Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t spent this past week sitting on his hands, waiting for a dozen players to take their physicals and for Bud Selig to rubber-stamp the Blue Jays’ megadeal with the Miami Marlins.
Instead, while that was going on, he went out and used the $8 million cash coming over from the Fish in the trade to fill another hole in the Blue Jays’ line-up, agreeing to terms with outfielder Melky Cabrera on a two-year contract, pending his passing a physical.
Originally reported by ESPN Deportes, I was able to confirm through a source that the deal is indeed happening.
Cabrera, who is not a good defensive outfielder, will take over in left field and become the third switch-hitter in the Jays’ everyday lineup, joining Jose Reyes and whichever one of Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis is playing second base that day.
Cabrera was traded from Kansas City to the Giants last winter in exchange for lefty Jonathan Sanchez, and had the best year of his career in 2012, hitting .346/.390/.516 in a season cut to 113 games by a 50-game August drug suspension.
Cabrera tested positive for testosterone, and later his representatives were accused of creating a fake web site that was supposed to have been shown to sell the supplement he was taking, but not divulge the fact that it contained banned substances, perhaps in the hopes of illustrating that he was ignorant of its contents.
It’s interesting to look at Cabrera’s last two seasons through the prism of the notion that he could have been cheating the whole time, since his OPS went up 100 points from his career 2005-10 totals in 2011 in Kansas City, and then another 100 points from ’11 to his massive 2012 in San Francisco, but it’s also important to note that he turned 27 in the 2011 season, so he was moving into his peak years.
Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager who had Cabrera for the first six years of his big-league career as a .269/.331/.385 hitter, said back in August that he wasn’t surprised Cabrera had tested positive for a performance-enhancer.
Cashman added, “We thought his ceiling was….as a low-end everyday guy or an excellent fourth outfielder.”
Cabrera has very obviously blown through that projection – he would have won the National League batting title this past season had he not voluntarily removed himself from consideration – but the question is, will he be able to sustain his new level of performance playing clean?
The answer is – who knows?
Heightened levels of testosterone don’t help people hit major-league pitching, but they do help people hit major-league pitching harder –Cabrera had a crazy-high .379 batting average on balls in play this past season — and, more importantly, it helps with injury recovery and strength gains.
Ryan Braun tested positive for the same thing last October (with far more heightened levels of testosterone in his system), and went out in 2012, playing “clean” and finished second in MVP balloting in the Senior Circuit.
I don’t know if the Cabrera who hit .322/.360/.489 over the past two years is the real deal or not, as he moves into his age-28 season, but I do know that if he busts, the Blue Jays have Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra to help out in left field, and they didn’t spend that much money or make too long-term a commitment to him.
Cabrera, right now, is better than what the Blue Jays had in left field yesterday.
He could hit second, fifth or seventh in the lineup and is a switch-hit bat that over the past two seasons has been sensational against right-handed pitching while maintaining an OPS over .800 against lefties.
I’m from Missouri when it comes to this one – I want to see what the Blue Jays get from Cabrera before being convinced that this is a fantastic move. But it’s most assuredly a good one, at a good price.
It wasn’t long ago at all that I was debating the merits of Melky Cabrera to the Blue Jays on The Twitter, in between talking people with Bud Selig Veto Panic off the ledge and trying to calmly and rationally discuss the merits of the A.L. MVP debate.
I wasn’t on the side of Cabrera being a good sign, but one of the reasons was because I wasn’t as convinced as others that he’d be so ready to take a cheaper, short-term, value-rebuilding contract.
Turns out he was.
Now we have to see how driven by unsustainable BABIP his success was and whether he can improve on a not-so-pretty walk rate to develop into a legit middle-of-the-order bat in the American League East.
The Blue Jays now have just one more hole to fill, and that’s the DH spot, but if they have to go into the season with an Adam Lind who hit .296/.339/.473 after returning from his early-season wake-up call trip to Las Vegas, they won’t be in bad shape there at all.