Melky Cabrera: The Blue Jays Did the Right Thing
The long, drawn out Melky Cabrera drama has come to an end. He’s agreed to a contract with the Chicago White Sox. This news may come as a bit of a disappointment to Blue Jays fans. For months now, there have been rally cries to re-sign the left fielder. Melky was a bright spot in a relatively frustrating and disappointing season. But the Blue Jays did the right thing in handling Melky Cabrera.
In fairness to Melky, we cannot even talk about his 2013 performance due to the tumor on his spine. Given that, the final year of his 2yr/$16M contract was certainly worth it. What he lacked in 2013, he made up for in 2014.
The fact that Melky was worth 2.6 WAR doesn’t really jive with the overall opinion of his worth. The feeling that fans had was that he was worth much more. This is due to the fact that there wasn’t really a whole lot of consistency with the Toronto Blue Jays. It is easy to think that The Melkman was worth much more than he actually was in the context of a team that held first place for a month and then ended up finishing 13 games back of the division winning Orioles. Through all of the ups and downs Melky kept hitting. Is his performance really worth all of the outcry to bring him back? At one time, it was.
That time has passed. The Blue Jays handled this situation really well. They maintained an open door of dialogue with Cabrera and his agent. They always left the door open to a return. At the same time, they prepared us for the likelihood that it would not happen. But, that is just the beginning of a series of moves that prepared the club itself.
When the Blue Jays picked up Russell Martin for 5yrs/$82M, they committed to giving up a draft pick in June. Do we really think that they would be prepared to do that if they truly planned on bringing Melky back? We know how much Alex Anthopoulos loves his draft picks. Instead, they now recoup that draft pick because he signed elsewhere. As well, in signing Martin, the Blue Jays improved at catcher and added a similar bat to Cabrera. +1 for the Blue Jays.
The trade that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto added more pop in the lineup to cover for the loss of Melky. They improved their lineup in preparation for his departure. With these two additions, fans may very well forget about the offensive contributions that have gone to Chicago.
Another move that will help us forget is the addition of Michael Saunders. Saunders will prove to be a better defender than Cabrera in left field. All of this for a much cheaper price (~$3M+). As well, his bat will add that much more in the way of production. As it stands right now, the outfield of Jose Bautista, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders (with Kevin Pillar on the bench) is younger and more athletic. Combined, these moves may seem like preparation for “what if” Melky signs elsewhere. But, GM, Alex Anthopoulos is smarter than “what if”.
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If Melky Cabrera was going to re-sign with the Blue Jays, it would not be because the club was desperate. Each move they made created less and less room for Cabrera and less and less desperation on their part. Desperation means you pay much more. They constantly said that they would love to have Melky back , but they were just too far apart on numbers.
Melky was looking for 5yrs, $40M. The Blue Jays were said to be thinking 3yrs/$39M. The White Sox paid just that. The moves made already meant there would be no way the Blue Jays would meet that price now, so Melky had to take the lesser deal. Was he too aggressive? Perhaps. But, it would appear the Blue Jays knew what they were doing.
They saved themselves $36M over the next 3 years. That money can be used elsewhere. The bullpen is a good place to start the shopping. There are still lots of options out there on the market. They could also use that money to focus on a starter if they choose, even though the rotation is not their most glaring area of need. Another suggestion for that money is to not spend it…right now. Given the foresight already discussed, the club could potentially pocket the savings and use them mid-season when (read “if”) they are in contention and need to make an expensive move. The point is the Blue Jays can do whatever they wish with that money.
This (relative) financial freedom allows them the wiggle room and flexibility to allocate resources away from an area that is no longer an area of need. The lineup is better now. They are improved in left field. They’ve gone younger and more athletic and saved a lot of money in the process. They’ve dealt with their draft pick deficit. The Toronto Blue Jays took fate into their own hands and were not forced into action by any other entity; not an agent, not a player, not the fans. And, they are better off because of it.