Patrick Kivlehan

Melky Cabrera
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Report: Pirates sign Melky Cabrera

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The Pirates are reportedly in agreement with free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, per Ken Rosenthal and Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. The team has yet to confirm the report, but it looks like a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that Cabrera can earn $2 million with incentives if he makes the major league roster this spring.

The 34-year-old outfielder is coming off of a fairly productive run with the Indians in 2018, one in which he slashed .280/.335/.420 with six home runs, a .755 OPS, and 0.4 fWAR across 278 plate appearances. While he’s been sapped of a bit of his power recently and has never earned high marks on defense, he could be a serviceable stand-in for right fielder Gregory Polanco, who’s expected to begin the 2019 season in the injured list as he recovers from labrum surgery.

Of course, he won’t be the only veteran outfielder under consideration for a backup role this spring. The Pirates will likely give preference to third-baseman-turned-right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall after inking him to a one-year, $2.75 million contract last November. Chisenhall, 30, missed the bulk of the 2018 season with a left calf strain, but produced a dynamic .321/.394/.452 batting line when healthy and appears to be solid on defense as well. Other options include minor league signees JB Shuck, a sub-Mendoza Line hitter who made it through half a season with the Marlins last year, and Patrick Kivlehan, a corner outfielder who hasn’t logged more than 10 games at the major league level since 2017.