Melky Cabrera must not think he’s a .340 hitter

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Melky Cabrera signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Blue Jays, which seems pretty good given that he hasn’t played since getting slapped with a 50-game PED suspension and then got kicked to the curb by the Giants when he was eligible to return in the postseason.

Still, it’s a two-year deal at a fraction of what he figured to get previously. Even if he slumped some during the final month and a half and into the postseason, he was likely looking at something in the neighborhood of $50 million for four years as a free agent this winter. A strong finish could have netted him $70 million for five years.

So why lock into that extra year? Cabrera was no second-year guy needing financial security in the form of a long-term deal; he’s already earned about $11 million in his career. He could afford to gamble if he were confident in his ability to bounce back and put together a strong 2013 season. We may never know whether the Jays would have signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal if that’s what he preferred — they may have wanted that extra upside the second year provides — but it’s hard to imagine they or someone else wouldn’t have given him at least $6 million for 2013 alone.

It suggests to me that Cabrera doesn’t see himself coming back and having another season like his 2012. Because if he did, he would have taken the one-year deal and then chased the big payday.

Maybe I’m wrong. And I don’t want this to read as a condemnation of Cabrera. But it’s intriguing to me. I think of most athletes as supremely confident in their abilities on the field (or the court, track, rink, etc.). And while Melky took his game to a whole new level in 2012, he was also something much more than an $8 million player with the Royals in 2011. If he isn’t confident he can get back to that — if he doesn’t think of himself as being worth $15 million per year or what have you — then I’m not all that sure I’d want to sign him at any price.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.