Will The Real Melky Cabrera Stand Up


Melky Cabrera? Who is playing baseball in Melky Cabrera’s body this summer? How unreal is the San Francisco Giants’ outfielder playing that he might lead the National League in batting, that he was the Most Valuable Player in the All-Star game? Maybe this is the second coming of Joe Hardy, selling his soul to the Devil in “Damn Yankees.”

Cabrera, who once upon a time was a Yankee, is playing more like Miguel Cabrera, or Joe DiMaggio, than the player we have come to recognize as Melky Cabrera.

It is the same Melky Cabrera, the guy who is a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound, switch-hitting, lefty-throwing native of the Dominican Republic who is 28 years old. Cabrera broke into the majors in 2005 when he was just 20 and his first team, for those with long memories, was the Yankees. Cabrera stayed with the Yankees through the 2009 season, never hitting better than .280. Then he began bouncing around.

Cabrera spent one year, 2010, with the Atlanta Braves, a not so special year when he batted .255 with a .317 on-base percentage.  Braves didn’t see enough in Cabrera to warrant hanging onto him for another look-see. So Cabrera was off to the Kansas City Royals for the 2011 season with all the hallmarks of becoming a journeyman player whose best years seemed behind him.

Only Cabrera fooled everyone. He hit 18 home runs, 87 RBIs, stole 20 bases and batted .305. Go figure. All of a sudden he was playing at an All-Star level. No doubt most baseball observers chalked it up to a fluke. It was clearly the best all-around season of Cabrera’s career. Did anything really believe he was going to duplicate those numbers in 2012? Probably not. And chief amont those doubters must have been the Royals. Otherwise Cabrera wouldn’t be a Giant this year. Kansas City traded him for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.

In mid-August, 110 games into ths 2012 season, Cabrera was leading the National League in hits with 155 and batting .348. He had 11 homers, 57 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases with roughly six weeks remaining in the season. For the first time in his career, Cabrera made an All-Star team. Ironically, that game was played in Kansas City.  He kind of proved a point by having a fine game in the All-Star classic, sort of a reminder to the Royals that perhaps they should have kept him. Cabrera notched a single in the first inning and scored a run and then hit a two-run homer. He earned his MVP award.

This is Cabrera’s second straight top-notch season. He is in his prime years–just turning 28 on August 11–and he is a free agent at the end of the year. How coveted will Cabrera be? Hard to guess. He will probably want way too much money for too many years, but if he has made believers out of the shoppers in the 2013 market, he will get what he wants. It will be a tricky purchase trying to project what Cabrera will be capable of for the next five years.

There will still be some questions asked. Can Cabrera keep up what he has shown for the last two years? Or is this the high water mark and will he drop back down to the .280s? Cabrera will be seeking the kind of money that is paid to superstars who can lead a team. He still doesn’t seem like that kind of guy, but a player who needs to be surrounded by other talent to become fully effective. Funny thing is, you have to wonder if the best fit of all for Cabrera isn’t with the team he started out with–the Yankees.