Melky’s arbitration case

Open Thread: Baby, it's cold outside
Zimmer recovering from a stroke

Earlier this week, Melky Cabrera with 2.148 years of playing time, joined 110 others in filing for salary arbitration. As a super-two, Melky could experience the trials and travails of salary arbitration.

In discussing the Melky situation earlier this week, Pete Abraham posted a question: “It’s easy to see how Nady and the Yankees could have something to talk about. Maybe even Bruney. But what could the possible holdup be with Melky? He should be happy to get a free appetizer at the new Hard Rock Cafe after how he played last season.”

It is an interesting question. Mostly, these salary arbitration cases are settled well in advance of a hearing. It’s certainly better for the two teams to settle on a figure before the Yanks go in and explain why Melky doesn’t deserve any money (not a tough arugment) and Melky explains why he deserves what would really be an inexplicable raise.

Since we haven’t had a chance to dump on Melky dig into the erstwhile Yankee center fielder in a while, I thought about running a post on the arguments Melky could make. The only attribute of his that would ever warrant a raise is his arm. He managed seven assists last year and has 28 over his career. Otherwise, he put up a 68 OPS+ with a .249/.301/.341 line, most it coming in April. (He hit .235/.280/.286 over his final 98 games.)

Historically, Melky doesn’t stack up too well either. I ran his qualifications — age 23 season, 453 plate appearances, 68 OPS+ — through Baseball Reference’s Play Index, and his fellow underachievers do not make for a very promising list. In baseball history, only 24 players suffering through their age 23 seasons of the game have done as bad or worse than Melky did in 2008. None of those have really gone on to do much of anything.

I don’t like to see Melky be so bad. I’d much rather see Melky mature into a top-notch center fielder or at least an average one. I don’t, however, see what Melky has to gain by the arbitration process. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that hearing.

Open Thread: Baby, it's cold outside
Zimmer recovering from a stroke
  • Manimal

    The only active players on that list were Caesar Izturis and Yadier Molina.

    Caesar Izturis makes 2.9 million but fangraphs says he is worth 8.5 in 2008.
    Yadier Molina makes 1.8 million but fangraphs says he is worth 11 in 2008
    Melky makes 500k and fangraphs says he is worth 200k in 2008.

    Now given that Caesar Izturis and Yadier Molina had big years and Melky had a down year, I still think that it is a compliment to put Melky on a list with those two. His value shows it.

    • A.D.

      toss in they are both gold glovers at premium defensive positions

  • RollingWave

    How about running a list with 23 year olds with around 1200-1800 PA and a OPS+ of 80-90 ?

    • Ben K.

      Here’s the list of 23 year olds with between 1000-1608 PAs and a career OPS+ of 84 or lower at that point.

      You can cherry-pick some good names or some bad. It’s hit or miss, but Melky’s not had a very glorious start to his career so far.

      • A.D.

        what you’re telling me is melky is the next damon

  • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    It’s weird that a position player that has that poor of a season at that age can be considered a ‘bust’, and yet a pitcher is still young and has all the time in the world.

    Are the longevities of pitchers that much greater?

    • Peter Lacock

      Pitchers have the toughest job and take longer to develop but also impatient amateur analysts believe they can see the future. Guys that hit HR’s or P’s that strike guys out are loved and get more slack. Any player that isn’t flashy gets run out of town whether he’s had a fair chance or not. Weird is the right word. I can think of a few more words.

      • Ben K.

        Any player that isn’t flashy gets run out of town whether he’s had a fair chance or not.

        If this is Melky-specific, I’d say that he’s had more than a fair chance, and he hasn’t delivered. I’d also say that there is a huge difference between “flashy” and having an OPS+ that puts you well below average.

        • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

          Have to agree with Ben here, Melky’s had a fair shot, but even so, it seems so odd that pitchers seem to be around so much longer.

          Hell, Jaime Moyer doesn’t bring second thoughts, but bring up Julio Franco…

        • Jake H

          The guy was given the starting job last year. Played well the first month, pitchers adjusted and he either didn’t or couldn’t.

