Since spring training, Blue Jays fans have been left in the dark about the state of the franchise. Was Ryan Goins really going to be the Jays future second basemen? Were the Jays really looking at upgrading their starting rotation via free agency? But the most perplexing question for some Jays fans was, can and will ‘we’ resign both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera in the 2014 off-season?
It’s long been ‘speculated’ that the Jays payroll will not be able to handle much of an increase come next season. Reyes already stands to earn a pay-raise and with all the talk about how the Jays wouldn’t take on any additional payroll at the deadline, it is not crazy to assume the Jays will only be able to lockdown either Cabrera or Rasmus but not both.
With less than two months remaining in the regular season, the answer should finally be clear: the Toronto Blue Jays need to resign Melky Cabrera and allow current centre-fielder Colby Rasmus to walk away.
Rasmus was an exciting player to watch and, at times, even possessed jaw-dropping power. At 27, Rasmus is still young enough where he can see the fruits of his labour, relative to the 2013 season where he pieced together an impressive .276/.338/.501 slash with 22 home- runs and a 4.8 WAR. Rasmus could be this player again, but that’s a high risk and could take some time to work through his growing pains.
The problem, however, is that the Jays are currently a little short in the time department. With Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and essentially the rest of the team moving out of the prime of their careers, now is the time to maximize the bang for their buck by putting the most valuable, cost efficient product on the field.
Rasmus, this season, has been much worse than that of his 2013 campaign. In 79 games, he has produced a disappointing .221/.285/.446 slash with a 0.5 WAR and a career high K% at 32.2%. Traditionally, his defence would be enough to bail him out but even this year that has absent, shamefully fielding a -13.5 UZR/100. As mentioned before, Rasmus has the ability to be a prolific player, but Blue Jays fans should picture it as a welcome sight that he becomes that in another jersey where the Jays tight payroll doesn’t have to manage another six figure salary.
Instead, the Jays need to invest in Melky Cabrera via a qualifying offer in the off-season. Last season, the qualifying offer sat at 14.1 million dollars, a six percent increase from the previous year’s $13.3 million. Following that trend, it is likely this year’s qualifying offer will be in the neighbourhood of 14.9 million dollars.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs estimated that, on the free agent market, the cost of a win is about 6 million dollars. Using that approximate formula, parlayed with ZiPS projection for Cabrera’s 2014 WAR at 3.0, Cabrera could earn around $18 million in the open market this off-season. It isn’t too crazy to suggest that number either as Shin-Soo Choo signed a seven year deal valued at $130 million this off-season. Choo had a better season than what Cabrera has put up thus far; however, Cabrera has been the more consistent player at a younger age with Choo falling to replacement level with the Texas Rangers this season.
At 29 years old, it’s possible Cabrera falls back to the player he was in 2013 when he played hurt with a tumour in his back, but with his 2014 .315/.367/.480 slash, how could you not issue him a qualifying offer? Even if he declines, you at least retain a compensation draft pick, enabling you to either resign Rasmus or look externally to fill the outfield void.
As far as Rasmus’ absence in centre-field, the position would be adequately filled if they continued running Anthony Gose out there. Playing 64 games, Gose has already been more valuable than Rasmus, producing 1.3 WAR, more than double Rasmus’ WAR. While Gose isn’t ever going to hit 22 home-runs(barring the legalization of PED’s), he provides the Jays with Gold Glove calibre defence and possesses what many believe as game changing speed.
Ultimately, the Jays cannot financially afford both Cabrera and Rasmus. While Rasmus could be a great player someday, the Jays just don’t have the time for someday and with Cabrera producing the way he is, the decision to resign him should be easy one.
Additionally, they cannot competitively afford Colby Rasmus. Most assume that if Rasmus were offered a qualifying offer, he would jump at the chance to sign the contract. And why wouldn’t he? If someone else wants to pay Rasmus that kind of money, that’s great, go ahead, but let’s all sit silently and pray the Jays aren’t the ones to do it.