Major League Baseball teams only get 10 days of exclusive negotiating rights with their internal free agents before said player hits the open market, making him available to join any team at his own discretion. In regards to the Toronto Blue Jays and Melky Cabrera, the negotiations may end prior to the 10-day window expiring.
And they don’t appear to be ending in a way that would signal a reunion between the two sides.
According to General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, via conference call (h/t Shi David, Sportsnet), the two sides do not appear to be close on a deal. That isn’t necessarily surprising, as we heard last week that the Blue Jays had offered Cabrera a modest 3-year deal to begin with, which doesn’t necessarily show their dedication to the player, or his value on the open market, as it does the hope that the Blue Jays could garner some sort of hometown discount without having to over-commit in terms of length of contract.
"“All you can do is negotiate and try to get a deal done, make offers and counteroffers, but at some point if you’re far apart you’re far apart, there’s only so much that can be done.” – Alex Anthopoulos (h/t Shi Davidi)"
As expected, the Blue Jays did extend Melky Cabrera the obligatory qualifying offer on Saturday, and as Anthopoulos expects Cabrera to formerly decline the offer in favor of testing the open market and maximizing his value. MLB Trade Rumors has Cabrera ranked 7th overall in their free agent power rankings, and he represents the 4th rated hitter on the list behind Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Victor Martinez.
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That’s no surprise given the 30-year-old outfielder posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line with 16 home runs, 81 runs scored, 75 RBI, and a 125 wRC+ for the 2014 season. That parlays Cabrera into a relatively barren outfield market this winter, with only Nelson Cruz of the Orioles and Cuban Yasmani Tomas as other viable options.
The limited market, as well as even more limited internal options make it a rather risky proposition for Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays to allow Melky to test his worth on a market where someone will certainly overpay for his services and not have the same ill-conceived restraint that the Blue Jays are currently employing. However, that appears to be exactly what the Blue Jays want to see here, feeling they would rather someone else dictate his market than set it themselves.
"“Like you’d have in salary arbitration, if you have to end up in a room, if you can’t see eye-to-eye on someone’s free-agent value, which is very hard to quantify, sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market, them to talk to other clubs, so they truly know what they are worth.” – Alex Anthopoulos (h/t Shi Davidi)"
I’ve said all along that the Blue Jays need to be aggressive this winter, and they’ve managed to his the ground running with some interesting early moves already, but none of them wreak of commitment as they do of cutting costs. Certainly, the dealing of Adam Lind and the declining of options for Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and Sergio Santos opens some doors with regards to availability of funds, but that will remain to be seen if they parlay that flexibility into more useful pieces rather than flowing it to the bottom line.
That doesn’t mean the Blue Jays are going to be active in the Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields markets, but so far the example of letting Melky test the market leans closer to the latter than it does the former. Yes, it is still early and perhaps there is a plan here still working itself out.
Or maybe we’re simply gambling our way down a similar path, having not learned from the mistakes of the past.