Ricescapades: What Of Melky?

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Melky Cabrera's dream season was cut short by a buffoonish PED suspension. Will he still be a productive fantasy player when he returns to the diamond in 2013?

Before we move on, I just have to say, isn't playoff baseball great? In this first round alone, we haven't been subjected to a single dud of a series, and depending on the result of tonight's Orioles-Yankees game, all four matchups could go the full five games. You can't say that in most years. Or any year, actually, since it's never happened before in the history of the LDS. We've already had two-walk off home runs, one come-from-behind ninth-inning elimination game victory, one historic come-from-behind series win, and Jim Brockmire.

Just watching the Giants claw their way back to a series win after being down 2-0 was so aggravating that I'm sure that people around me thought I was going through a mental breakdown. I had to assure my co-workers that, no, the reason I was losing all my hair and cursing non-stop like a supporting character in a Mamet play was because of a baseball game, not because I was losing my marbles. This probably led them to be even more afraid for me, but what the heck. October baseball: It brings out the maniac in all of us.

As we come to a close on this exciting first round of postseason ball, I'm going to discuss a player who won't be making an appearance in the playoffs, despite the fact that his team is there, and even though he himself put up All-Star-caliber numbers in 2012. I'm referring to Melky Cabrera, of course.

The story of Melky is well-known by now. The Giants stole Cabrera from the Royals in the offseason, obtaining him for the rotting remains of Jonathan Sanchez. Cabrera proceeded to become a Bay Area sensation, tearing through the National League like a man on a mission through the first few months of the season. He had 51 hits and hit .429 in the month of May, and he quickly became one of the most popular players in Giants history. He invigorated an entire fan base, and gave these guys a reason to live. He kept hitting all the way through the All-Star Break, and even won All Star Game MVP honors. As the sun rose on the morning of August 15th, Cabrera's batting line stood at a scalding .346/.390/.516. His fantasy owners rejoiced.

Unfortunately, that was also the day that Cabrera got suspended 50 games for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone, a suspension that pretty much ended his season. For those fantasy owners relying on Cabrera's production to fuel their title run, it was a crushing blow. Suddenly, instead of having a guy OPSing over .900 and amassing double-digit steals, owners were left with a gaping hole to be filled with unappetizing waiver wire fodder. Giants fans, teammates, and, especially, fantasy players, turned on Cabrera with a snap of the fingers.

So Cabrera is sort of in limbo right now. The Giants were talking extension this summer, but when the PED story broke, he was basically excommunicated from the franchise, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before they have him back. So he's a free agent with a big scarlet "S" on his chest, and it's unclear how well he'll play or what the market will be for his services come next season. Many teams might shy away simply because they don't want to deal with a player with the steroid stink on him. Some might legitimately question his ability to maintain his All-Star performance now that he's been "outed" and is supposedly PED-free. Others just might not want to associate with a guy who set up an elaborate ruse to fool MLB investigators and thus is fairly obviously guilty of not only using, but being a dishonest tool while doing it.

So let's say Cabrera is signed by some daring team, and he opens 2012 as somebody's left fielder. Will he continue to hit, even without benefit of whatever the hell it was he was taking? Will be be worth a draft pick, at any point in next year's draft? Well, Cabrera's BABIP in 2012 was seventy points above his career mark, so he was probably due to regress whether he got busted or not. Whether or not PEDs can increase your ability to hit line drives and thus maintain a high BABIP is a question to be answered by someone smarter than me, but I think it's safe to say that Cabrera's days of hitting near .350 were numbered.

So the question is where does he go in a fantasy draft? Is he worth more than a late-round flyer? Well, one person dropped him in my keeper league, which I thought was a little reactionary. He'll be 28 next year, and it's very possible his career-year was just an age-27 breakout and not the product of the juice. Depending on where he lands, he's one of the top hit-or-miss players in fantasy baseball next season.

Which leads to my prediction of where Cabrera is going to end up. Here's my crazy, somewhat-educated guess: Oakland. The A's front office is contrarian enough to buck the taboo on bringing in steroid guys and they're a smart enough franchise to pounce on a potential deal. Cabrera's value will likely never be lower, and I doubt many teams will be in a hurry to issue him a multi-year deal. Given his recent Bay Area ties and his probable cheapness, I think the A's will go after him, with the idea that they're getting an All-Star for dirt cheap. This is the team that became famous for exploiting market inefficiencies, after all. Given Oakland's tendency to zig when everybody else zags, I really wouldn't be surprised to see Melky in green and gold next season.

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