TORONTO – Melky Cabrera’s split from the Toronto Blue Jays, essentially decided when the team signed Russ Martin and traded for Michael Saunders, was finalized Sunday when the left-fielder reportedly reached agreement with the Chicago White Sox on a $42-million, three-year deal.
The pending signing, yet to be officially announced, is the latest move in an off-season buildup by the AL Central club, following the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke.
The Blue Jays, who extended Cabrera a qualifying offer of $15.3 million, will receive a compensatory pick after the first round in next year’s draft, which currently is No. 31 overall but subject to change. That bumps the New York Yankees, who qualified Robertson, to the pick immediately after, for now, because they finished a game ahead of Toronto in the standings.
Receiving the draft pick was important for the Blue Jays after they sacrificed their first-round choice, No. 18 overall, in 2015 to land Martin, whom they decided to make their primary off-season target rather than Cabrera.
Martin signed an $82-million, five-year deal and his annual average value of $16 million came in slightly higher than Cabrera’s $14 million, the Blue Jays choosing to spend on the catcher’s plus defence and on-base ability, instead of Cabrera’s high batting average but sub-par range in left field.
The two players both share the same career OPS of .754.
After Martin’s signing Nov. 17, the Blue Jays continued to monitor Cabrera’s market but didn’t withdraw for good until after they acquired Saunders from the Seattle Mariners for J.A. Happ on Dec. 3. The sides were always far apart in negotiations for an extension.
Saunders, an upside play expected to provide plus range in left field and the ability to cover in centre for an extended period if needed, is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.9 million in arbitration next season.
The ultimate evaluation here lies in Martin, Saunders, whatever the Blue Jays get in exchange for Dioner Navarro and the compensatory pick, versus Cabrera, Navarro, Happ and the No. 18 overall pick.
RASMUS CHICAGO-BOUND?: Another former Blue Jays outfielder could also find his way to the Windy City.
The cross-town Cubs recently met with Colby Rasmus, and are one of several teams to have shown interest in the centre-fielder.
Rasmus struggled to a .225/.287/.448 slash line last season but still hit 18 home runs in a down season at a premium position. Manager Joe Maddon, known for his ability to get the best from his players, may help him regain his 2013 from when Rasmus batted .276/.338/.501 with 22 homers and 66 RBIs, producing a WAR of 4.8.
The Baltimore Orioles, who also had some interest in Melky Cabrera, are thought to be another of the teams with some interest in Rasmus.