Oh, this will be fun. Today's target? The controversial Melky Cabrera.
Who is he?
Despite what seemed like a million years of him trudging through the New York Yankees' farm system, Cabrera is still only 28 years old. After 4+ seasons with the Yankees, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2010 season. Cabrera had an awful season with the Braves, leading him to sign with the Kansas City Royals in 2011. Cabrera's breakout 2011 season wasn't impressive enough for the Royals' front office though, because they traded him to the San Francisco Giants prior to this year. Prior to his 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), Cabrera was having a monster season, hitting .346/.390/.516.
Why should we care?
For one, he will likely be a steal in terms of contract value. There hasn't been a lot of buzz about Cabrera since the whole suspension fiasco, and the fact that the Giants won the World Series without him has only hurt his value. Whoever signs Cabrera this offseason will be getting a solid player who can field all three outfield positions and put up some decent offensive numbers to boot.
Another big factor in Cabrera's favor is his age. I don't want to get into a huge discussion about the effect of PEDs on performance, but the jump in numbers over the past two seasons is actually fairly common for players in their late 20s. His jump from 2011 to 2012 is a little excessive, but not out of the question. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Cabrera would be able to replicate his very solid 2011 numbers in the upcoming 2013 season, especially considering how well he hit away from the cavernous AT&T Park last year. Cabrera hit .367/.420/.595 on the road last year, which is equatable to Magglio Ordonez's .363/.434/.595 production from 2007. Yeah, those are some scary good numbers.
Why should we stay away?
I could list a number of different things, but everything inevitably goes back to the whole steroid issue. Last year's spike in productivity was a little spooky, but not out of the question. Cabrera's walk rate has hovered around 7-8% throughout most of his career, and I'd imagine that his respective increases in batting average and slugging percentage in 2012 were largely due to a .379 BABIP.
There is also the chance that Cabrera's PED issues will follow him everywhere he goes from now until the end of time. However, outside of New York or Boston, I can't think of a media base that will grill Cabrera to no end for what happened last year. The fact that he got busted as a member of the Giants (as opposed to the Yankees) makes a huge difference, and the lack of publicity that he has received this offseason works in his favor as well.
Will he end up in Detroit?
It's tough to say. The Tigers haven't been the type of franchise to seek out players with outside baggage in the past, but Cabrera's situation is truly the first of its kind. There has never been a marquee player that hit the free agent market after being suspended for PEDs, and I'd imagine that other MLB GMs are just as puzzled about Cabrera's status as I am. Would I like to see Cabrera in Detroit? Absolutely. He's probably the best outfielder on the open market not named Josh Hamilton and would come at a severely reduced price for the type of production that he will likely provide in 2013.