Free-agent matchmaker: Melky Cabrera

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Where will Melky Cabrera go? Where should he go?

I experimented with testosterone once. I was in the parking lot of a Lamb of God show, my bros had a couple racks of Keystone, and when I woke up, I was covered with hair like Robin Williams. But I've never intentionally taken the stuff. And I've certainly never tried to play baseball on it. I've always been something of a PED agnostic because guys like Manny Alexander would get popped along with Barry Bonds. Whatever PEDs were doing, it wasn't enough to make a bad player good.

At least, that was my previous position. A couple of things changed my mind. The first was the the testosterone-aided renaissance of Bartolo Colon, who came back after being idle, hurt, and old for a baseball player. The second was Melky Cabrera. His stat line is so perfectly split down the middle -- bad Melky on the top, great Melky on the bottom -- that you pictured him opening a can of testosterone as the Popeye theme played and becoming much, much better.

His career, recently:

Year Age Tm PA 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 25 ATL 509 27 3 4 .255 .317 .354 .671
2011 26 KCR 706 44 5 18 .305 .339 .470 .809
2012 27 SFG 501 25 10 11 .346 .390 .516 .906
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/8/2012.


His biggest contribution to the Braves in the 2010 playoffs was when he couldn't catch up to a 91-m.p.h. fastball. That was a theme in that series, just like it was for the entire season before it. Then, over the offseason, he got good. Then, over the next offseason, he got even better. It was really odd, until it really wasn't. Rarely has a suspension made so much sense.

Which might be more coincidence than clinical trial. But that's the question on the mind of every organization interested in Melky. It isn't, "What will our fans think?", it's "So … is he good, or what?"

Here's a look at where Melky might go, and where he'd go for maximum effect and entertainment.

The favorite

The Tampa Bay Rays have built something of a reputation as a team that's willing to overlook personal history. The Mos Eisley Rays, if you will. They acquired Matt Bush on purpose, and they did the same thing with Josh Lueke. They also employ Sam Fuld, who probably did something awful in his life, but I haven't finished reading through his Wikipedia footnotes yet, so that's up in the air.

I'm not sure if that's a fair reputation -- two players does not an organizational philosophy make -- so let's ignore it. Let's just think about baseball sense. Fuld isn't just a fancy Wikipedia page; he's also the projected starter, at least against right-handers. Which, yeah. The Rays will add an outfielder.

The Rays remain in win-now mode, so they would want this outfielder to be good. Please, please, hear me out. But they don't have a lot of money to spend. You can see how Melky makes a lot of sense for the Rays already. They can't really afford a Pat Burrell-like flop again, but the reward of a cheap, effective Melky outweighs the risk. He'll certainly be motivated, which was reportedly part of the problem in Atlanta.

The ideal

Oh, to have an extra space in the Dodgers' outfield. When Melky returned to Atlanta, the fans razzed him mercilessly, and he spent an entire game freaking out (see here and here). Probably because he was hopped up on testosterone smoothies. That would be nothing compared to the reaction from the fans if he returned to AT&T Park as a Dodger. It would be delirious.

Alas, there's no fit there. The closest he could get to a Giants rival would be Philadelphia, who could also use a corner outfielder who isn't going to cost a lot. That would also give him plenty of crotch-chopping games against the Braves, too.

But as a player, he fits, too. The Phillies don't have the most inspiring lineup in place right now, so they're likely to add an outfielder, too. A Melky signing would allow them to avoid something silly, like Nate Schierholtz in the lineup/#2 spot, or Domonic Brown in a pressure sandwich between Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. A switch-hitter like Melky could also split the lefties in the middle of the order, Utley and Ryan Howard.

Plus, if he flops, he would be a delightful player to boo, right? Came from a quasi-rival, adorned with the scarlet S, and bad? That's a PR boon for the Phillies, really.

Begrudging prediction:
Rays, 2 years, $18 million

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