Bucs ink Melky to Minor League deal
Outfielder's contract includes invite to Spring Training
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates added a veteran outfielder to their Opening Day roster competition, signing free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a Minor League deal that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training.
Cabrera will earn $1.15 million if he makes the Pirates' roster, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan, and his deal includes up to $850,000 in incentives.
Cabrera, 34, hit .280/.335/.420 with six home runs in 78 games for the Indians last season. He will have a chance to make the Bucs' Opening Day roster as a fourth outfielder and switch-hitting bat off the bench.
The Pirates might have room for an extra outfielder, too. Corey Dickerson is set to return in left field, and Starling Marte will be back in center. Pittsburgh signed Lonnie Chisenhall, another former Cleveland outfielder, to man right field while Gregory Polanco is recovering from September shoulder surgery. But Cabrera could platoon with Chisenhall or back him up.
"The veteran presence, he's been in every situation. He's played in every stadium," Pirates starter Chris Archer said. "Switch-hitter. Still plays quality defense. Hopefully he breaks camp with the team and he can be a nice piece to combat right field with Chisenhall until Polanco comes back."
Pittsburgh has a handful of other players competing for a spot on the bench, including utility man Pablo Reyes and corner infielder/outfielder José Osuna. The Bucs also brought in the versatile Nick Franklin and outfielders Patrick Kivlehan and JB Shuck on Minor League deals this offseason.
Cabrera's defense has declined, but he is still a capable hitter entering what he hopes will be his 15th Major League season. Over the last three years, Cabrera has slashed .289/.334/.435 with a 108 OPS+ and 37 homers in 385 games. For the Pirates, it's a low-risk move to bolster their depth and guard against two worst-case scenarios in the outfield: a setback for Polanco or another injury for Chisenhall.
"I know they're going to help the team. That's what we want," Polanco said on Tuesday. "I know I want to be there playing every day, but I'm not there right now. I know they're going to do the job and help the team, so when I come back, we're going to be in a good position for sure."
Cabrera debuted as a 20-year-old with the Yankees in 2005 before going on to play for the Braves, Royals, Giants, Blue Jays, White Sox and Indians. He was suspended for 50 games in 2012 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.