August 5, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) runs to third base after hitting a triple during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Giants won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Melk Man, Stroman, and PEDs


Although it isn’t official yet (nothing is official with the Jays these days) it looks like Melky Cabrera is going to be Toronto’s starting left fielder for the next two seasons.  From a purely baseball perspective, this signing is pretty exciting.  After having to suffer through 142 games of Rajai Davis last season, with his flailing away at outside breaking balls and circuitous routes in the field, Melky definitely represents an upgrade.

(Author’s Note: with family and travel commitments, lately, my posts have been taking days, rather than hours to write.  As per the above, not only is ‘the trade’ now official, but Melky’s signing is a done deal, and the Jays even have a new (old) manager.)

However, there is a caveat.  As we all know, Cabrera was suspended for fifty games this past year after a positive PED test.  So, were the 2011 and 2012 seasons where the Melk Man posted 4+ WARs PED induced?  Or, at an age where baseball players are reaching their prime, has Melky ‘figured it out’?  The always excellent Andrew Stoeten over at DJF mused on Melky’s numbers and how they were driven by a ridiculously high BABIP, not only in 2012, where his .379 would have been near the league leaders if qualified, but also in 2011 when 33% of his batted balls dropped.  Prior to those two years, he had never cracked the thirty percent barrier, which definitely throws up a red flag.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman also had some interesting comments when news of Cabrera’s positive test broke.  Basically pegging him as a fourth outfielder, low-end every day type (ie Rajai Davis).  Saying he was unsurprised when he learned the news as Cabrera’s previous two seasons didn’t match his talent level.  Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and Cashman was taking the opportunity to justify trading him.

The truth, as in most cases, probably lies somewhere in the middle.  As Stoeten pointed out in his article, Cabrera’s power

numbers didn’t really show dramatic improvement with the PED usage but Melky has never been a long ball merchant so, for me, that part of his game wasn’t going to be the beneficiary.  Although I am by no means an expert, the way I understand their benefits is that you recover far quicker than those doing things the old fashioned way.  So, instead of being too tired for a workout in the morning, you are raring to go, and after a tough stretch of games, you are more likely to be physically able to square up that late inning heater where those that are worn out hit a lazy fly ball.

Which is why I was slightly surprised when Cabrera’s line drive percentage has only ticked up slightly over the past couple of years.  What does jump out at you when running through the batted ball stats is how his 2012 ground ball rate jumped five percent with a corresponding drop on the fly ball side.  This helps explain the significant increase in his BABIP and may go a ways towards quantifying what PEDs did for Cabrera.  He was able to get on top of more pitches and hit them hard.  2013 should see a regression then.  But playing on the astro turf of Rogers Center may mitigate that somewhat.

Overall, it is a good signing, even if the Jays don’t get the juiced 2012 version of Melky Cabrera.  If the Bill James 2013 slash line projection of .295/.348/.432 is in the ballpark then I think AA, and Toronto fans, will be pretty happy.

One last note.  I was interested to read AA’s comments about the suspension and how the Jays are willing to give players a second chance.  I don’t think Marcus Stroman is in the position to argue this point but I do find it a bit odd that Toronto didn’t call him up with Septembers expanded rosters to try and kill off some of his fifty game PED suspension.

Stroman delivers for Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Battersbox.ca

Stroman’s transgression was reasonably innocent in that he failed to read the ingredients of an over the counter supplement.  In fact, if he was on a mlb roster the stimulant in question would not have been cause for a ban.  So, if the Jays are into second chances, why was Stroman not called up?

It is possible they weren’t all that happy with his development and he wasn’t in line for a promotion anyway.  But by forcing him to serve the fifty games at the beginning of the 2013 minor league season they have limited their flexibility on Stroman’s development somewhat.  If the Jays are sure that his future lies in the bullpen then Stroman will be assigned to New Hampshire and be eligible to start pitching in late May.  But if they had designs of seeing what he could do as a starter (and the Jays current model with drafted pitchers is to see what they can do as starters before shifting them to the ‘pen if necessary), you would think Stroman would probably be back to short-season ball, which doesn’t start until June.  It’s possible they could assign him to one of the full season clubs to serve out the suspension before demoting him to Vancouver, but I’m not sure what the rules would say about that.

We’ll have to wait until assignments are handed out after spring training to find out the answer to the above question.  Just seems so far away.

