Extension Candidate: Melky Cabrera

Even though Melky Cabrera enjoyed a surprisingly productive 2011 campaign, it's safe to say that the outfielder has been a surprise this season as well, as few (outside of the Giants front office, that is) expected Cabrera to top himself. 

Melky Cabrera - Giants (PW)

Cabrera broke out with a .305/.339/.470 slash line with the Royals last year, a performance that moved the Giants to acquire him in exchange for a promising young left-hander in Jonathan Sanchez.  It seemed like a risky deal at the time given that Cabrera had just one quality season under his belt, but while Sanchez has struggled in Kansas City, Cabrera has excelled in his return to the National League.  Cabrera carried a .338/.386/.490 line into Tuesday's action and his hot bat has been a blessing for a San Francisco lineup that was struggling to score runs even before Pablo Sandoval's hand injury.

Giants GM Brian Sabean told Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle that the team was open to discussing a contract extension with Cabrera.  The club usually prefers to not negotiate during the season but, with Cabrera scheduled to hit free agency after this season, the Giants could get a head start on locking up the outfielder before he reaches the open market.  For his part, Cabrera has said he enjoys playing in San Francisco, so appears to be some interest on both sides to get a deal done.

Cabrera avoided arbitration for the third time by signing a $6MM contract with the Giants in January — a nice step up from the $1.25MM free agent deal he signed with the Royals after being non-tendered by the Braves following the 2010 season.  Cabrera is a unique case when it comes to comparables, as shown by a quick look at the MLBTR Extension Tracker.  The ACES client turns 28 in August, will have over six years of service time once this season is complete and, of course, has just one above-average Major League season to his credit plus what he's done thus far in 2012. 

Cabrera has a .376 BABIP, which is a sign that his numbers are soon due to come down to earth.  It might be a wise move for the Giants to wait out the season to make sure Cabrera can keep hitting, as while waiting might cost the team a few extra dollars to re-sign him in the offseason, they'd have more peace of mind that they're making a solid investment. 

If the Giants were to jump the gun and extend Cabrera now, something like a three-year/$24MM contract would be fair for both sides.  If the Giants wait and Cabrera still has an .876 OPS by season's end, his price tag will rise to the $9-$10MM per season range on the open market.  It seems expensive given Cabrera's spotty career history but, given how big bats are becoming hard to find in free agency, several teams will show interest in a corner outfielder in his prime years who managed big numbers in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently pointed out in his look at the Giants' 2013 contract issues, the team has already committed $80MM to next year's payroll.  The Giants are also looking to extend Tim Lincecum and may look into an extension for Buster Posey to cover their franchise catcher's arbitration years, so there might be relatively little money left over to extend Cabrera as well.  This could be an added reason for the team to move now and sign Cabrera at more of a bargain price, but since this is also the team that has spent unwisely on several veterans (i.e. Miguel Tejada, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria, Mark DeRosa), a bit of caution could be prudent.      

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


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28 Comments on "Extension Candidate: Melky Cabrera"


tomymogo
3 years 3 months ago

Is this the same guy, he was absolutely horrible with Atlanta. Awful defense, bad runner, and his offense was a bunch of bloop singles

notsureifsrs
3 years 3 months ago

if his babip in atlanta (.288) were the same as it is now (.375) (or was last year – .332), you would have been fooled, too. he hasn’t really changed much

ZAK
ZAK
3 years 3 months ago

Simple reason: he was out of shape. His training regiment was responsible for the turnaround in KC, and it’s the same this year.

AmericanMovieFan
3 years 3 months ago

I think a 4 year/$30MM deal would be perfect. Remains cheap on the back end, but gives Melky the financial security he’s no doubt looking for.

BLB25
3 years 3 months ago

Thats a lot less than he’ll get.  

AmericanMovieFan
3 years 3 months ago

That’s funny because just a couple years ago most people I talked to about him said he’d never be more than a $5MM a year player and would never get more than a 3 year/$15MM deal. Now people think he could get as high as 4 years/$40MM or more.

BLB25
3 years 3 months ago

Yea, he wasn’t really a good player a couple years ago.  But he had a really, really good 2011 and while it looked like it was mostly due to an unsustainably high BABIP, he’s been even better in 2012.  There probably won’t be a better under 30 free agent hitter on the free agent market.  He was a 4 WAR player last season and looks to have a good shot to be that again.  He’d only have to be a 2-3 WAR player each year of the contract to be worth 10 mil per.  I wouldn’t bet on that happening in his age 32 season, but it definitely seems like a real possibility for the next couple years.  4/40-50 seems like the correct range to me, depending on how he performs the rest of the year.

notsureifsrs
3 years 3 months ago

there isn’t really any reason to think his BABIP is sustainable. it’s been around .350 since the beginning of 2011, driven almost entirely by hits on groundballs

he may very well settle in as an adequate regular – that would be a big improvement. but there’s nothing there to suggest his talent level is anything approaching 4/50

having said that, there’s no accounting for brian sabean

johnsilver
3 years 3 months ago

 “having said that, there’s no accounting for brian sabean”

Isn’t that the truth. He wisely extended Cain and if would just focus on Lincecum, he’ll be fine. Sabean always gets sidetracked giving out contracts to has beens and half ball players like Rowand.. What I call pyrite players.. Cabrera is another.

