When April ended, a baseball lifetime ago, the three of us here at River Ave. Blues were eating our words a bit when it came to one Melky Cabrera. Long doubters of the long-term viability of the Yanks’ center fielder, we had just witnessed Melky put up a .299/.370/.494 line with five home runs and 12 RBI. Melky, it seemed, had finally emerged as a bona fide Major Leage hitter.
And then everything fell apart. On May 4, Melky hit his sixth home run of the season, and the two RBIs gave him 17 on the season. Since then, however, Melky’s season has been an utter abomination.
From May 6 onward, Melky managed 322 plate appearances. He hit .225/.273/.279 with 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. He struck out 42 times, and many Yankee-watchers figured that his August benching and subsequent demotion came approximately a month too late. I, surprisingly, disagree, and as the teams have passed since Melky’s optioning to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, I’m still trying to comes to terms with the Yanks’ decision.
By sending Melky Cabrera down to AAA, the Yanks are basically telling everyone — Melky, the 29 other clubs, the rest of the team — that they are giving up on him. Sure, Joe Girardi can tell us that Melky needs to “go work on some things,” and Cashman can proclaim Melky to be “a better player than this.” But that’s just lip service the Yanks are paying to the press and whatever remains of Melky’s self-esteem.
The truth remains that Melky Cabrera is a three-year Major League veteran and that in each of his three seasons, his offensive production has gotten progressively worse. Considering that he was never really an elite hitting prospects in the first place, it’s hard right now to envision him as a player with much long-term potential at the Major League level.
With this demotion, the Yanks have broadcast this belief and the reality of it all to any potential trading partner, and they’ve done so in a way that is designed to destroy Melky’s confidence. Is it any wonder, then, that as of Saturday night, Cabrera still hadn’t reported to AAA?
For the Yankees to turn Melky Cabrera into something worthwhile, they will have to package him in a trade this off-season. Once upon a time — two years ago — the Yanks could have built a trade around Melky Cabrera and, perhaps, another pitching prospect. But now, any team trading with the Yanks will view Melky as a throw-in and one that got demoted in the heat of a pennant race at that.
Make no mistake about it; Melky Cabrera did not deserve any more playing time as a starter in the Yankee outfielder. But any value he had to the team is long gone. What the Yanks plan to do to reclaim that value and rebuild Melky Cabrera is anyone’s guess.