Blue Jays expect to be competitive for Cabrera

Melky Cabrera (Jon Blacker/CP)

BALTIMORE – Alex Anthopoulos expects left-fielder Melky Cabrera to hit the open market but says the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be competitive for "any free agent that we’re going to try to retain."

The general manager, speaking to reporters Tuesday, hinted that he would make the 30-year-old a qualifying offer in order to ensure draft-pick compensation should he sign elsewhere (something they will obviously be doing), and added that he’s open to bringing back all of the team’s pending free agents, "as long as it makes financial sense for us."

After Cabrera suffered a season-ending broken pinky Sept 5., he told reporters that he wanted to stay in Toronto. But for those hoping that might lead to a quick extension, don’t hold your breath.

"Most guys that get to this point normally test free agency," Anthopoulos said. "I remember even my first year as general manager, John McDonald, we had an exclusive window to talk to him, he and his agent just felt like he needed to see what was out there, I had no problem with it, I thought we were going to be competitive anyways and we gave him that two year deal at $1.5 million a year. It doesn’t mean it happens, but in my experiences and if you look at the data, I’d say more often than not you get to this point, guys want to see what’s out there."

The qualifying offer, based on the average of the top 125 salaries in the game and expected to land in the $15 million range, may impact the market for Cabrera, who batted .301 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 139 games before his injury.

Having to surrender a draft pick could eliminate a team or two for the running, and might also shave off some of his potential cost.

Still, none of that makes it a lock that the Blue Jays will keep Cabrera, one of the few impact offensive players bound for free agency.

"If ultimately we get priced out by years or dollars, that could happen, but that wouldn’t have been the intent," Anthopoulos said. "Sometimes, and I’m not alluding to this specifically to Melky, but there are times and you guys wouldn’t necessarily know about it, we may have had discussions with players in the past, whether it’s spring training, whether it’s during the all-star break, whether it’s in-season, and maybe we couldn’t come to terms. Sometimes you collectively agree that maybe it’s best that they test the market and they get a feel for what’s out there and that breaks the tie for you.

"When you’re trying to get deals down ahead of time, both sides are trying to project what the market is going to be because it’s not salary arbitration, you’re trying to come up with a quote/unquote fair value and what market value is. There are times I’ve told players and agents, ‘if you ultimately want to be here, and this is your first choice, go out and see what’s out there, he’ll have a better handle on what he’s turning down and we can have more productive discussions.’"

Aside from Cabrera, Casey Janssen and Colby Rasmus are also pending free agents, while Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Adam Lind, Dustin McGowan and Josh Thole all have contract options.

GIBBONS’ FUTURE: Structured with a series of rolling options that adds another as soon as one is exercised, John Gibbons’ contract as Blue Jays manager is designed to never run out until he gets fired.

That’s why when Alex Anthopoulos was asked if he’s spoken to Gibbons about whether he’s returning for the 2015 season, he quite rightly said, "he’s under contract, he’s always under contract pretty much. I don’t think there’s anything to take care of, and I think he has done a good job."

In hiding behind the contract, Anthopoulos was able to deliver a non-endorsement endorsement that really said nothing.

"I’m a big believer that no matter what position, grounds crew, administrative assistant, manager, coach, you support them until you don’t support them," he said. "Until they’re no longer in this position you support them. That position is going to be that way whether you’re 100 games over .500 or we’re struggling. We always support our staff."

ANIMAL MATTERS: Alex Anthopoulos said he never actually received a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, addressed to him, team president Paul Beeston and manager John Gibbons and distributed to media, but that he’d take their complaints into consideration in the future.

PETA issued a letter Monday complaining about the Blue Jays’ recent pre-game visit from lion and tiger cubs, saying the team was likely unaware that their "exploitative stunt" was "inherently cruel and dangerous."

"I thought there were some very salient points," Anthopoulos said. "I thought it was very well written and certainly respect everyone’s opinion on the matter. There were some things like they mentioned that we weren’t aware of and if in 35 years from now, or whenever, something like that was to be brought to us again we’ll consider all angles."

Asked about the 35 years comment, Anthopoulos explained "well, that’s the first time in 35 years that I know of that animals were brought. It just happened quickly with Mark (Buehrle). I understand their points and respect it and there were some things we weren’t aware of and some things we’ll take under consideration."

LUCKY MAN: Save for some pain and the discomfort of landing in a pool of spit in the dugout, Steve Tolleson was fine Tuesday after being struck on the wrist by a Munenori Kawasaki liner while leaning on the dugout railing a night earlier.

Tolleson didn’t even have a bruise on his arm and said the area struck wasn’t even tender to the touch. He managed to get his arm up just in time to protect his face and considered himself lucky.

"I’m going to play closer attention when Kawasaki or (Anthony) Gose or some of the lefties are hitting," he said. "It’s not at all ballparks where you’re sitting this close to the field, I probably should have been a little more aware. All that being said I was locked into the game as much as I possibly could have been, thank goodness for that. If I hadn’t been paying attention to the game or watching the pitcher instead of watching Kawasaki there’s no way I would have gotten my hand up to get in the way of that ball."

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