We’ve reached the point of the offseason where it’s not entirely clear whether some veterans will continue their careers or move onto the next chapter. Curtis Granderson announced his retirement earlier today, and we’ve seen less-prolific names like Peter Bourjos and Tony Barnette step away from playing this week as well. To that end, while it’s been a quiet winter on the Melky Cabrera front, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that the veteran switch-hitter hopes to keep playing for “another couple years.”
Cabrera has consistently hit for solid batting averages and maintained a low strikeout rate even into his mid-30s. The 35-year-old has hit .280 or better in four straight seasons and hasn’t seen his average dip south of .270 since way back in 2010. He’s never struck out at even a 14 percent clip in a single season. That said, Cabrera’s power dwindled in 2019, as even at a time when home runs were at an all-time high throughout the league, he posted his worst isolated power (.119) since a 2013 season in which he played part of the season with a benign tumor in his lower back. Last year’s 4.3 percent walk rate was also a career-worst, leading to Cabrera’s lowest OBP since 2008.
On the other side of the ball, Cabrera has never been considered a good defender but posted particularly rough numbers in the outfield with the Pirates in 2019. Despite playing only 682 innings in the field, he logged -15 Defensive Runs Saved, a -6.8 Ultimate Zone Rating and -4 Outs Above Average.
Cabrera was average or better at the plate from 2016-18, so a club that feels his power and/or walk rate can bounce back in 2020 might think there’s a moderately productive part-time outfielder with high-end bat-to-ball skills still in there. At the same time, his continually deteriorating defensive marks probably limit him to a bench role even if does latch on with a club. At some point, one can imagine that he’ll land a minor league contract somewhere, but like most of the remaining corner outfielders on the market, he’ll probably have to earn his way back to the Majors with a strong Spring Training or even with an early-season run in Triple-A.