Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to bury Melky Cabrera. I simply think he’s vastly overrated (and, incidentally, think that if any GM overrates him so, we should see what we can get for him). His arm is valuable in center, but as I’ve continually noted, he often takes poor routes to balls, resulting in him making fewer plays than he should given his range. Dave Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range agrees with me. It actually rates Melky below Johnny Damon in center.
Now, this clearly isn’t a flawed metric. I think we can all see, on the whole, that Melky is better defensively in center than Damon at this point in his career. However, that’s heavily considering Melky’s arm. When it comes to ability to get to batted balls, they’re on more even ground. If there’s a gap shot to right center, I’d actually feel more comfortable with Damon running it down than Melky (though that’s just one man’s opinion). But on a medium fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs, you and I would both rather have Melky there.
Anyway, I just wanted to use PMR to illustrate that point. Johnny Damon is by no means a poor center fielder. He just has Berniearm. And yes, in many ways that can hurt us over the course of a season. But if we were to get a quality offer for Melky, I would be totally comfortable with Damon starting the year in center field. Check that: as long as Matsui isn’t in left. I understand how poor that would make our outfield defense.