The Mets have announced the signing of 35-year-old switch-hitting outfielder Melky Cabrera. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training, and adds Cabrera to New York’s player pool. Following four other deals today, with fellow OF Ryan Cordell, RHPs Erasmo Ramírez and Hunter Strickland, and INF Gordon Beckham, the Mets pool is currently at 50 players.
Cabrera is a former All-Star who will turn 36 in August. His bat has always had to make up for significant defensive limitations, and he’s been better served as a DH or spot starter in a corner outfield spot for the past half decade. Cabrera’s 15-year career has been built around excellent contact skills, avoiding strikeouts and running a career batting average of .285.
Unfortunately, as he’s aged, his power has slipped along with his defense, leaving less and less to back up the otherwise promising batting average. Last year, with the Pirates, Cabrera slashed .280/.313/.399 in 133 games. While his career began as a Yankees signee back in 2001, Cabrera has spent seasons with eight clubs at the big league level. After a single season with the Braves, Cabrera spent time with the Royals, Giants, Blue Jays, White Sox, Royals again, before heading to Cleveland in 2018 and Pittsburgh last year. His All-Star appearance came in 2012, where he was the ASG MVP and had the best season of his career. That season, however, was cut short in August with a 50-game PED suspension.
If the Melk Man manages to make the roster, he’ll have a bit of a milestone chase, as he is 38 hits shy of 2,000, with 1,962 big league base knocks to date. Unfortunately, Cabrera is coming off the worst season of his career by Baseball Reference’s WAR metric, at -1.3 wins above replacement. The Mets seem intent on using their player pool for immediate big league depth, at least to start camp, and with ten spots still unused, they have a great deal of flexibility in using those slots. Cabrera will compete with Cordell, Jarrett Parker, and Matt Adams for an outfield depth/bench bat/DH role. The health and availability of Dom Smith and Yoenis Cespedes will also play a major role in Cabrera’s chances of reaching Queens.