The Chicago Cubs need to improve a roster that won 61 games during the 2012 MLB season. At the same time, they can't bog themselves down with Alfonso Soriano-types of contracts. As they develop young talent through their farm system, the Cubs need to find some stopgap players who can help them play more competitively in 2013.
What about San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera? For the Cubs, a short-term contract with Cabrera is the perfect "Low risk, high reward" type of player that they should pursue.
Why Cabrera Can Help
Cabrera is a solid defensive outfielder who enjoyed his best season as a hitter in 2012. In 459 at-bats, Cabrera had a .346 batting average with 84 runs, 60 RBIs, 11 home runs and a .906 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). He was also 13-of-18 on steal attempts.
The Cubs need another middle-of-the-order hitter. Cabrera was at his best when he was a No. 3 hitter. In 364 at-bats, Cabrera had a .363 batting average with 70 runs, 52 RBIs, 10 home runs and a .948 OPS. Starlin Castro could return to his comfort zone: No. 2 hitter.
Cabrera is a switch hitter. He's productive on both sides of the plate. In 129 at-bats as a right-handed batter, he had a 1.111 OPS. Cabrera has a 4.6 wins-above-replacement rating (WAR). That's higher than Josh Hamilton, who has a 3.3 WAR.
Cabrera was in line for the 2012 National League batting title. However, he declared himself ineligible. Cabrera is serving a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for testosterone. Cabrera made matters worse after he created a fake website that included a fictitious product. MLB was supposed to believe that Cabrera had purchased a supplement that was fraudulently spiked with testosterone. The Giants left him off the postseason roster.
What does this mean for Cabrera? He's a free agent this offseason. The Giants likely won't re-sign him. Before Cabrera gets a big payday, there's a chance that he'll have to prove himself again. How much trust can a team put into Cabrera? There's no reason to think that Cabrera won't stay on his best behavior. If this behavior continues, he'll cost himself tens of millions.
Give Brett Jackson More Reps At Triple-A Iowa
The Cubs need more production from their outfielders. While Alfonso Soriano enjoyed his best season with the team, there's no telling how much he has left in the tank. David DeJesus is a good defensive outfielder and solid on-base percentage (OBP) player. As for power or slugging, he doesn't offer much.
What about Brett Jackson? Jackson made his MLB debut in 2012. He didn't impress. In 120 at-bats, Jackson had a .175 batting average with four home runs and nine RBIs. He had a horrendous strikeout-to-walk ratio of 59-to-22. He struck out in 49.2 percent of his at-bats.
The Cubs need more power from their outfielders. They can't have another scenario where they don't hit a home run until the fourth week of the season. Cabrera would give them a little more pop in their lineup. It gives Jackson (or any prospect) more time to develop at Triple-A Iowa.
Low Risk, High Reward?
The suspension will raise some suspicious eyes. At the same time, there's a chance that he's signed at a bargain. If Cabrera is available for a short-term contract (no more than three years) with no trade clause, then why not sign him? If Cabrera is a bust, then he's gone after a couple years. If Cabrera excels, then his past transgressions are forgiven.
Potential 2013 Lineup With Cabrera
It's not an intimidating lineup. Assuming Starlin Castro returns as the No. 2 hitter, the bottom-half of the order would look atrocious. It's an improvement though. They've got to find some type of stopgap player at third base.
CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
RF Melky Cabrera
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
C Welington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months. HERE is his Twitter.
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