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Tags: Blue Jays Marcus Stroman Melky Cabrera

  • malna

    Calling up stroman to take games off his suspension clock does not help his development in any way. In fact, it probably only hurts as it would likely force the team to burn one of his three option years this upcoming spring. Part of developing a player is making them understand the consequences of their actions. Helping him skirt the suspension would send a terrible message to Stroman, all other players in the organization, and could potentially even cause grievances between the team and the commisioner’s office/ player union. While he may have been promoted had it not been for the suspension (given what the team had been saying), there was absolutely no reason for him to be on the 40 man roster earning league minimum when he was still in his draft year, unable to play games.

    Even if the team was ecstatic with his development and results over the half season since he was drafted, it was going to be a long shot for him to earn a 40 man roster spot this September. The Jays are in fact allowed to posture in order to expedite their negotiations with draft picks…

    • vilifyingforce

      While I agree on leaving him off the 40 man. The rest is a bit of hogwash if he was in the Majors he would have never been suspended (if that’s true, which is just incredibly stupid) making the whole suspension a farce. I also doubt the player’s union would grieve a team helping the player get back to work faster.

      • Charlie Caskey

        It was the players union that agreed to more stringent testing procedures in minor leagues, so doubt very seriously they would object to a team calling up a player to help kill off a portion of a suspension.

        • Guest

          Pretty much my sentiment.

          • Charlie Caskey

            I think the players union agreement to more stringent testing in the minor leagues was probably a bargaining chip for something lesser in the majors. Unfortunately, despite the fact that they all played in the minors at some point, major leaguers don’t really give a rat’s behind about their brethren in the lower levels.

            I don’t believe they necessarily would ‘fully support’ creative ways to reduce the suspension, but nor do I think they would really care to be honest

          • vilifyingforce

            The union would do everything in their power to ensure the player is still getting paid and allowed to work. They may have agreed to the more stringent testing in the minors, but, that doesn’t mean they stop fighting for the player. I also agree with testing in the minors as being nothing more then a bargaining chip.

        • malna

          I don’t understand what you are saying here. If the player’s union is very on board with more stringent testing, as per your comment and the article I linked to in a comment above, why would they fully support Stroman and the Blue Jays avoiding their drug policy penalties?

          Obviously they would support Stroman with any legal issues and what not, but I don’t think their official stance as a group is supportive at all.

    • Charlie Caskey

      I don’t know how terrible the message would have been. As Alex Anthopolous has consistently stated, the Jays try and use these things as educational tools (ie – the Escobar eye black incident). Calling him up wouldn’t necessarily have affirmed his actions but would have given them the opportunity to educate Stroman on his future actions, with the side benefit of reducing his 2013 missed time.

      As you say, burning one of his options may have had more to do with the non-call, although there may be a minimum to the games they are active for before an option is burnt. Would need to research that further.

      • malna

        I do agree that the Jays system is about giving second chances and that this should not hinder his progress in their eyes in any way. He may still have a chance to be in the bullpen next near, given whatever injury and platoon situation is called for. I still don’t know why he isn’t being tried as a starter though.

        I think burning an option has more to do with it than anything. There is no minimum to the number of games that need to be played before an option is/can be burnt. If a player is on the active roster (25 man, or sept 40 man call up, for example) and is sent to the minors at any point after that, an option is typically going to be used. A player doesn’t even need to be called up for this to be the case (see: Hech). In this example, if a player is on the 40 man roster one year, and remains on the 40 man roster the next year but is sent down (say, during/after spring training, and remember – hech was originally signed to major league contract in 2010), then an option is used. Options are valid for the year (a player can be sent on optional assignment many times during any particular option year – see mccoy – though there are limitations for how quickly you can bring someone back up after being sent down – a week i think), and each player has three option years. However, the player earns the right to refuse a demotion once they hit 5 years of service time. Hence why the jays were able to send adam lind to the minors last year (though they eventually DFA’d him anyways, hoping someone would pickup the contract, i believe).

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  • dbenson1399

    Would calling him up actually took games off his suspension? The minors and majors have different CBAs and I know you can be suspended for life in the minors and still be allowed to play in the majors. I am not sure, but I don’t know that calling Stroman up would have actually cut into the 50 games.

    • Charlie Caskey

      From everything I have read, it would have. Believe it was Ken Rosenthal that initially suggested it

    • malna

      If there were no rules preventing him from being called up, then it certainly would have taken games off his suspension clock.