Bringing Back the Melkman

"What shoes should I wear tomorrow?"

Ok, maybe I’m jumping the gun, but this is a slow week, and after the All-Star game, I’m ready to talk about a certain outfielder. In case you missed it last night, Melky Cabrera was the star of the show. The ex-Yankee went 2 for 3 with a lead off single and a two run homerun. The Melkman is on the tip of everyone’s tongue now, and he’s creating a distance between his stellar 2011 season/incredible 2012 season, and his dreadful 2010 stint with the Braves. With a vacancy in right field next year, it’s worth the fun to muse on the possibility of signing him in the upcoming offseason.

Following the 2009 World Series victory, Cabrera was traded from the Yankees to the Braves in the Boone Logan deal. It was a low point for the outfielder, who was traded from the world champion Yankees, an organization filled with close friends like Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. There was no doubt that he’d gained weight after showing up to camp with the Braves, and what followed was a 2010 season where he was ranked the worst everyday player in baseball with a -1.0 fWAR.

After being released from the Braves, a strange headline popped up during the 2010-2011 offseason, Alex Rodriguez begged the Yankees to resign Melky. After training with Arod all winter, the Yankees third baseman believed his former teammate made strides in his work ethic. Instead, Cabrera ended up on the Royals in 2011, and produced a strong .305/.339/.470 triple slash. Many doubted that he could continue this sort of hitting, but now with the Giants, Melky has produced .353/.391/.519.

Half a season worth of numbers is hardly a strong sample size, so are there any indications that he’ll regress? I don’t think anyone will assume that he’ll be hitting .353 by the end of the year, but there is certainly optimism in the advanced numbers. While Cabrera’s BABIP is currently .388, that doesn’t simply mean he’s been lucky. If you examine the batted ball ratios, Cabrera is hitting an astounding 22.0% line drives and 52.6% groundballs. Perhaps some extra fly balls are dropping, but with those type of batted ball ratio, you can expect a ridiculous average.

Fortunately, expected BABIP does a much better job calculating that “luck” factor, and his xBABIP is currently .340. While this isn’t incredibly encouraging, xBABIP doesn’t take into account Melky’s slightly above average speed as well. The outfielder should be prepared for some regression, but the numbers are encouraging enough to call a .330 batting average for this season not-so-ridiculous.

So what caused this spike in his numbers? Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long agrees with Arod, in that his improvement in training has brought out his potential.

“He’s a hell of a player. He has totally gotten committed to his career. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t take anything for granted any more. His personal trainer is with him all the time. When you go all in and have talent, this is what happens — and it is evident he has the talent.”

Long said it was clear Cabrera had talent before he was traded to Atlanta, but was “pudgy” and not as diligent about his career.

2009 Melky v. 2012 Melky (Right Handed)
2009 Melky v. 2012 Melky (Left Handed)

You’ll see above that his swing in 2012 is nearly identical to his swing in his last season with the Yankees. The big difference is the gut. With Cano and Cabrera finding their true potential in their prime years, it might not be such a bad idea to reunite them next year. Perhaps the better question is whether Cano and Cabrera will repeat their previous problems once they’re brought back together, but I personally think that both players have shown more than enough work ethic and maturity. It’s fair to assume the players wouldn’t mind reuniting, but the money issue could be more prevalent with the budget in 2014.

It’s hard to forget Melky’s walkoffs in 2009, plenty of big plays in the outfield, and a genuine chemistry he brought to the World Series team. He now offers the Yankees with a young potent leadoff bat, something that can’t be overlooked with Jeter’s age, and some decent defense in the outfield. I didn’t believe his comeback story at first, but the more and more I watch, the more and more I want the Yankees to bring back the Melkman.

About Michael Eder

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

10 thoughts on “Bringing Back the Melkman

  1. If the price is reasonable, and we can trade him if needed after one year, this might be a good plan. Either that or offer him a ton of money for a one year deal. (Of course, he’s not likely to bite on a one year deal.)

  2. Melky has earned a big long term contract. The Yankees aren’t going to be the team that will give it to him given their desire to lower payroll. They are much more likely to bring back Swisher but even that is a big long shot at this point.

  3. One very good season in KC and a stellar first half in SF earns him a long-term contract? I am not so sure.

    • Well, it will be 2 years not 1.5 when he’s a free agent. You can quibble about whether he’s “earned” a big contract but do you really doubt that he’ll get one? He’ll be 28 so he still is right in the middle of his prime. Assuming some regression in the 2nd half, he’ll be coming off two >.800 OPS seasons, is an above average defensive corner outfielder with a strong arm, and could play CF for another couple of years if a team wanted him to. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if his contract (in total, not annual dollars) is almost double that of Swisher’s next contract.

  4. Sorry..just don’t see a BIG LONG TERM contract after only 2 great years. I’ll give you a decent semi-long term one.

    Don’t see him re-upping with SF

  5. I see something along the lines the lines of 4/60 for Melky. Hard to believe anyone will give him more than that. He has a poor history performance wise and a history of poor work ethic. Every team has to be afraid he will take the money and revert back to the ways that almost saw him out of baseball.

    • I’m not trying to argue that Melky is a good investment but with so many teams signing big TV deals there is going to be a lot of money out there chasing players. The best position player free agents are Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Melky, Swisher and BJ Upton. A lot of people will be scared away from Hamilton by his past and his injuries. Upton has is own attitude/work ethic issues. Swisher is entering his decline years. Melky is still in his prime. He’ll get more than most seem to expect.

  6. I think if you look at FA contracts over the past, a player’s performance in his last year or 2, has a much greater impact on his contract than his previous years. When you consider his age, and his speed and D (both somewhat above average), I’ll bet he gets a serious contract.

    4/60 is certainly not out of the question, and some desparate team might give him more.

    It’s too late for the Yankees. Melky is now a ‘Buy High’ guy. With our current contracts on the books, Cashman needs to shop smart.

    • I think almost assuredly he would get more than 4/60 if he was just coming into his own. Its his past as it relates to work ethic, I think that will prevent him from getting a 5 or 6yr deal. I’m not sure I would want the Yankees to give him 4/60 as I think its 50/50 that he gets the money and reverts back.

      I dont think the Yankees should sign Swish. I think he probably has this year and next at roughly the same production he has had since joining the Yankees, after that I feel its a strong possibility he becomes less than league average in RF. I’m guessing its going to take at least 3 yrs to sign him. I dont think Swish’s performance warrants the risk of a 3 yr 40+mil contract it will take to keep him. Only way I would resign him is on a 2yr deal, and I just dont think thats going to happen. I could see Swish taking a little less AAV to play for the Yanees but not less years.