The Orioles Should Pursue Melky Cabrera Instead Of Nelson Cruz

Sports and Bets — November 24, 2014 at 2:17 pm by

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Before I even begin my argument here, I’m just going to acknowledge the fact that most people will hate this idea. Nelson Cruz is a lovable guy, while Melky Cabrera is kind of a douche. I also want to say that I absolutely love Nelson Cruz, and will forever be grateful for what he did for our ’14 Orioles. That being said, let’s look at the potential contracts for these two, and what they could bring to the Orioles.

Both players are said to be seeking 5 year deals. Cruz is currently 34-years-old, while Melky is only 30. If hypothetically both of these players get deals of this length, then Cruz will be getting paid a huge salary until he’s 39. I don’t want Cruz on the Orioles until he’s old and washed up. A slugger at that age can no longer be productive enough to be worth a high salary. See Vladimir Guerrero. If the Orioles sign Cabrera, they would only be committed to him until he’s 35, an age at which it is still very likely that he can be productive.

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The home run power of Nelson Cruz is undeniable- for now. Five years down the road, it’s very likely he’s only going to be a 15-20 a year home run guy. I don’t want to be shelling out the kind of money that he’s going to demand for pedestrian power numbers. Melky did hit 16 home runs last year, so he does carry a little bit of power, but obviously this fails in comparison to Nelson’s 40 bombs. However, Cabrera did still hit 73 RBIs, which is only 35 short of Nelson’s 108. 35 runs driven in is a significant amount, however the O’s are going to be getting a healthy Wieters and Machado back, so the home runs and RBIs will be able to come from other spots in the lineup. Let’s not forget that Wieters was on an absolute tear the first month of the season before getting hurt. There is also no way Chris Davis can be as bad in ’15 as he was in ’14, and his numbers should be up from where they were last year. These three players, along with Melky Cabrera, can replace the power numbers lost by Cruz’s departure. Cabrera also had three more doubles than Cruz did this past season, and scored only 6 fewer runs than Cruz.

Let’s also not forget that even though Cabrera’s power numbers are not what Cruz’s were, his average was significantly higher- as in 30 points higher. Melky would likely hit higher in the lineup than Cruz (I’m thinking the 2 or 3 hole if Markakis stays in Baltimore), where getting on base is more of a priority than power is. Cabrera has also hit in the leadoff spot before, and if the O’s lose Markakis, that is a spot that will desperately need to be filled. I don’t really see anyone else on the current Orioles roster that could lead off a ball game, with the exception of De Aza, however, I don’t want to rely on him to be my everyday lead off hitter. Cabrera also offers a small amount of speed, and stole 6 bases this year. Obviously that isn’t a significant number, but it’s something. He stole 20 bases in 2011 with the Royals.

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The argument about defense is obvious. Cruz played a decent left field last year, but Melky is undoubtedly better, and has more speed, along with a better arm. I think ideally the O’s would like to keep Cruz as a full time DH, and have Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce rotate in left field. This is dependent on keeping Nick Markakis of course. Markakis’s future in Baltimore is unclear, and although it’s likely the O’s resign him, it’s far from a done deal. Cabrera offers you more versatility when making your defensive lineup, and could even play a full time right field if Markakis moves on. He started four games in right last year with the Blue Jays. If the O’s did manage to keep Markakis and sign Melky Cabrera, they could start De Aza in left and have Cabrera DH against righties, and start Cabrera in left and have Pearce DH against lefties. Defensively Cabrera just gives the Orioles more options than Cruz does, especially if they are unable to keep Markakis.

All of this brings us down to the overall contract value. Melky Cabrera is predicted to sign a contract worth around 66.25 million dollars over 5 years (13.25 million/yr). Although Cruz is seeking a five year deal, MLB Trade Rumors predicts he will eventually sign a four year deal worth 70 million (17.5 million/yr). If these estimates hold up, Cabrera could be around for a year longer, for less total money. Melky Cabrera has received a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, so if the Orioles wanted to sign him, they would lose their first draft pick. However, the O’s offered a qualifying deal to Cruz, so if he signs somewhere else, they would get that team’s first pick.

Clearly the power in the O’s lineup (headlined by Nelson Cruz), along with the very good pitching, is what won the Orioles the AL East this year. However we all saw in the ALCS that when the power bats are failing, we needed more guys who can get on base and manufacture runs. Melky Cabrera could do that for the O’s.

If these two players are going head-to-head next year (or even two years from now), obviously I want Nelson Cruz on my team. But if I’m the GM of the Orioles, I have to be thinking about signing Melky Cabrera instead. He will be making significantly less per year, and in all likelihood, the back end of Cruz’s contract will be a bad deal. Signing Cabrera would free up room to keep Nick Markakis, or even bring in another free agent, whereas if the O’s keep Cruz, I’m not sure they will bring back Markakis, and I definitely don’t see them doing much else in the free agent market. Peter Angelos is still the owner, after all.

PS- In no way do I want to see Nelson Cruz play in another uniform, and I’ll be incredibly excited if the O’s bring him back. But if I’m Dan Duquette, knowing that I have a limited budget to spend, I’d have to let him walk before signing him to a four or five year deal.

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