Rumors of a possible Melky Cabrera for Mike Gonzalez deal continue to swirl. We may know more when the Post-Gazette goes up in a few minutes, but we do know that the deal isn't done yet - a recent Rotowire article implied that it was, but their source (linked above) doesn't actually say the deal is on.
In any case, who is Melky Cabrera, and should we want him? You all already know what I think of this - I've already said I'm in favor of the deal. Now I'd like to explain a little about why.
Cabrera is extremely young. He turned 22 in August and will play most of next season at that age. The only current Pirate to make any sort of impact in the majors before turning 22 was Sean Burnett, who pitched 70 mediocre innings in the majors at 21 in 2004. So, unlike a lot of the rookies who've arrived in Pittsburgh recently, Cabrera really does have a lot of headroom.
His control of the strike zone is excellent - he had 56 walks against 59 strikeouts in the majors last year. He hits well for contact. He's a switch hitter, and most pitchers are right handed, so he'll take most of his at bats from the left side.
All of this is to say that there's reason to hope that his power will come along, and PNC Park would be a very good place for him if that happens.
Some scouts doubt Cabrera's ability to hit for power in the majors, mostly because he hits so many balls on the ground. Cabrera's ratio of grounders to fly balls in his career so far is 1.48.
That is high, and I think it's safe to say that Cabrera isn't ever going to lead the league in homers, but I'm not sure it should be a huge problem. For example, Bobby Abreu was older than Cabrera was when he first made an impact in the majors, and Abreu's ratio in his first two years combined was 1.42. In subsequent years it remained pretty high, but his homer totals still rose in each of his first four seasons.
Even if Cabrera never becomes a major power threat, though, there's a whole lot to like about him. He's a solid all-around hitter who should hit for high averages and draw a fair number of walks. Unlike so many Pirates, he plays solid defense. And he's very cheap.
UPDATE: The Post-Gazette confirms that there have been discussions between the Yankees and Pirates regarding this deal.