Melky Cabrera debuted in 2005 with a cherub face and as a dosage of imagination. At the time, the 20-year-old represented a better alternative to Tony Womack (although, with an on-base percentage of .276 and slugging percentage of .280, who didn’t?) and while Cabrera failed to capitalize in his six-game stint his return to the majors was all but ensured. Players who reach the majors at such youth usually reserve special futures. The aggressive manner with which the Yankees promoted him suggested they believed he could adjust quickly too.
Sure enough, the Yankees threw him into the everyday lineup starting in 2006 and he hit at a league average rate. All the signs pointed towards Cabrera becoming a regular – and he did – but rumors persisted that he became even more of a regular to the grandiose New York nightlife. Those rumors flare up about players throughout the league and only become worthwhile when the player begins to struggle. Unfortunately for Cabrera, his struggles began in 2007 and lasted until the 2009 season, when he once again hit league average.
The Yankees took advantage of the uptick by flipping him to the Braves in the Javier Vazquez deal over the winter and Cabrera’s slide took another hit today – fewer than 12 months later – as the Braves have officially released him. Poor conditioning reportedly set in this season and Cabrera showed little progress in any aspect of the game. He mostly remained static across the board, but his ISO slipped and his defense became reliant upon his arm strength and little else.
Concerns about Cabrera likely exceed his shoddy performances given Atlanta’s notorious behavior to cut bait on players they feel are not holding up their part of the bargain. He’ll be 26 when the 2011 season opens for play and some team is going to give him a job based on the promise and hope that he flips the switch. If changing teams for the third time in 15 months doesn’t do it, maybe the promise was misplaced to begin with.