Seattle Mariners News: Melky Cabrera To The M’s?


In case you hadn’t noticed, the Seattle Mariners have been heavily involved in the rumor mill as of late. They were said to be in on Victor Martinez and Billy Butler, until they signed elsewhere. They were in on Nelson Cruz, who they indeed signed to a hefty contract. They’ve checked in on Jon Lester, and are gauging the trade market for guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. Pick a name, and odds are the M’s have been connected at some point.

Melky Cabrera is just the latest name to be linked to the Mariners. Bob Dutton has the M’s in on Cabrera, which is not much of a surprise considering the team the Mariners currently are and the team they wish to be. At the top of the M’s list is a new outfielder, and Cabrera, were he to sign, would constitute just that. So it makes sense, and it’s been confirmed that the team is into the idea. Melky to the Mariners could happen, and the team isn’t about to deny that.

One thing the M’s have definitely done this offseason is take on salary. They dumped Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, but J.A. Happ costs plenty more than both of them combined. They gave Cruz $58 million, and that’s reportedly about what they want to give Cabrera, too. Ideally, apparently, the Mariners hope to sign the Melk Man to a contract very similar to the one that Cruz just signed to play in Seattle for the next four years.

We don’t, won’t, and can’t know the Mariners’ target payroll for 2015, let alone where that number will actually settle. Eventually, in a year, we’ll know what they spent on the 2015 team, but until then it’s all educated guesswork at best. Allegedly they can afford Cabrera. Realistically, they can probably afford Cabrera. But money spent on one player is money that can’t be spent on another player, and the M’s with Melky Cabrera presumably wouldn’t be a finished team.

Make no mistake, Cabrera would fill the team’s most pressing need. He’s an outfielder with a strong bat, at least most years. He has health issues, however, and the team did just place a premium on health with their Cruz and Saunders dealings. Since he’d cost only money and not talent, Cabrera is maybe the most appealing obvious target on the open market. This, despite his multitude of question marks.

Remember a year ago, when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a massive free agent deal? Most assumed it was the start of a spree. But that spree turned out to consist of Cano and Fernando Rodney, as the team simply didn’t feel comfortable adding anymore payroll. What they got was a much-improved team that was almost good enough to play in the postseason. They got better, but it cost them a lot, financially, and then they were hamstrung.

We like the idea of Cabrera because the Mariners have yet to hit a payroll wall. They may not hit that wall, since the payroll is most definitely going to be higher than it was in 2014. But since we don’t know how much higher, we must brace for the possibility that the M’s next big-money move will be the one that puts them in a compromising position. The Mariners have money to spend, until they don’t.

This is less an argument against Cabrera than it is a caution for those expecting this team to spend and spend and spend. We thought they had a shot at Matt Kemp a year ago, but his salary became restrictive once the team had already spent some money. If they sign Cabrera, can they afford bench pieces? A lefty reliever? Another competent outfielder? A starting pitcher, which they may or may not need? This is all about caution.

But you know, forget caution, because if it’s not Melky or someone similar it’s probably a trade of young talent for a short-term rental. As much as it would suck to open the season with Melky Cabrera and Lucas Luetge on the roster, it would be way worse to open with James Jones and Wesley Wright or something. Cabrera’s deal would be excusable for the same reason Cruz’s deal is excusable: filling a need for a win-now team with money alone, and not the exchange of talent for talent.

Value is value, and Cabrera for $15 million a year is more a market price signing than it is a value signing. Teams that make value signings get to make other signings, whereas teams that pay retail don’t get to make as many signings unless they throw budgetary concerns to the wind. But paying retail doesn’t mean not improving, and the Mariners have one goal this offseason: improve.

Melky Cabrera helps the Mariners, even at $60 million over many years. He’s no sure thing, but then again, neither is anybody. Felix Hernandez isn’t a sure thing, you know. Nobody is, ever. If the Mariners want to roll the dice with Cabrera, it’s likely an indication that they are okay with bumping payroll to new highs in order to keep their young core intact. Which is a fine strategy, and possibly even the best strategy. But as with Cano a year ago, we must remember the importance of maintaining some flexibility past the winter meetings. This team is a lot better now than a year ago. With Melky Cabrera, they’re even better yet, and maybe favored for a spot in the playoffs. And if that’s all the team cares about, that’s perfectly alright.