          • Peter Lacock

            It’s not just Melky.
            I wouldn’t say Melky has been treated unfairly by the Yankees but some fans are just plain mean to guy that’s still a child. Anyone that doesn’t think he is a child is obviously too immature to know the difference. He had a pretty good April last season and fell into a rut. He should’ve been sent down to SWB sooner to try to get him out of his slump instead of letting him just keep hacking but there wasn’t enough depth to allow it. He since has received some instruction and has shown some improvement. Almost every guy needs help when they’re this young. He’s a switch hitter that has shown some pop at times. He has a good arm and could be a good RF if he would hit like one. That’s something to work with. He’s too young to give up on and he deserves a chance to show if he’s learned anything. It appears the Yanks feel the same way.
            Cano fell into a similar rut and just kept going up there hacking without a plan. Without knowing what actually went on, I blame Joe and Kevin. They’re are the men and they need(ed) to get after both of these guys to do extra work, insist they try different things and demand improvement. I can’t blame the children. Cano was called a bust and continued to be traded even after Cash repeatedly said it wouldn’t happen. I still see fans trading him.
            Gardner has been called a bust, weak and a mess. Many want Cameron, DeJesus and McLouth, et al when none of them are clearly better in CF and there’s no certainty what Brett can do.
            AJax has been called over hyped. I’ve never seen any hype other than on blogs and if he is hyped it’s not his fault. He’s going to be relentlessly attacked if he isn’t and immediate star.
            IPK has been called a bust. He’s mentioned in virtually every trade suggestion.
            Hughes and even Joba have been called injury prone and some keep bringing up moving Joba back to the pen. Many young players, especially pitchers, have injury issues. They need to learn consistency. It takes time and some take longer than others. Listen to what AJ said about what he learned from Halladay. It makes me feel very comfortable with his future because it’s true. If he really learned how to pace himself he should be OK. Every player needs to learn how to harness his emotions.
            All of these guys have had their age mentioned, like they’re old. Each of these guys are babies. I realize the fans that pick on them are babies themselves which is exactly why I choose to comment on it. They need to learn patience and understanding.
            Jeter, of all people, gets attacked for his D. It’s ridiculous. He’s not the Wizard but his D is fine. He has never played anywhere but SS and he will retire as a SS. Get over it. He’s old? He’s only old to someone that’s too young to know what old is.
            Anyone that has ever booed ARod is an idiot. I don’t live in NYC but my son does and I make at least one trip every year. Last year I went to 18 games and 3 in Cleveland. The year before I went to 8 games in NYC. When I’m at a game I tell everyone that does (boo ARod) just that. He’s the best player on the team, maybe in history, and you’re booing him? What he makes is nobodys business. It’s his job and just like anyone he tries to make as much money as he can. It doesn’t matter. Forget it and stop paying attention to it. It’s not worth it and thinking about it ruins the game. The way I was raised you boo the other team. You never ever boo your own. No matter what. That’s home field advantage. When you boo your own you lose it. He hasn’t succeeded in the playoffs? You know what that tells me? He’s due. He’s too good to not be due. The Yanks didn’t lose because of him. They lost because their pitching was inferior.
            I say again… Guys that hit HR’s or P’s that strike guys out are loved and get more slack. Any player that isn’t flashy gets run out of town whether he’s had a fair chance or not. People like Adam Dunn because he hits HR’s. Guy sucks but you know, chicks love the longball. He’s fine on your fantasy team but he no good on a real team. If Melky, who is much better defensively and hit for similar avg, did the same last year except hit 20 HR’s he’d still be a prospect. Before some jerkoff says I’m comparing Melky to Dunn. Stick it. I’m saying Dunn hit HR’s so his lack of other skills gets dismissed while Melky’s better D is ignored because he doesn’t hit enough HR’s. If Brett showed power in the minors the value of his speed and defense wouldn’t be overlooked. If IPK had more K’s he’d be lumped in with Phil and Joba as just injury prone instead of a bust. You know, the most important thing for a pitcher is control. Next most important is durability. Without those, a pitcher has nothing. Everything else, especially K’s, is low priority. I could go on, but that’s enough.

    • A.D.

      part of the issue is on talent/ability. If someone has the blazing fastball, they’ll stick around and be given chances.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        Especially if they throw it with their left hand.

  • Peter Lacock

    There are no stars on that list but there are a few guys that did some good. Tim Foli, Eddie Brinkman, et al. It’s not really a fair comparison. Most guys aren’t in the majors at 23.
    It appears Melky will get a chance to show if he’s learned anything or not. Every season, in every sport, there are guys that surprise. Htting is a difficult skill to master. Maybe last seasons disaster woke him up.

  • Nigel Bangs


  • NC Saint

    The state of the market might be creating a situation where it makes sense for a lot of players who normally wouldn’t to push for a hearing. As you guys have noted, a lot of second-tier free agents shot themselves in the leg this off-season by not going to arbitration. They didn’t anticipate how far the market had fallen from last year.

    The arbitration process is notoriously primitive. It can’t adjust for an aging player due for a pay cut. It focuses on silly stats and inane comparables. So I doubt it will do a good job adjusting to the new market. Most players who aren’t in line for a huge multi-year deal are probably worth more to the idiots who arbitrate these things than they are to the grown-ups who have to actually pay the salaries.

