The Melk Man Cometh.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have come to terms with veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel was first with the news.
#Pirates sign OF Melky Cabrera. He gets NRI to spring training.— Rob Biertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) February 10, 2019
The 34 year old Cabrera slashed .280/.335/.420 with six home runs over 278 PAs for the Cleveland Indians last season.
In his prime, Cabrera’s strong batting average and on-base percentage were reliant on a high BABIP clip. Now that he’s lost a step, his BABIP and total offensive output have dropped to roughly league average levels over the past few years.
He is still hitting the ball hard, though. His average exit velocity last season was 90.4 MPH, which is better than any Pirate with at least 25 batted balls in 2018. The trade-off is he struggled getting the ball in the air, finishing in the bottom 10 among outfielders in fly ball percentage.
It had previously been reported the Pirates may continue searching for other outfielders on minor league deals to compete for a backup job. If they were looking for a potential platoon-mate for the left-handed Lonnie Chisenhall, Cabrera could be an option. The switch-hitter posted a 127 wRC+ against southpaws last season.
Cabrera will join veterans J.B. Shuck and Patrick Kivlehan and prospect Bryan Reynolds as the Pirates’ NRI outfielders this spring.
Jon Heyman reports Cabrera can make up to $2 million with incentives.