Melky Cabrera Is Proving That 2012 Was No Fluke
When Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games back in August of 2012 after testing positive for testosterone, he was a pretty unpopular guy. Now, two years later, he's one of the key components trying to keep the Toronto Blue Jays afloat in the American League East.
In Sunday's marathon 19-inning game against the Tigers, where the Blue Jays won 6-5, Cabrera reached base eight times in 10 plate appearances, with three singles and five walks. He became the first player to reach base eight times in a single game since Rod Carew did it in 1972, a span of 42 years.
And per MLB.com's Jamie Ross, he's now hit safely in 94 out of 118 games he's appeared in this year and has 45 multi-hit games in 2014.
Cabrera, a switch hitter, has an .856 OPS as a right-hander and an .851 OPS as a left-hander, so he's just as good from either side. His home OPS is .859 and on the road it's .850, which means he's not a product of hitter-happy Rogers Centre. And he's hitting .307 with the bases empty, .333 with runners on base and .279 with men in scoring position, consistent in all circumstances.
He's been one of the best offensive players in the American League this year and one of the most durable and productive players for Toronto. His nERD of 2.59 this year means a lineup full of Cabreras would generate 2.59 runs per game more than a lineup full of league average players, over a 27-out game.
Cabrera rightly took a lot of heat after his positive PED test, and took a direct hit to the wallet as a result. At the time of his suspension, he led the National League in hits and was batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI as one of the San Francisco Giants' key components. He was in line for a long, multi-year deal, but his suspension torpedoed that and, as a result, he signed a two-year, $16 million with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season.
He struggled in 2013 as he dealt with a benign tumor near his spine that limited him to just 88 games. And as you can see in the above table, concerns last year that his career year in 2012 was PED-fueled seemed to be well-founded.
This year, however, he is once again one of the best hitters in baseball. His on-base percentage is seventh in the American League, and his weighted on base average (wOBA) is ninth. His weighted runs created (wRC+) of 137 is tied for ninth in the AL, meaning he's generated 37% more runs than a league average hitter in the same number of plate appearances.
One would assume his numbers this year are PED-free, as he has not tested positive for any illegal substance since 2012. And at 29 years old, Cabrera is just now entering his prime. Our own projections see him hitting .305/.366/.473 the rest of the way, and finishing the season with a slash line of .313/.365/.477 with a wOBA of .364, 19 home runs, and an OPS of .842.
Not bad value for $8 million.
Cabrera will be a free agent after this season and appears primed for the big payday that eluded him two years ago. He'll turn just 30 years old next season, making him one of the younger free agents on the market, in a weak class with chief competition coming from 34-year-old Nelson Cruz and 33-year-old Mike Morse.
Toronto took a big risk signing Cabrera two years ago, when most teams were staying away. That investment, relatively cheap though it was, didn't look so good last year. But in 2014, Cabrera is making the Blue Jays look very smart.