Mutual interest between Cabrera, Jays a good start

Alex Anthopoulos says he will never divulge information about ongoing contract talks, but says the important thing is that Melky Cabrera wants to be here, and the Jays want him back.

TORONTO – Among the players saying his goodbyes to various teammates in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse on Sunday afternoon was Melky Cabrera, the injured outfielder who is the club’s key free agent this off-season.

The fact that the 30-year-old returned to hang around the team after breaking his right pinky Sept. 5 and undergoing surgery to repair the injury was a demonstration of his commitment to the club. What that means once he hits the open market is uncertain, but his feelings about the place are clear.

“I like it here,” Cabrera said in a brief interview with Sportsnet after the season-ending 1-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. “My team, my lifestyle, everybody – I like it.”

Cabrera finished out a US$16-million, two-year deal by slashing .301/.351/.458 with 35 doubles, 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 139 games, a strong rebound from a dreadful first season with the Blue Jays in which he played with a benign tumour in his back.

That’s set him up nicely for free agency, where he and Nelson Cruz will be the only elite outfielders on the open market unless Nick Markakis’ mutual option with the Baltimore Orioles isn’t exercised. There’s a sense among some in the industry that he may end up priced out of the Blue Jays’ comfort zone.

“Melky and his agent know the policies of the organization, and that doesn’t seem to be a stumbling block,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “We’ve been consistent with those things. If something like our five‑year policy was a problem, I’m pretty sure I would have been told that already, and it doesn’t look to be the case. It’s probably as much as I can say on that.”

There are two schools of thought floating around on Cabrera’s intentions.

One is that he’ll show, within reason, extra consideration to the Blue Jays as payback for giving him a two-year deal after a PED suspension marred and truncated a brilliant 2012 season with the San Francisco Giants.

The other is that he’ll be looking to maximize dollars to make up for lost money the last time he hit the market.

How the mutual interest between him and the Blue Jays plays out will be impacted by how hot and heavy other teams get for Cabrera.

“Melky has sincerely expressed a desire to be back,” said Anthopoulos. “He’s expressed it, we’re his first choice. I don’t think it’s lip service, I think he’s sincere on that. We’ve absolutely expressed a desire to have him back, as well, and that’s a good starting point. Does it ensure or guarantee anything? Absolutely not. Only the years and the dollars win out.”

Cabrera’s immediate focus is on his finger, which remains wrapped in a split.

“My finger is good,” he said.

As for his future, Cabrera replied simply, “I don’t know.”

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