Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera will be eligible for arbitration for the third time as a Super Two this winter. He's earning $3.1MM this year; will the Braves tender him a contract and potentially give him a raise for 2011?
Cabrera, 26, started off very slowly this year but has come around of late, and is hitting .260/.319/.370 in 422 plate appearances. Capable of playing all three outfield spots, UZR grades him out as below average in center and basically average in the corners.
Part of the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, Cabrera essentially fits the profile of the fourth outfielder yet has been thrust into full-time duty over the last several seasons. He won a World Series ring with New York last season, but I suspect the Braves won't care too much when making a decision on whether or not to tender Cabrera a contract for 2011 in December. This is Melky's third time through the arbitration process as a Super Two, so whatever salary he receives this season will impact his 2012 compensation as well.
Melky received a rather generous $1.7MM raise last winter, more than doubling his 2010 salary. That, however, was coming off the best season of his career, in which he hit .274/.336/.416 with a career best 13 homers. He and his agent shouldn't expect a similar raise this time around with a sub-.700 OPS and a career low four long balls. Even if he were to take a modest $400K raise to $3.5MM, it's not terribly difficult to find outfielders more productive than him at that cost, especially in today's market. We also have to consider Nate McLouth's $6.5MM salary for next season, since the Braves might not want to spend upwards of $10MM on a pair of below average outfielders.