Toronto Blue Jays Make Another Sharp Move In Signing Melky Cabrera

By Thom Tsang
Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Forget hockey – the rate that Alex Anthopoulos is making additions, baseball is the only thing that folks in Toronto will want to talk about.

Not merely content with shoring up the starting rotation earlier this week with the yet-to-be-confirmed additions of Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, the Toronto Blue Jays GM filled a Rajai Davis-sized hole in left field this afternoon, signing free-agent Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million dollar contract.

It’s another exceptional signing for Toronto, who have made another significant upgrade to a position of need without taking on excessive risk. In Cabrera, the Blue Jays got a starting left fielder who is four years younger than the incumbent Davis, a player who is in his prime, with more pop in his bat, and a better all-around player in just about every way except for base running.

Davis’ 100+ point OPS lefty v. righty split meant that he wasn’t suited to be used in a starting role in Toronto – Cabrera has shown no such issue over his career thus far. Better yet, the 28-year old gives the Blue Jays yet another switch-hitter in the lineup, and someone who has shown the upside to significantly out-perform their contract value of $8 million dollars a year despite the elephant in the room.

That, of course, would be the outsider’s 50-game suspension in 2012 due to the use of PEDs. It’s a legitimate concern, considering that Cabrera is coming off the heels of a pair of seasons in which he career-high power numbers after not showing much of it in his career prior. That said, he did find those career numbers at a time when he was just hitting his prime (age-26 and 27 seasons), and the terms of the contract should negate the potential BABIP/juicing regression risk.

At a very reasonable $8 million a year for two years, it’s essentially a make-good deal for Cabrera, who will be more than motivated to show the league that he can play cleanly and still put up the numbers he did over the last two seasons. The Toronto Blue Jays have put themselves in line to reap the results: even if Cabrera never hits his ’11 and pre-suspension ’12 numbers, the team should benefit from his improved walk-rate, and switch-hitting versatility over the Davis.

In short – if Cabrera even comes close to his 4.2 and 4.6 WAR seasons – the Blue Jays would’ve gotten a steal; even if Cabrera compiles half of those numbers in the upcoming seasons (think slightly better than his ’09 year), the team would still be coming out on top in WAR value for his position.

Yeah, the whole PED thing is a risk, but it’s a relatively minor one – the team isn’t committed to a long-term contract, the player is motivated; the chance of a positive return on the dollars well outweighs any potential issues.

It’s another relatively low-risk, high-upside acquisition for Anthopoulos, who have made it astoundingly clear that the Blue Jays aren’t just going to be looking to contend – they’re putting their division, and the rest of the AL on notice.

Cabrera won’t be the last improvement to the team before the start of the season.

Your move, MLB.

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