By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Outfielder Melky Cabrera — the oldest and most playoff-ready White Sox player still standing in the clubhouse — may be the next to put on his walking shoes and exit.
The 32-year-old Cabrera has watched the club’s front office make numerous deals these last two weeks as it continues to rebuild. It has decimated the team’s depth and big league ability to compete at a high level.
In the last year of a three-year, $44-million contract, Cabrera understands the reality of the team’s rebuild and what it may mean to him. For now, he will do what all players do in this situation: deal with it.
“This has been really difficult to see all of your teammates come and go,” Cabrera said. “That is just the business. These are the decisions of the people who run the team. They know what is best for the franchise.”
There have been several important team leaders come through the clubhouse doors in the last three seasons. After Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn departed, Cabrera more than anyone else has led the team, according to sources.
“Melky is a crossover guy for the whole team,” an executive said. “He is not a media darling, but he has the attention of the group. Very well-respected by all in that room.”
Cabrera isn’t fast, but he runs the bases well. He’s not a big power hitter, but he slugs against the best pitchers in the league. He’s not an outfielder with a lot of range, but he makes terrific plays and throws out baserunners. He always finds a way, it seems.
Cabrera is hitting .288 with 13 homers, 56 RBIs and a .759 OPS in 97 games.
“In our particular situation, Melky is a really good player that teams will have an interest in.” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “With our young players in the system, it is only a natural progression that they will move up if he is taken from us. If nothing happens, he remains to be a big part of sharing his experience with the guys and being a leader.
“I definitely believe he is underrated. He goes under the radar. The energy and great at-bats he brings to the game as well as his defense is great. He does a lot of good things in that clubhouse. He brings nuances that you see by being able to touch all of his teammates and make them feel a part of the group.”
If it were up to Cabrera, he would finish his career as a White Sox player.
“I definitely would prefer to stay here,” Cabrera said. “I feel comfortable here. Everybody from the front office, managers, fans and teammates have been great. I would like to stay here, but that is not my call. I am a White Sox, and I would like to be here for a long time.”
That isn’t likely with the way the rebuild is going. A lifetime .286 hitter, Cabrera may find a new home soon.
He’ll be missed if and when that does happen.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.