Melky Cabrera has reportedly signed with the Blue Jays on a two-year deal for $16 million. This is significant for fantasy owners, as he's back in the American League once more, and has left an offense-suppressing park for one that leans more towards hitter.
Before diving in, a note on his being caught with performance-enhancers in 2012. It's tough to know just what effect -- if any -- taking PEDs had on Cabrera or his production. The safest thing to do here, from a valuation point of view, is to think slightly less of Cabrera just in case, but more importantly, because many out there will assume that he's worth far less than he was. Essentially, use what other people do not know, but think they know, to your own advantage.
Cabrera was out of shape in 2010, to the point where his numbers are basically meaningless today. The Cabrera of the last two seasons, one who kept himself in better condition, hit .322/.360/.489 combined between the Royals and Giants. There's a lot of production coming from his batting average there, but there's a little bit of power, too.
Should Cabrera's batting average slip to pre-2011 levels, then his value takes a serious hit. There just isn't enough power to justify holding on to a Cabrera who can't hit .290 or better, especially since his stolen bases totals aren't that great. Don't expect him to replicate last year's batting average, since his batting average on balls in play was an absurd .379 at the time of his suspension, and likely would have fallen before the year was out. There's reason to believe he will keep hitting in spite of this, though, as Cabrera's career was a little weird before the last few years.
He was the #15 prospect in the Midwest League in 2004, and the #7 prospect for the Yankees at the end of the same season. He was just 19 then, but amazingly, less than a year away from making his big-league debut. Cabrera was in the bigs at 20, and again at 21. He wasn't great, but considering how short his time in the minors was, and his youth, hitting .280/.360/.391 was impressive. That was the best he would do in a Yankee uniform, though, as he bounced between the majors and minors a bit for the next few years, spending time in the majors that maybe should have been spent in the minors, where he could develop at his own pace.
He was 25 while with the Braves, at the point many gave up on him as a useful player. Just 25, not much older, if at all, than some Triple-A prospects plenty still have faith in. There were reasons to doubt Cabrera, but he's done a very good job in the last two years, and while it's understandable to be a little leery of him going forward, it's worth keeping an open mind on him. He's maintained some of the power he flashed when he was younger. He's improved upon the better averages he posted in his youth. He doesn't strike out often, his walk rate and discipline are better than they were in Atlanta, and hey, his awful defense doesn't count against you in fantasy.
He's not the perfect player, but he's a useful piece in mixed leagues, and, like in 2011, once again someone to own in AL-only.