The naysayers were out in full force last offseason when news broke of the Toronto Blue Jays signing outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract. Local radio and the rest of the baseball world transformed into a picket line of non-believers, as the term “gullible suckers” was a trending description.
Cabrera did not capitalize on his opportunity to dispel that notion in 2013. While appearing in only 88 games due to knee and back issues, the starting left fielder posted a paltry OPS of .682. The sentiment of Toronto getting reeled in by Cabrera’s performance-enhanced 2012 season has been growing at a feverish pace, with negative press that almost makes Rob Ford’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show look impressive.
In late August of 2012, MLB swung its suspension axe as Cabrera tested positive for testosterone, cutting short the 29-year-old’s MVP caliber season by 50 games. At the time, the switch hitter was leading the NL in hits (159) while ranking second in batting average (.346).
This begs the question: exactly how much benefit did his abnormal testosterone levels bring to his game? It can amount to weight loss, boosts of energy, aggressiveness and curious social behaviour, but does it aid one’s ability to hit for more power? Does it improve eye-hand coordination at the plate?
An overlooked fact about his 2012 season is that he posted his all-time best BABIP of .379, much higher than his .310 career average. Many big league hitters have been praised for “breaking out” after seasons masked by this very same stat buffer, but Cabrera has been unfairly scrutinized.
Toronto does not need a fantasy stud; the city requires a bona fide No. 2 hitter, a job Cabrera is perfectly suited for. A career contact rate of 88.2 percent and fly ball rate of 31.2 percent are tailor-made to help Jose Reyes work his magic on the basepaths, not to mention present an abundance of opportunities for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the bash brothers behind him.
With $8 million left for the Blue Jays to deposit into Cabrera’s account, every fan’s scorecard is ready. If his scorching .550 slugging percentage so far this spring is any indication, he will be able to take back his dignity in 2014.