisco Giants are a for-profit limited partnership whose main purposes are to win baseball games, make money and provide entertainment. Cabrera's failed drug test is an embarrassment to the organization, but it won't prevent people from coming to the ballpark or continuing to watch the team on cable, just as Barry Bonds' alleged drug use didn't prevent Giants fans from watching him chase the all-time home run record.
Losing Cabrera hurts the Giants' playoff chances, which would cost the team money in the short term, but bringing him back on a cheap, one-year contact next year could prove to earn money going forward.
We don't honestly know how much of Cabrera's improved performance over the last two years is the result of drug use. He did not fail any tests in Kansas City last year, so he either was better at hiding his drug use, or he improved his play without the aid of drugs.
Cabrera was having virtually the same year this season with the Giants that he had last year, with the main difference being a jump in his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) from .332 last year to .379 this season. We don't know if Cabrera was using drugs all season, but if he was, the improvement could be explained by saying the drug use improved his ability to make solid, hard contact.
Then again, not everything in the baseball universe can simply be attributed to cause and effect. Perhaps Cabrera was clean for most of the year and then started using drugs as the season wore on. Maybe all of his improvement really has nothing to do with drug use at all.
After all, I have yet to see a definitive study that shows performance-enhancing drug use significantly helps you become a better baseball player. However, I have seen several studies that show players tend to peak around age 28 years old, which happens to be Cabrera's current age.
Whatever the cause for Cabrera's performance spike, it won't hurt anything to find out if he can maintain this level of performance next season without the drugs, or at least without getting caught again.
If he can play well without failing any drug tests next season, the Giants should put a club option in the deal to make sure they can have two more years of his services. If he can't, then the team can just move on without him.
Before making a moral argument that Melky is a cheater—and, therefore, not up to your ethical standards as a baseball fan—and not worthy of wearing the orange and black, remember: The goal is simply to win baseball games. You might want to have a false image of baseball players as role models, but the reality is that we have no idea if these guys are good people or not—regardless of their ability to pass a drug test.
Melky's outstanding performance helped the Giants in 2012 more than his failed drug test will hurt them over the next six weeks. However, the failed drug test drastically reduces his free-agent value. The price of Melk just went down, and buying low is always good business.
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