As you all are likely aware, back on August 15 Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for an elevated testosterone level, indicating that he had taken Performance-Enhancing Drugs. In a prepared statement released by the MLBPA, Cabrera said:
“My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life.”
He did try to move on, but only after he (or one of his entourage) tried to cover it up, creating a fake chain of evidence that would make it seem like his roommates tricked him into smoking testosterone.
Though his 50-game suspension would run its course during the NLDS in which, of course, the Giants were not supposed to participate because the Dodgers had bought All The Players, and the Giants were losing the All-Star Game MVP who was hitting .346/.390/.516 in 113 games. Except the Giants didn’t activate him, or use him in the NLDS, and won’t be using him in the World Series (Jeff Passan has a great take on this here, and a counterpoint by Hank Schulman here).
The point of this isn’t to say whether the Giants should or should not use Melky for the next week, but rather to ask if the Astros should take a flyer on him.
Cabrera, who is 28 (and will be until August 2013), was probably in line for at least $50m from the contract he’ll sign this winter as a free agent. He won’t get anywhere near that, at least not right away. Cabrera will need a year of solid production before he gets his Big Contract.
Might that year come in Houston?
The Astros’ outfield production – at least offensively – was atrocious in 2012. As a group, they hit .220/.208/.349. Eight Astros outfielders hit 47 homers (Justin Maxwell had 18) and averaged a 92 OPS+. The only two players with an OPS+ over 100 were Maxwell and Fernando Martinez (both with a 105 OPS+). Yet they only combined for 482 plate appearances. Astros outfielders’ with an OPS+ under 80 include Jordan Schafer (63), Brandon Barnes (41), Brian Bogusevic (64), Travis Buck (63), and Ben Francisco (77). I was looking to see how this ranked against the rest of baseball and made it to Kansas City before I picked up my monitor and brought it down, thundering, over my own head, and then stood in a bathtub. (Not holding the plugged-in monitor, mind you. That would be dangerous.)
Anyhow, the Astros need an upgrade. Right now, the only guys on the roster I’d halfway trust in the outfield for a full season would be Maxwell and Fernando Martinez and, given his knees, Martinez might be better suited as a DH. So there are open spots in the outfield.
You can see where I’m going with this, right? Should the Astros give Cabrera a one-year contract to help him build his value? I’m honestly asking, because it could go both ways.
Cabrera had a .906 OPS in his 113 games in San Francisco, and it’s completely appropriate to wonder if that was a result of the PEDs. In 2011, he posted a then-career-high .809 OPS in Kansas City. Prior to 2011 his career-high in OPS was .752, back in his rookie season in 2006. He just doesn’t have a track record where you can look and say, “Yeah, he’s that player.”
Also keep in mind the move to the AL. Sure, Cabrera hit .305/.339/.470 in 2011 for the Royals, but even with that taken into account, his AL slash line is just .279/.333/.406 – and though that’s still better than what the Astros might be running out in 2013, is it worth the baggage?
To read Schulman’s defense of the Giants organization, Cabrera doesn’t exactly sound like a clubhouse leader (there’s a little Twitter exchange going on about this with Jon Heyman – I’m not linking to him, you can find out for yourself if you’re so interested). The Astros also need all the positive press they can get – does a Cabrera signing further enrage fans? Will he bring more fans to Minute Maid? How many sane people look at the schedule and think, “Man. I gotta go see Melky F***in’ Cabrera!”
So, Astros fans, you have your choices in front of you. (A) Take a flyer on a guy who might not cost all that much, motivated to rebuild his reputation and salvage his career, so we don’t have to watch Jordan Schafer anymore. Or (B) leave Cabrera alone, because the guy just isn’t worth it.