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Why the Royals Didn't Trade Melky Cabrera

Absent a surprising move involving Joakim Soria or Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera was Kansas City's most valuable trade chip at the deadline. Melky was hitting a robust .302/.337/.463 on trade deadline day. His performance a-plate has been between Francoeur's and Gordon's, but with the added advantage of playing a passable center field. Melky's power, especially, has been a huge development. His 13 HRs this season are already tied for a career high, and he's never really slugged anywhere near that .463 number. In fact, 2011 is his first season with an above average OPS, despite our shared communal memory of him being sorta good with the Yankees at one time. 

While the defensive metrics haven't been huge fans of Melky's glovework, the numbers haven't been awful either. He's a guy you can play in CF, especially when he's slugging .463. I'm not the insider to verify this, but it certainly seems like he has a decent (decent, not good) defensive reputation within the game. Combined with a low 2011 salary of just $1.25 million, the question remains, why wasn't Cabrera traded?

  • As with the other players we've profiled, there appears to have been an organizational leaning towards keeping players versus trading them, everything else being equal.
  • Of course, although Cabrera is a better player than Francoeur, he just couldn't be anything near the kind of leader Francoeur is, because, well... well.. well... This should have made the Royals more likely to move him.
  • Currently, Melky projects to be a Type B free agent, which opens up the possibility that he could generate a compensation pick if the scenarios break the right way this winter. That might mean that the Royals wanted prospects that included the value of that potential comp. pick, which then priced Melky out of the market.
  • Related to the above point, the Royals could also bring Melky back through the arbitration process. This also theoretically raises his trade value, because Melky would not be a two month rental, potentially, for a team. And, of course, it also means the Royals might want to bring him back for 2012. (Melky's salary last season will be fascinating, because he took a huge pay cut this year.)
  • One awkward factor was that one of the teams that wanted and in fact acquired a CF was... ahh... ermm... the Braves, who had a very negative Melky experience last season.
  • As with the Francoeur non-trade, it's hard to criticize the Royals for not trading Cabrera without knowing what they were offered. There were a huge number of outfielders available this July, and only a small number of them were moved. Yes, last season Moore was able to trade Rick Ankiel, Scott Podsednik and Jose Guillen, but for whatever reason that didn't materialize this year.

    While keeping Melky is more palatable than keeping Francoeur, the fact that the Royals still employ both is a frustrating development. I'm not a huge fan of Lorenzo Cain, but he's got a half decade of team control awaiting him and I'd like to see what he can do in center. With Cabrera's uneven track record and declining defense, I contend that the best case scenario here is that the Royals part ways with Melky this off-season, snag the compensation pick, and move on. If that happens, and we assume that the Royals were offered rubbish for MC this July, then I can live with not trading him.