Ned Yost revamped the batting order for last night’s game and was rewarded with 11 hits, but only two runs. A massively changed order is, of course, easy fodder for a column. However, after Yost inserted Melky Cabrera and his .315 on-base percentage into the leadoff spot and was rewarded with two hits and a walk, what is one to say?
Melky Cabrera, after hitting .255/.317/.354 in an unenthused, out of shape campaign for Atlanta in 2010, was not greeted with much anticipation by the Royals’ fan base this off-season. I think to a lot of followers, Cabrera has been a nice surprise thus far. He did show up in shape, seems to play hard and has hit better than most of us expected.
That said, Melky is currently sporting a line of .277/.319/.435 for a career high OPS+ of 111. Still, that really is basically what Melky Cabrera has always been. Throwing out 2010, he compiled a career line with the Yankees of .269/.331/.385. If Melky’s power surge (his current slugging percentage is also a career high) continues throughout the season he will certainly enjoy the best year of his career, but nothing dramatically greater than what he did as a 21 year old rookie five years ago.
Now, do not take this as a criticism of the Royals’ centerfielder. He has, quite frankly, been fine this year, but don’t get carried away. Cabrera remains basically the same player Allard Baird tried to trade Reggie Sanders for twice only to be derailed by Sanders incredibly poorly timed bouts with hamstringitis.
With a current WAR (per Fangraphs) of 1.7, Cabrera has already tied his career high in that category, so kudos to Dayton Moore for what is a nice, cheap off-season pickup, but again let’s not get carried away. Melky Cabrera is who he is, with a little more power. In the field, he is David DeJesus with a better arm and a better reputation. At the plate, he is a hitter who has not topped a .336 on-base percentage in five years. He is who he is – just like Jeff Francouer.
Certainly as likeable player as anyone on the roster for the past decade, Francouer started 2011 on a hot streak and endeared himself to almost all of us with some timely hits and great outfield throws. Still, we wake up this morning to find Jeff hitting .257/.304/.429. His career line is .267/.309/.425. Francouer is Francouer, no matter the uniform.
So, the Royals sit here in late June, out of the race once more with two 27 year old outfielders with serious time on their major league resumes who are basically performing exactly as they always have: maybe even a little better in the case of Cabrera. What do you do?
Should the Royals keep them both and avoid the Facebook outrage over ‘always trading our best players!?###’, move one or move both? Is there even a market for Melky and the Frenchman?
Due to their age and reasonable contracts, both have some allure in that you get a player in his supposed physical prime, but with a long history in the majors. Contenders like to know what they are getting and in both players they have a pretty good idea. That makes both a somewhat safe option for a successful team looking to fill a void on their mid-season roster.
We can be fairly certain that, with Lorenzo Cain in Omaha, Dayton Moore is certainly listening on Melky Cabrera. His personal affinity for Jeff Francouer makes it less certain he would deal Frenchy. Truthfully, I would market Francouer, who brings a clubhouse presence, more certain defense and the ability to tatoo left-handed pitching. Even though Cabrera is the better player, I have a hunch Francouer might actually bring a better return in a trade.
I could live with an outfield of Gordon-Cain-Cabrera this summer. Heck, I can live with Gordon-Cain-Francouer, too. At this point