DETROIT — The Giant shadow of this World Series belongs to Melky Cabrera.
Do the Giants even win the NL West this year without his MVP-level production prior to being suspended 50 games for having an elevated testosterone level? Does the NL team — his Giants — get the home-field advantage and, thus the first two games in AT&T Park if he is not the All-Star Game MVP?
Even this postseason, the suspension completed, there were calls to re-instate Cabrera to the roster. The Giants rejected that because they did not want to mess with what has, in Cabrera’s absence, turned out to be a surprisingly strong offense and a roster with such positive energy/chemistry — a roster that was not thrilled Cabrera vanished without offering teammates a mea culpa.
Yet, when you ask outside executives where Cabrera will end up next year, one locale that is repeated is San Francisco. In fact, even Giants officials privately concede the possibility.
They have Angel Pagan coming up to free agency and — cover your eyes, Mets fans — his success, especially after Cabrera’s departure, might have priced him out of San Francisco. One NL personnel head went as far as to say he thinks Pagan, because of his trajectory and prime center field position, will receive more than Nick Swisher in free agency.
Cabrera is one of the most interesting free-agent cases this offseason. One NL official summed it up this way: “He was a pretty good player with the Yankees, fat and terrible for Atlanta, very good last year [for Kansas City] and unbelievable this year. Who is the real guy? I saw him in the minors and I thought he was an extra outfielder. I have hard time going out of my way to reward a guy trying to break the system as badly as this guy did.
“Real Melky was a fourth outfielder, fake Melky was the All-Star MVP. Maybe we are going to have to find if there is more nuance to that.”
Cabrera not only failed a drug test, at least one associate tried to create a fake website for a supplement company to contrive a cover story that Cabrera’s positive results were from a tainted supplement. So teams definitely will investigate him in a significant way. Still, morality will not stand in the way of most clubs adding offense, especially if the offense is a bargain.
After the All-Star Game, there was talk Cabrera, a 28-year-old switch-hitter, would command a five-year contract worth as much as $75 million, maybe more. But in the group of executives with whom I spoke, one thought Cabrera could get two years at $10 million to $12 million, another said one year at $8 million to $10 million. But the large majority saw Cabrera having to take a one-year deal in the $2 million-to-$5 million range. He will have to use 2013 as a forum to prove he is a quality player.
The Mets were one club that came up regularly as a potential landing spot for Cabrera, as were the outfield-needy Phillies. The Mets need outfielders and don’t have a ton of money to address their severe needs there. So if they could bag Cabrera as corner outfield insurance against Jason Bay and Lucas Duda, it could make sense, especially if they are unable to retain Scott Hairston. Probably at his worst, Cabrera would be a motivated fourth outfielder who always could hit righties well, with the possibility he is more than that if any of the improvements of the past two years are real.