I don't envy the decision Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy have to make with Melky Cabrera: If the Giants advance past the Division Series, Cabrera would be eligible to join the club for the NLCS. For now, the Giants apparently aren't planning on activating Cabrera, although let's wait for a definitive statement before assuming Cabrera would be left off an NLCS roster (and not just the Division Series). Andrew Baggarly's report on CSNBayArea.com only says Cabrera will be left off the "postseason roster," but doesn't say which round. Rosters can be changed for each round.
The potential benefit is obvious: Cabrera had been the second-best hitter on the team while active, batting .346/.390/.516 with 11 home runs. Over the past 30 games, Giants left fielders have hit .271 with no home runs. Xavier Nady has hit .333/.412/.433 as the right-handed platoon, but Gregor Blanco has done nothing from the left side, hitting .250/.262/.333 with one walk and 18 strikeouts. Basically, by playing Blanco the Giants are essentially punting offense from left field.
So the positives by activating Cabrera:
Potentially much more offense from left field.
A better bench -- Nady can pinch-hit, Blanco can pinch-run or be used as a defensive sub.
No guarantee that Cabrera will hit after the long layoff, although he would be allowed to report to instructional league 10 days before his suspension ends. Bochy indicated this would be a concern. Still, a PED-free, rusty Melky is likely to produce more than Blanco.
The media distraction caused by his return. Although Buster Posey said that wouldn't be a big problem: "I don't think it would bother us than just the extra questions. That would be the main thing, the extra questions."
Clubhhouse harmony. Cabrera hasn't been with the team down the stretch. Reliever Jeremy Affeldt said he would rather fight with the team they have now. Interviewed by Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio, Bochy indicated fairness to players currently on the roster would be a factor, according to a tweet from Bowden.
You would have just won a series without him.
As an outsider, it's impossible to know the impact within a team's clubhouse. Certainly, there has to be a feeling that Cabrera let down his teammates by getting caught. On the other hand, center fielder Angel Pagan said, "If they bring him, we're teammates. We'll receive him with open arms." In the end, the players want to win the World Series. They know all their teammates aren't saints.
The Giants are a better team with Cabrera. But maybe they feel they're fine with their offense -- since Cabrera's suspension they've increased their runs per game from 4.2 to 5.1. Maybe they don't care that Guillermo Mota -- twice suspended for PED use -- will be on the postseason roster. In the end, maybe it's just a headache that isn't worth it.
I say it is.