Anthopoulos: ‘Good chance’ Cabrera won’t return


The Jays will receive a compensatory pick after the first round in next year’s draft, which currently is No. 31 overall but subject to change. (Darren Calabrese/CP)

PHOENIX – Still hoping to extend their relationship with Melky Cabrera, the Toronto Blue Jays are also preparing for life without their left-fielder and No. 2 hitter as the gap between the two sides on a new contract continues to remain wide.

Alex Anthopoulos spent part of Tuesday at the GM meetings with Gustavo Vasquez, the agent for free agent slugger Pablo Sandoval, and while that conversation went well (relax, nothing is imminent), little progress is being made on the Cabrera front.

“We’ve thought about alternatives, you have to think about alternatives all the time for any position. I can’t speak for Melky specifically other than we’d like to have him back,” said Anthopoulos.

“We may have a good sense right now of what the likelihood is of signing him or not signing him, but I’m sensitive to not talking about someone else’s free agency, and not divulging negotiations or things like that. When a player becomes a free agent, you immediately have to start preparing for contingencies and alternatives because the likelihood is when players become free agents, you can look at the numbers, an overwhelming percentage don’t return.

“That’s not to say we don’t want it to happen with Melky, but we’re also being real with this. There’s a good chance he doesn’t come back, we just don’t know.”

As expected, Cabrera rejected the Blue Jays’ $15.3 million qualifying offer Monday, ensuring the team will receive a compensatory draft pick should he sign elsewhere. What he’s seeking and who else may be in the market for him is unclear, but after batting .301 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI in 139 games, he’s one of the top offensive players available in free agency.

The Blue Jays are believed to have spoken with Cabrera during the season and again before the free agency period opened.

“Once you have a sense of what the player is going to look for in terms of years and dollars, you may ultimately say we’re not prepared to do that today,” said Anthopoulos. “And clearly that may have happened during the season, it may have happened early in the off-season, it may have happened at any point in time. We do want him back, we do believe he wants to be back, but he’s not a signed player. I’m stating the obvious here, but if both sides want to come to an agreement, and he’s not signed yet, I think we can come to the conclusion that we can’t seem to agree on the financial structure of a deal. …

“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in him, he’s a very good player, we’re just not at a point where we can get a deal done.”

While left field remains up in the air, the Blue Jays are intent to fill their centre-field vacancy created by Colby Rasmus’s free agency with an internal candidate.

“Unless an opportunity presents itself, which I don’t see occurring as we sit here today, that will probably be internal competition between [Anthony] Gose, [Dalton] Pompey and [Kevin] Pillar,” said Anthopoulos.

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