The San Francisco Giants were left reeling when Melky Cabrera was tagged with a 50-game suspension in August of 2012 for failing a drug test. At the time, Cabrera was the most difficult out in all of baseball, registering a gaudy .346 batting average with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in 501 plate appearances. He was a crucial component of a team with serious World Series aspirations and was also on the verge of winning a batting title.
After news broke that Cabrera would be suspended, the Giants appeared like a team bound for a stretch run collapse. It didn’t play out like that, though. The Giants avoided elimination six times in the 2012 MLB postseason and plowed over the Detroit Tigers to win their second championship in a span of three seasons, and they did it without Cabrera.
Cabrera’s reportedly silent exit from the Giants clubhouse left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and former teammates. Some wonder if Cabrera’s decision to withhold his selfish consumption of synthetic testosterone was a product of the language barrier. Others think it’s possible that Cabrera was instructed by his representation to avoid confrontation at all costs.
No matter what his reasoning, Cabrera had officially severed ties with the Giants, despite never saying a word. It was blatantly clear the “Melk Man” wouldn’t be donning orange and black ever again; at least, not until the 2015 season.
The Giants have faced major difficulty in trying to find a permanent solution in left field ever since the departure of Barry Bonds in 2007. They seemingly found that solution in 2012, but Cabrera’s selfish display prevented it from coming to fruition. The Giants have tried everything. They’ve most recently taken a flier on defensively-challenged power hitter Michael Morse, who has performed up to expectations for the most part, but hasn’t been much of a threat offensively since the first week of June. His severe lack of outfield range has also arguably cost the Giants a chance at winning a few close ball games.
The Giants have tried platooning below-average hitters who flaunt above-average defensive capabilities, like Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco, hoping the remainder of the lineup could make up for whatever deficiency the pair accounted for at the plate. That didn’t work. Giants left fielders have recorded a whopping five home runs in 2013. Morse has at least more than doubled that (14) in 2014.
San Francisco needs a clear-cut answer in left field, and given the weak pool of free agent talent in the upcoming offseason, targeting Cabrera might be the best option. Giants fans aren’t exactly unaccustomed to so-called cheaters. Take Bonds, for example. They would surely learn to forgive Cabrera if he were to produce at level similar to what he’s accomplished this year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Cabrera currently owns a .318 average with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in a league-leading 118 games this season. His .855 OPS in 530 plate appearances is 81 points better than the figure belonging to Buster Posey (.774). He’s an important part of a Blue Jays lineup that averages over 4.5 runs per game, scoring a team-best 72 runs from the top of the order.
The Giants face several big decisions this offseason, primarily whether or not to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and determining if Posey should change positions. Left field remains a problem, though, and Cabrera could be the answer the Giants have been searching for over the better part of a decade — even if it wouldn’t be politically correct.