TORONTO – Melky Cabrera appears destined for the open market after Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos hinted Saturday about a significant difference of opinion on a price for the free-agent outfielder.
The Blue Jays, as expected, extended Cabrera a $15.3-million qualifying offer to ensure they receive draft pick compensation should he depart, and he has until Nov. 10 to accept or decline.
Once he officially declines, he should become one of the most coveted players on a market bereft of impact offensive players after batting .301 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI in 139 games.
The sides have spoken since the season ended – they are also believed to have talked in-season but things went nowhere – and the normally tight-lipped Anthopoulos was surprisingly expansive on the existing gap right now.
"When you talk about making a push to sign a player, it takes two parties to come to an agreement," he said Saturday during a conference call. "It depends on what you classify as a push. All you can do is negotiate and try to get a deal done, make offers and counteroffers, but at some point if you’re far apart you’re far apart, there’s only so much that can be done.
"Like you’d have in salary arbitration, if you have to end up in a room, if you can’t see eye-to-eye on someone’s free-agent value, which is very hard to quantify, sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market, them to talk to other clubs, so they truly know what they are worth. They still have a chance to circle back and get a deal done. That might be what occurs here."
Estimates on a contract for Cabrera vary wildly, with some pointing to Jhonny Peralta’s $53-million, four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals as a baseline, others arguing that the $72.5-million, seven-year contract the Boston Red Sox gave Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo in August is a more realistic starting point.
Cabrera is coming off a $16-million, two-year deal, and the Blue Jays want him back, but may get outbid.
"He wants a long-term deal, completely understandable, our expectation is that he’ll get one, we’re certainly willing to do that," said Anthopoulos. "If it gets done, at this point, too hard to say."
The Blue Jays will not extend qualifying offers to fellow free agents Casey Janssen or Colby Rasmus. On Saturday, they also declined 2014 options on Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow and Sergio Santos, sending all three into the open market, too.
McGowan, a first-round pick in 2000, had been the club’s longest-tenured player and pitched a full season in 2014 for the first time since 2007.
"When we did that contract, the option salary was $4 million and I understand there are relievers that make $4 million but that was based on him as a starter," said Anthopoulos. "Right now that number was just too high for us."