Cabrera not only failed a drug test, at least one associate tried to create a fake website for a supplement company to contrive a cover story that Cabrera’s positive results were from a tainted supplement. So teams definitely will investigate him in a significant way. Still, morality will not stand in the way of most clubs adding offense, especially if the offense is a bargain.
After the All-Star Game, there was talk Cabrera, a 28-year-old switch-hitter, would command a five-year contract worth as much as $75 million, maybe more. But in the group of executives with whom I spoke, one thought Cabrera could get two years at $10 million to $12 million, another said one year at $8 million to $10 million. But the large majority saw Cabrera having to take a one-year deal in the $2 million-to-$5 million range. He will have to use 2013 as a forum to prove he is a quality player.
Well, presumably you know why not: Cabrera tested positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2012, then had someone set up that fake supplement company. If those are the types of behaviors that could forever prevent you from wanting to watch a guy play baseball, that’s your right, but there’s nothing for you below.
My sense of right and wrong often extends right up to what the Mets need to do to win more games. And while I think breaking the rules of a sport to be better at it (and make more money in it) certainly falls on the darker side of the moral grayscale, it’s a decision I am apparently willing to abide — especially in cases like Melky’s, since he served his league-mandated punishment and will now be financially penalized, as Sherman’s article notes. Plus, I have no idea how other free-agent outfielders spend their free time, so I can’t even say for certain that Melky’s indiscretions are in any way more depraved than the daily endeavors of Cody Ross. I try not to use ballplayers as compasses for anything other than how to play ball. Cabrera’s decision seems like a stupid one, but it’s hard to even say that for sure without knowing how many guys get away with the same.
And if you look at the stats on baseball players suspended for steroid use, it’s hard to discern any atypical pattern of decline after a player’s been caught and (presumably) stopped juicing. (That could mean they just took up steroids again, of course.) Cabrera’s offensive explosion in 2011 may look a bit suspicious with the information we now have, but also came in his age-26 season — an age at which he should be expected to improve. His inflated batting average in 2012 seems to have come more from a flukishly high batting average on balls in play than from a needle, and Cabrera likely won’t repeat that. But even if he regresses to his 2011 totals, he’d be a steal at less than $5 million for one year.
The Mets need outfielders, you’ll remember, and they’re not going to have a lot of money to spend pursuing them. Dumpster diving requires some open-mindedness. Cabrera hits from both sides of the plate with no massive platoon split and can capably field a corner.
The biggest concerns with Cabrera, as far as I can see, are that on a one-year deal he wouldn’t doing anything to help the Mets’ future and that he doesn’t walk enough. The former might even be worth addressing with a club option for 2014 — even if it meant a slightly higher guaranteed salary in 2013. The latter means he could be in for a long season if his BABIP normalizes, a problem that would inevitably be made all the more frustrating when it was chalked up to his lack of steroids. But if Dave Hudgens could help Ronny Cedeno to a serviceable on-base percentage than there’s probably no task too great, and it’s not like the Mets can afford to be too choosy right now.