Melky Cabrera: Pending Free Agent Of Interest And Mystery

Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera runs to third base after hitting a triple against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Giants won 8-3. Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Melky Cabrera was terrible in 2010, very good in 2011, and stellar this season. What kind of contract will he get?

Earlier this year, I wrote about three outfielders who were pending free agents. A team could build a pretty sweet outfield with Melky Cabrera in left, Josh Hamilton in center, and Andre Ethier in right. If Alex Rodriguez took the Grant Desme path of enlightenment, the Yankees would have been right there.

Since that article, three things have happened:

  • Andre Ethier signed a five-year, $85-million deal
  • Josh Hamilton quit chewing tobacco, hitting
  • Melky Cabrera has sustained his unsustainable pace

Novels could be written about Hamilton's contract. Trilogies, 1,000 pages thick, with extensive footnotes from the author. It's going to be the most fascinating contract of our time, and there's no sense shoehorning it into a post with another player. Hamilton will get a contract between the league minimum and $250 million. Pretty sure about that, so we can move on.

The second-most interesting free-agent contract might be Brandon McCarthy, though others in the comments of that post brought up Jake Peavy, which is another excellent choice. Melky Cabrera has an argument, though. He has a fantastic chance to stun the world with a crazy contract. Do you remember exactly where you were when you called your wife a filthy liar at the top of your lungs when she told you about the Jayson Werth contract? I sure do. The restaurant still won't let us back. Melky has a chance to do something like that.

Not a big chance, mind you, and probably not for a contract that big. But he's not 28 until August. A five-year deal wouldn't end until just after his 33rd birthday, which would allay the most common fears of a team evaluating a long-term deal. It's not like there's a paucity of outfielders on the free-agent market this winter -- from Shane Victorino to Michael Bourn to Torii Hunter, there should be players to suit all kinds of short- and long-term needs. But none of them are hitting .350 right now.

Of course, if a team pays for a .350 hitter, they're going to be disappointed. No one is a .350 hitter. Maybe Wade Boggs before he turned 30, or Tony Gwynn after he turned 30. If a team wants to think Melky Cabrera is Wade Boggs or Tony Gwynn, they'll probably buy themselves a nice exclusive negotiating window with Melky's agent.

Here's what teams should expect, though:

April/March 90 1 .300 .366 .422 .789
May 119 3 .429 .457 .647 1.104
June 102 3 .304 .343 .441 .784
July 93 3 .355 .386 .516 .902
August 26 1 .385 .500 .769 1.269

March, April, and May -- those are what teams should expect. Those months line up with the numbers put up by the new Melky last year. The old new Melky, that is. Before the season, it was an open question if Melky could repeat his 2011. That question has been answered, for the most part. It's probably reasonable to expect the 2011 level of performance going forward, at least.

That's a very nice player, mind you. He can run, and he has a great arm. He's a fine defender in left, albeit a little overextended in center. And he can hit for a high average.

Just not that high. Those months in the middle are fun to watch, and he's been carrying the Giants at times … but they aren't sustainable. Never put it past a GM or, especially, an owner to fixate on Cabrera, though, in an offseason without a lot of premium options. All it takes is one.

The Giants and Melky have shelved talks until the offseason, according to Jon Heyman:

The Giants are believed to have suggested a three-year deal along the lines of Carlos Quentin's new $27-million, three-year contract, though no official offer was made. Talks will resume after the year.

That's the kind of contract offer you get with a dead pigeon, so you know you're being insulted or threatened. It'll take more than that. Much more. Maybe not as much as Jayson Werth, but a lot more than Carlos Quentin.

All it takes is one team. Melky and his agent will do their best to find that team. It should be fascinating.

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