Saturday, November 8, 2014

In The Cross Hairs: Melky Cabrera

Let's travel back in time.  Say...four years ago.  I know you don't want to, but it'll be a quick stop.  The Royals of 2010 were a team to forget.  The lineup was abysmal, but honestly, any lineup with Yuniesky Betancourt as the starting shortstop and Jose Guillen sitting in the designated hitter spot hacking away at pitches like a lumberjack will be anything but pretty to watch.  Our future cyborg in left field, Alex Gordon, spent over half the year in Omaha learning the new position he now dominates.  Our shortstop was Yuniesky Betancourt.  Our then Ace, Zack Grienke, had an off year after coming off a dazzling Cy Young Award season in 2009.  Gil Meche, or known to Royal Revival members as the "GILamonster", spent most of the season on the DL with back and shoulder issues.  We had guys in the rotation like Kyle Davies, Sean O'Sullivan, Bryan Bullington, and Anthony Lerew (the guy with the Elvis Presley chops) making starts.  Oh, did I mention Yuniesky Betancourt was our stinking shortstop?

Along with that seemingly endless list of problems, there was the occupancy of center field.  The CF position saw not one, not two, but seven players receive playing time for the Royals.  Those seven: Rick Ankiel (yes, Rick Ankiel), Gregor Blanco (sad face), Willie Bloomquist (Ol' droopy), David DeJesus, Jarrod Dyson (Zoombiya), Mitch Maier (player/coach for NW Arkansas Naturals in 2014), and Scott Podsednik.  Woof.  To top it off, the 2010 Royals employed two managers.  Trey Hillman, who was let go after starting the year 12-23, managed in Kansas City the prior 2 seasons and finished off his tenure with a combined W-L record of 152-207.  Then, Jeff Foxworthy's best friend, Edgar Frederick a.k.a. Ned Yost, steps in to take the reigns.  I can still remember him getting a standing ovation that night when his name was first announced by the legendary Voice of the Royals, Mike McCartney.  Simply put: the 2010 season was poop.

2011 wasn't all that much better, considering the Royals finished fourth in the division with a 71-91 record, but the lineup was shaping into what got Kansas City to the World Series for the first time since we beat the Cardinals in '85.  Alex Gordon played 151 games in his new home of left field that earned him his first of many gold gloves, while hitting .303 with 23 HR.  Newly acquired Jeff Francoeur played right field, hitting .285 with 20 HR and 22 SB.  Our future corner infielders and starting catcher, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Sal Perez, made their debuts that got everyone excited about the future.  Even Lorenzo Cain received a September call-up to give the Royal Nation a brief glimpse into 2012.

One of the key components to 2011 was the signing of free agent CF Melky Cabrera.  The Royals managed to sign Cabrera, 26 years old at the time, to a 1 year $1.25 million deal, mostly because of a disappointing campaign with the Atlanta Braves the year before.  With the Braves, Cabrera hit .255/.317/.354 with just 4 HR and 42 RBI.  What a steal this signing would turn out to be.  Melky, hands down, had the best season of his young career as a Royal.  During his stint in KC, he set career highs in batting average, HR, RBI, R, and SB.  He finished fourth in the American League in hits with 201, which made him just the 6th Royal in franchise history to collect 200 hits in a season.

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During the offseason, the Royals needed to trade Cabrera for pitching and to clear the CF spot for Lorenzo Cain to take over.  Kansas City sent Cabrera to San Francisco for pitchers Ryan Verdugo and, excuse me.. I just threw up in my mouth, Jonathon Sanchez.  I'll stop there as far as the trade is concerned.  While in The City by the Bay, Cabrera continued where he left off.  The Melkman earned himself a spot in the starting lineup for the National League in the All-Star game in Kansas City.  He collected two hits, including a 2-run HR, earning him the All-Star MVP award.  His stellar year ended abruptly when MLB slapped him with a 50 game suspension for PED use.  Since then, Melky has been playing for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Last season, he was on his way to another solid year, but was stopped unexpectedly from getting hit by a pitch, fracturing his pinkie.  He ended 2014 with a .301/.351/.458 line with 16 HR and 73 RBI.

Cabrera was one of several free agents who received a Qualifying Offer of a 1 year $15.3 million deal from their respective teams.  According to SportsNet's Shi Davidi, Cabrera and the Blue Jays are "far apart" in contract discussions.  The now 30 year old will likely test the waters of free agency.  If Melky signs elsewhere, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory draft pick in exchange, so there is a plus to the situation for Toronto. 

A Melkman reunion in Kansas City isn't really seen by many for 2015.  MLB Trade Rumors has predicted a 5 year $70 million deal in the works for the 30 year old switch hitter.  If by happenstance the Royals were to look into Cabrera's services for a second go-around, there may be a very slight issue.  There's no worry about Cabrera having trouble playing the outfield.  Last season, all but three of his 139 games were in the OF.  For most of his career, however, he has certainly avoided RF, but not completely.  If the Royals happen to part ways with DH Billy Butler, which most definitely would be a sad day, Melky could in fact fill Butler's position.  I would not be opposed if he were to see some time in RF, assuming the Royals do not re-sign Nori Aoki.

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