Brought in by the team for a tryout early in spring training 1.0 in February, the Mets once again called on Melky Cabrera after summer camp 2.0 was announced, signing the outfielder as a free agent in late June. The veteran of 15 MLB seasons was promptly added to the team’s 60-man player pool and has been working out with the team since, seeing time both in the outfield and at first base.
Cabrera spent his 2019 in Pittsburgh. Over 133 games with the Pirates, he slashed .280/.313/.399, good for a .713 OPS. A productive regular for several teams in his late 20s, Cabrera recorded between 1.8-4.5 bWAR every season between 2011 and 2016 save for an injury shortened 2013. More of a journeyman over the last few seasons, last year’s -1.3 bWAR marked the lowest of Melky’s career. Never considered an above-average defender even in his prime, Cabrera’s metrics have been dragged down starkly over the last few seasons due his declining defensive metrics. Last season Cabrera recorded a 0.3 oWAR, but -2.0 dWAR.
The numbers look pretty disappointing overall, and Cabrera is clearly a player in decline. It is easy to be skeptical of any signing where the first benefit you hear cited is the infamous “veteran presence.” However, Cabrera was poorly deployed last season as a second division semi-regular, where his 80 starts in the outfield badly exposed his defensive shortcomings.
The Cabrera signing provides the Mets with some depth in their 2020 player pool. One could be optimistic and hope that Melky could provide some utility in this unusual season, whether as a switch-hitting option off off the bench—where his contact oriented bat could be particularly given this season’s unusual extra inning rules—or for possible spot DH duty, where his glove would not come into play. Though hoping for an offensive rebound from a now 35 year old outfielder—and proper player deployment by his new franchise—might be a bit much to ask.