    If his demands are modest, it doesn’t seem farfetched to me that Melky would do better in aribitration than he would at the negotiating table.

    • DP

      I totally agree. Compared to the market, some arbitration guys are gonna be overpaid.

      • Whitey14

        I’m not sure I agree. The clubs will be allowed to use the comparisons of free agents and other players that are age similar. In normal years, the free agent market tends to help drive up the price of arbitration players, but in a down year, where several “star” type players are still out there waiting for a deal, I don’t think you’ll see many players winning their arbitration cases unless they’ve filed similar numbers as the clubs and if that’s the case both sides should be working for a settlement anyway.

        Also, I’m not sure there are many aging players involved in arbitration cases, although I haven’t really looked at the list. It’s usually a tool for guys who haven’t reached Free Agency and don’t have a long term deal in place. Most of the veterans that would have been eligible this year declined and are the same guys who will be begging for a job in a few weeks if still unsigned.

  • Baseballnation

    He’s not looking at a big raise either way, not that he desrves one at all.

  • BigBlueAL

    You guys still hate Melky!!!!! Leave the poor guy alone!!!!

    BTW, he might be the first player ever to actually take a paycut during arbitration rather than get a raise….

    • dan

      Well as Ben said, he’s a super-two. So he’s gonna get paid.

  • The Third Yip-Yip

    Give him about three more years and then we’ll decide if he’s any good or not.

    • Al

      3 more years?! How can you give him that many if he isn’t doing well? You can’t give every CF 5 or 6 years of mediocre baseball to prove that he is no good. We would still have Bubba Crosby playing! That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. ESPECIALLY since Melky was never considered a very good prospect anyways.

      • A.D.

        Bubba Crosby was in his late 20s, Melk is only 23

        • Al

          Well then what about Alberto Gonzalez who we traded away to the Nats? Or anyone else young the Yankees have ever traded away. If Melky was a highly touted prospect, I would have no problem giving him a longer leash. But we aren’t talking about Evan Longoria or even Austin Jackson here.

          If we give him the “3 more years” then Melky will be 26. Is that enough to know if he sucks or not? Is it worth wasting CF with Melky until we know he isn’t good?

    • dan

      Wait till it’s his walk year and then decide of we want him around. Solid plan.

  • sequitur

    Let’s tweak a parameter a bit, say 69 OPS+ , 400 PA, age 23 season. And Carlos Beltran shows up at the top of the list.

    Ah, if only Melky’s OPS+ were single point higher in his age 23 season. But sadly his OPS+ was 68 and not 69, which means he’s doomed to never ever getting better.

  • Chris

    I would assume that Melky’s argument will rely mostly on his previous 2 seasons (OPS+ 95 and 89) than on 2008. If he can put up league average offensive numbers and play above average defense in center field, then he could stick around the league for a while.

  • ryan

    I feel like there can be so many more factors that limit a pitchers success as opposed to a hitters success. Now im just guessing but maybe a pitcher’s mechanics could be off or velocity could spike or drop depending on other factors and give pitchers more excuses or slack when it comes to developement in the majors. “he’s just not locating, His arm slot isn’t right, he’s just got to get confidence in his stuff, his release point isn’t where it should be, his arm is tired etc…..

  • Balls Deep

    The issue with Melky is that he’s an average player at his best… he never shows a two week span where he’s on fire with an unbelievable OPS month… it doesn’t happen, he made a catch against Boston, which keeps him safe much longer than it should…With the pitching focus this year and the extra OF they have; I don’t see him lasting into the 2010 season. Maybe he can party til 5am in Seattle or Milwaukee…

    If the Yanks are serious about just 1 more pitcher and done… Let Gardiner have the shot. “Got Melky”… Been there, done that.

    • steve (different one)

      he never shows a two week span where he’s on fire with an unbelievable OPS month


      July 06: 313/.358/.475
      August 06: .311/.397/.453
      June 07: .298/ .364/.447
      July 07: .368/.410/.528
      August 07: .306/.350/.468
      April 08: .299/.370/.494

      Melky has had 6 such excellent months.

      • Balls Deep

        OK, sorry, you got me… DiMaggio, Mantle and Melky… give me a break, he makes me dream of the days of jerry Mumphrey and Omar Moreno… So he had decent months. congratulations statboy… i know if i cared, I could find the months that he tanked. which would outnumber the 2 months in ’06, the 1 month in ’07 and ’08… amazing!!!

  • Jake H

    My biggest problem is that Melky can always be struck out with a high FB at his eye level.

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  • Lanny

    I was getting worried. The RAB boys went some time without taking a dump on Melky. Good to know everything is alright.