Melky Cabrera, should he stay or should he go


In the days leading up to the Nov. 10 deadline for free agents to make a decision on their $15.3 million qualifying offers, Blue Jays nation waits, sitting at the edge of their chairs, bashing the refresh button in hopes their club’s 2014 left fielder, Melky Cabrera, accepts his offer and moves forward as a Toronto Blue Jay.

And rightfully so. At 30 years-old,Cabrera is still thumping to the beat of a .301/.351/.458 slash with 16 home-runs. Last season he provided the Jays with a 2.6 WAR season so for fans to be worried he’s going to abandon ship in favour of more money isn’t ludicrous.

But could Cabrera’s departure actually benefit the Jays?

Hypothetically, yes.

There are two components which make this theory possible: first, another team would have to sign Cabrera and thus surrender a compensation draft pick to the Jays and secondly, the Jays would have to acquire another player comparable in value to Cabrera for next season.

What Toronto may face is a microcosm of the scenario faced by Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics when replacing Jason Giambi during the Moneyball era. The Jays need to find a combination of other players to replace Melky Cabrera.

What Toronto may face is a microcosm of the scenario faced by Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics when replacing Jason Giambi during the Moneyball era. The Jays need to find a combination of other players to replace Melky Cabrera. The good news is that these replacement players don’t have to be the diamond in the rough manifestations of the Beane story, they’re on the open market right now.

Last season, it was no hidden secret the Jays lacked in production from centre-field and almost exclusively second base. They started the season with Ryan Goins manning the position but after his bat went south the team failed to find an everyday replacement. In centre-field, the Jays endured an under-performing Colby Rasmus who was inevitably benched in favour of career minor leaguers Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose during the storied “playoff drive” of late August and early September.

Both of these positions could be filled via the free agent market.

Starting with second-base, the most viable and valuable option is Asdrubal Cabrera who under-performed last season with a .229/.312/.389 slash and produced a 1.8 WAR. If Cabrera could return to his 2012 version at second, he could solidify the Jays up the middle at only 28 years-old and could be as valuable as the 2014 line-up featuring Melky in left.

Upgrading in centre-field may be a bit of a more arbitrary process however. The best options out there include Nick Markakis, Nori Aoki and a surprising option of Torii Hunter.

Markakis and Aoki aside, Hunter could be low-cost option for a player who will be at least decent for probably another two seasons. Last season, in 586 plate appearances, Hunter produced an impressive .286/.319/.446 slash but had his WAR dragged down by one of his worst defensive seasons of his career.

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At 39, it’s unlikely his production will increase, especially on the hard turf at the Rogers Centre, but it’s possible the Jays could platoon their fielders in similar fashion to the way Ned Yost did during this year’s World Series. With prospect Dalton Pompey‘s recent success, it’s possible he start 2015 in centre-field leaving Hunter to his right in left-field. Even if Pompey isn’t ready, and you have to platoon Pillar and Gose again, you would likely still have more value if you upgrade at second base and acquire some help in the outfield.

This writer isn’t suggesting the Jays will win 20 consecutive games next season by letting one of their stars walk-away in the same way the ’02 Athletics did; however, these transactions could potentially improve the club for today and tomorrow considering the compensation draft pick acquired if Melky leaves the Jays.

So come Monday at 5 PM, Jays nation need not fear if their star outfielder declines his qualifying offer in favour of testing the free agent market.

Let him. Maybe he’ll come crawling back to 1 Blue Jays Way at the Jays price or maybe, just maybe, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos will have just the backup plan in order to set the Toronto Blue Jays up for one prosperous 2015 season.