MELKY CABRERA, CORNER OUTFIELDER
|Born: August 11, 1984
Height: 5′ 10″
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2001 (Yankees)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: Dominic Torres
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Cabrera quickly established himself as a good prospect with the Yankees on the basis of a strong hit tool, solid strike zone judgment and enough speed to play center. He reached the majors as a center fielder, although he looked more like a ‘tweener in his early years, as he didn’t hit for much power and didn’t show up well in defensive metrics in center. In 2011, Cabrera suddenly started to hit for solid to good power, which made it easier for him to move to left a year later. In the outfield corners, he’s been below average. He does have at least an average arm. His speed has been subpar since a 2013 knee injury; Statcast measured his sprint speed as solidly below average in 2018. A switch hitter, Cabrera has had no meaningful platoon split over the course of his career. For the last three years, though, he’s hit much better against LHPs, albeit in a small sample size. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2019.
Upon reaching the US, Cabrera played center in the New York-Penn League. He hit for average and showed some speed, but didn’t hit for much power. He played most of the season, though, at age 18 and Baseball America rated him the Yankees’ 19th best prospect.
The Yankees sent Cabrera to low A and then promoted a third of the way into the season. He continued to show a good bat and also started hitting for power. BA rated him New York’s seventh best prospect.
Cabrera continued to hit well in AA, albeit with weaker plate discipline. The Yankees called him up in July when Bernie Williams got hurt, but he struggled through six games and got sent back to AAA. He struggled there, too, and the Yankees moved him down to AA. BA still rated Cabrera 15th in the Yankees’ system.
After a fast start in AAA, Cabrera got a callup in May. He spent the rest of the season as the Yankees’ regular in left. He made good contact and had more walks than strikeouts in the majors, although he didn’t hit for much power.
Cabrera was the Yankees’ starter in center, where he showed a good arm, getting 14 assists (plus two while playing left). He continued to make contact but not hit for power, and his patience declined.
Cabrera returned as the Yankees’ center fielder, but after a strong April he stopped hitting. The Yankees sent him to AAA for the last two weeks of August. He returned to the majors in mid-September.
Cabrera continued as the Yankees’ center fielder and bounced back with a solid season. During the off-season, the Yankees traded him to Atlanta.
With Atlanta, Cabrera split his time among all three outfield positions. He did not have a good year at the plate. The Braves released him after the season and he signed a major league deal with the Royals.
Still only 26, Cabrera had a breakout season with the Royals. He evidently sacrificed some patience for power and set career highs in both doubles and homeruns. He played center most of the time. After the season, the Royals traded him to San Francisco.
With the Giants, Cabrera had his best season yet, helped by a .379 batting average on balls in play. It was cut short, though, by a PED suspension that cost him the last six weeks. The Giants moved him to a left, a move that became permanent. Cabrera became a free agent after the season and signed a two-year deal with Toronto.
Cabrera played left for the Jays in the first half and struggled at the plate. He missed much of the second half with knee problems. Judging by the drop in steal attempts, as well as his BsR rating at FanGraphs.com, Cabrera slowed down quite a bit, from an above-average runner to below-average. This change, again going by BsR, remained permanent.
Cabrera bounced back with a good season, still playing left. He missed September due to finger surgery. After the season he signed a three-year deal with the White Sox.
Cabrera’s hitting dropped off with the Sox. He particularly struggled against LHPs, with a .600 OPS.
Cabrera bounced back again, to almost exactly his 2014 level. This time he hit better against LHPs, with an .847 OPS versus .748 against RHPs.
Continuing to play left for the Sox, Cabrera hit about the same as the year before, with a slight drop in power. At the trade deadline, Chicago sent him to Kansas City, where his hitting slipped a bit more. He hit LHPs (.785 OPS) a little better than RHPs (.734). Cabrera became a free agent after the season.
With free agency becoming tougher for second- and third-tier players, Cabrera didn’t sign anywhere until agreeing to a minor league deal with Cleveland nearly a month into the season. With several outfielders hurt, the Indians called him up three weeks into May. When he batted just .209 in 17 games, though, they designated him for assignment in mid-June. Three weeks later, though, they signed Cabrera to another minor league deal, then two weeks after that called him up when Lonnie Chisenhall got hurt. Cabrera was the Indians’ primary right fielder the rest of the year and batted .302 with good power. Overall, he again hit LHPs better, with an OPS of .841, compared to .722 against RHPs, although he had only 73 plate appearances against LHPs.
The Pirates signed Cabrera to a minor league deal but, as expected, he made the team out of camp. He was expected to serve as a fourth outfielder, but he played semi-regularly for much of April and May due to the team’s numerous outfield injuries. He batted .327 in those first two months, but largely stopped hitting at mid-season. From June 19 on, he batted just 233/260/344. The lack of power, walks or speed greatly limited his production. He also was a major defensive liability, leaving him well below replacement level overall, with a -0.7 fWAR.
Cabrera was a major help to the Pirates early in the season, when almost nobody on the team was hitting, but he was a liability after that. Despite the team having a lot of injuries, he played only sparingly toward the end of the season, which may indicate the Pirates don’t intend to try to bring him back. It’d be best if they didn’t.
|2019: $1,150,000, plus $850,000 in incentives
|Signing Bonus: $175,000
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 7/7/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: 2019
MLB FA Eligible: 2019
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 7/7/2005 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 12.077
|November 13, 2001: Signed by the New York Yankees as an international free agent.
July 7, 2005: Contract purchased by the New York Yankees.
December 22, 2009: Traded by the New York Yankees with Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaino and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
October 18, 2010: Released by the Atlanta Braves.
December 12, 2010: Signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Royals.
November 7, 2011: Traded by the Kansas City Royals to the San Francisco Giants for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo.
October 29, 2012: Became a free agent.
November 16, 2012: Signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
October 30, 2014: Became a free agent.
December 15, 2014: Signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox.
July 30, 2017: Traded by the Chicago White Sox with cash to the Kansas City Royals for A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis.
November 2, 2017: Became a free agent.
April 23, 2018: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Cleveland Indians.
May 20, 2018: Called up by the Cleveland Indians.
June 14, 2018: Designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians; outrighted to AAA on June 16, refused assignment and became a free agent on June 18.
July 5, 2018: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Cleveland Indians.
July 20, 2018: Called up by the Cleveland Indians.
October 29, 2018: Became a free agent.
February 10, 2019: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
March 28, 2019: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.