Is Trader Jack Eyeing Melky Cabrera To Play Right Field For The Seattle Mariners?


The Seattle Mariners have already added one big bat this offseason in DH/OF Nelson Cruz. He received a qualifying offer from the Baltimore Orioles, and therefore the Mariners lose their first round pick (19) in the 2015 draft. With that in mind, Buster Olney sheds some light on potential plans for the Mariners this offseason:

Is signing Melky Cabrera the next deal made by the Mariners this offseason? Olney’s logic follows: the Mariners have already given up their first round pick for Cruz, why not lessen the loss of potential talent (i.e. avoid trading prospects) by signing another QA free agent, losing only their 2nd round pick in addition to the salary.

Cabrera, 30, is the best free agent outfielder left on the market as Nick Markakis is gone to the Atlanta Braves. When GM Jack Zduriencik was asked about potential right-handed options in right-field, he responded: “a switch-hitter would be tremendous… Right-handed would be good, but you’re not going to walk away from a good hitter.”

Melky Cabrera has been a good hitter in recent seasons. Melky Cabrera is also a switch-hitter.

In 139 games last season, Cabrera hit .301/.351/.458 with 16 home runs, 35 doubles, and 73 RBI. What’s equally impressive, he walked 43 times and only struck out 67 times. In fact, Cabrera has never exceeded 100 strikeouts in his 10 Major League seasons; the Mariners in 2014 alone had 2 players who exceeded 100 strikeouts (Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino), while at least 7 other players would have hit the mark in a full season’s worth of at-bats.

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What about his defense? Melky has played mostly left field in is MLB career, though he has enough experience as a right fielder that the Mariners could slot him there every day. Melky hasn’t been worth a positive dWAR (0.8) since 2008 with the New York Yankees, and according to dWAR 2014 was his worst defensive one with a -1.1 dWAR. As a point of comparison, Matt Kemp has only been worth a positive dWAR (0.8) once in his career (2008), while his dWAR calculated out to -3.1 this last season with the Dodgers.

So Melky isn’t bad at defense, he’s just not all that good. And with the above average range of both Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley in center field and right field, the outfield would be above average overall defensively. Don’t forget either that just a few seasons ago the Mariners were putting Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez in the outfield together on the same night.

I would commend GMZ if he goes out and signs Melky Cabrera to a deal that shores up the offense in the outfield. ESPN predicts Melky to earn a $16 million average annual value over a 4 year contract. That means GMZ would have to offer something like 4 years, $64 million to get Cabrera in Mariner blue. (Even though Melky is allegedly wanting a five year deal)

Steamer projects Melky to be worth 1.7 WAR in 2015 (he was worth 2.6 in 2014). With that sort of production, the going rate would be somewhere around $13-14 million. Are the M’s willing to overpay a bit for some stability in the outfield? Cabrera would fit nicely in the two-spot ahead of Robinson Cano, Cruz and Seager in the middle of the lineup, giving the M’s significantly more pop than they did least season.

So what do you think? Is a Melky Cabrera signing too desperate? Too expensive? Too frivolous? Or is overpaying by a few million every year for Melky (while the M’s appear to have the money) justifiable because the Mariners would be ready to contend without trading ANY of their talented prospects?

I think it would be, all things considered. Who knows, maybe Mariners fans will be welcoming another free agent to the fold during these Winter Meetings. What a fun time to be an M’s fan.