He has another REAL gold player right in front of him in Lincecum and should maintain focus on him, but always likes to throw the little bit of money after people of little use, or hope for some reason.

corky51
3 years 3 months ago

BABIP or not, the guy has been hitting just under .340 since last July. It seems like he’s already settled in as an “adequate regular”. He’s either become awfully lucky or awfully good. We’ll see.

corky51
3 years 3 months ago

Absolute best he’ll get is 4 years/$40mm. Not too shabby though, when you look back 2 years.

Kurisu Rg
3 years 3 months ago

Why was the Royals/Giants trade “risky” for Sanfran? They only gave up Jonathan Sanchez.

Ray Reyes
3 years 3 months ago

The money is there to sign them with Zito and Huff coming of the books soon

bigpat
3 years 3 months ago

Safe to say that trade worked out pretty well… Sabean still has a few good moves left I suppose. 

Yanksfan2010
3 years 3 months ago

I always liked Melky when he played for the Yankees. I wish him the best and hope he keeps up his good hitting.

3 years 3 months ago

Jonathan Sanchez was a “promising young left hander”?  HUH??  He’ll be 30 this year, has a lifetime 4.34 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP with a 2:1 strikeout/walk ratio.  The guy is a complete headcase who will strikeout 4 batters in a row and then WALK 4 batters in a row.  I guess you remember him from the 2010 World Series team, right?  His line against the Rangers:  4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, gave up 2 home runs, walked 3… for a 7.71 ERA.  But yeah.  He’s promising.  And young.

Hal
3 years 3 months ago

 LOL I couldn’t have said that any better, well done!

shermanatr
3 years 3 months ago

Sanchez was a complete basket case by the end of last season.  He’ll be out of baseball by this time next year.  Guaranteed.  The Giants should have traded him sooner.

ZAK
ZAK
3 years 3 months ago

I’ll take that bet. Ask Choo or Utley about that head. NO head case could be worse than that.

But i disagree they should’ve traded him sooner considering that they wouldn’t have gotten Melky (they tried last year).

dlineback
3 years 3 months ago

I really don’t like how people rely on BABIP to show how lucky or
unlucky a player is. Maybe Melky has learned how to make solid contact
more consistently, and is hitting balls by the defenders.. Instead of
hitting it weakly and giving them a chance to get him out. I’ve watched a lot of Melky this year.. it’s been a lot of hard line drives and going to the opposite field. It’s not like every time he’s getting lucky and squeaking it through the infield.

notsureifsrs
3 years 3 months ago

the fact that someone mentions BABIP doesn’t mean they are ‘relying’ on it to show luck. if melky had a 30% line drive rate, we wouldn’t call it luck (though it would still be unsustainable). argue with the data

line drive %

2010: 19%
2011: 20%
2012: 17%

groundball %

2010: 48%
2011: 47%
2012: 57%

sOPS+ on groundballs (how much better or worse he did than league average, which is 100)

2010: 84 (worse)
2011: 162 (way better)
2012: 210 (way, way better)

dlineback
3 years 3 months ago

That’s all good data and I appreciate the response. Although I just feel like he’s become an overall better hitter.. especially with being smart of where he tries to hit the ball based on the situation and where the defense is playing him

ZAK
ZAK
3 years 3 months ago

Don’t forget, Aaron Rowand won’t be getting 12mil to sit on his couch next year, Huff will be gone, Freddy Sanchez will be gone. That right there is nearly 30mil. Giants will be plenty well capable of signing Cabrera and with his power to the massive gaps of ATT park they’d be fools to let him go. Where people are still bemoaning the loss of Beltran he didn’t show the kind of gap power/speed combo that park demands. 

Cabrera could take his abilities to the limit there. He’s impossible to defend in RF, LH or RH. He can go straight down the line RH or hit triple’s alley with ease LH and vice versa. 

BradyAndersonsSideburns
3 years 3 months ago

I have a feeling that whoever ends up giving Melky 8+ million a season will end up regretting it…this has Garry Matthews Jr written all over it

corky51
3 years 3 months ago

Gary Matthews, Jr had only one very good year in his entire career. It came at age 31. That is called a “career year”. Melky Cabrera had one very good year at age 26. At age 26, that is a “breakout year”. Melky is now putting together another very good year at age 27. This is just the beginning for him.

ugotrpk3113
3 years 3 months ago

If I’m a Giants fan, I’m crying at the thought of another average player getting unnecessary money/years. Those fans deserve better.

3 years 2 months ago

 At the moment only Matt Kemp is more average than Melky.  Have you been paying attention?  He leads the league in so many categories there isn’t enough room here to mention.  Then the guys out and out hustle is a pleasure to watch.

Aaron Fisher
3 years 2 months ago

If the giants give Melky a good extension and it turns out it was a fluke last year and what we are seeing this year with his hitting he still has an above average arm in the outfield which is very valuable when playing at AT&T. Yes we would love it if he can really hit like he has been but having an amazing outfielder is still worth while.