Report: Jays to sign Melky Cabrera at a PED-influenced discount

There have been many persistent areas of need for the Blue Jays under the direction of Alex Anthopoulos which the young GM has addressed through trades and free agency. Centerfield was plugged in 2011 with the acquisition of former top prospect Colby Rasmus who will be with the team at least until Gose or another prospect is ready to take over full time. The bullpen was an obvious area of need which AA filled with power arms in Santos, Delabar, Oliver, and Lincoln. The starting rotation was exposed in 2012 undone by injuries but AA has done more than expected in acquiring veterans Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins. The hole in left field which had been plugged with forgettable performances from the likes of Juan Rivera, Eric Thames, Travis Snider and Rajai Davis in recent years, but with the exception of Snider, there was never hope that they would become the long-term solution.

With the signing of Melky Cabrera for 2 years at $8 M per season, the Jays have filled their greatest positional need with a player who is motivated to perform (he’s got to re-establish his value to cash in in 2014) and who could perform at an elite level providing oodles of surplus value. Even if Cabrera fails to perform at the level he did for the Giants, it seems implausible that he would collapse to the point that he did not provide at least ~3.3 WAR (and therefore roughly fair value) in 2013-14.

Cabrera gives the Jays another legitimate threat at the top of the order that should set the table for one of the better power-hitting duos in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Cabrera is a legitimate switch-hitting on-base threat whose average on-base percentage over the last 4 seasons split between the Yankees, Braves, Royals and Giants is .345. Though he lacks some of the power traditionally expected from a corner outfielder, Cabrera should still see a slight boost playing in the Rogers Centre and has the potential to hit 15+ HRs for Toronto. However, the vast majority of his value is derived from his ability to get on-base and by legging out doubles and triples which should result in a lot more runs scored in 2013 with the infinitely superior weapons that will presumably follow him in the order.

In addition to his bat, Cabrera is a decent baserunner having stolen 50 bases in the last 4 years at nearly a 75% success rate, though his defence has provided negative dWAR in every year since 2008, averaging -0.5 dWAR over that span. Considering the players that have been charged with defending the position over the last three years, Melky Cabrera should seem like Mike Trout-lite to Jays fans.

With this signing, there is no longer a consensus upon the Jays’ biggest area of need. Second base will likely be filled by a combination of veteran Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio (who is one year removed from a 3 WAR season). Adam Lind could do with a platoon partner unless his long-lost ability to hit left-handed pitchers miraculously returns, but that could be found in Rajai Davis without any great cost. Though the team would obviously prefer to have an everyday DH/1B like David Ortiz, they are considerably more expensive than the status quo and would likely require the team to dump one of Lind/Davis and possibly eat some of their remaining salary. Those resources could arguably be better dedicated to the acquisition of greater rotation depth, but the fact that there is even such a debate is a reason for great optimism for the future of the Blue Jays. Dustin Parkes of Getting Blanked suggested that the Jays should sign Johnny Gomes to serve as platoon partner and keep Rajai Davis in the role his skills are best suited to: pinch runner/4th OFer.

With rumours persisting that the Jays are not yet done making moves, Parkes also mentioned Greinke as someone who would be expensive but could make the difference between a 90-win team and 95-97 win team and therefore the difference between a Wild Card candidate and a division winner. As crazy as it sounds to those conditioned to be frugal, the extra ~$22 per year is actually a wise investment if you believe it will ensure you multiple years of competitive baseball complete with all the revenue increases that entails in jersey sales, advertising revenue, and attendance. The fact the team is owned by the same entity that owns its broadcaster and outdated, but adequate stadium bodes well for the future finances of the team as well.

Anthopoulos and Beeston have picked a perfect time to strike as the AL East’s usual powerhouses are rebuilding, aging/losing key free agents or suffering through never-ending revenue shortfalls. The rotation currently ranks up as the second-best in the AL East that could very well challenge for the title with a bounce back from Romero and healthy, productive seasons from the others. The offence now compares favourably with the best in baseball as well. With potential All-Star hitters from 1-5 in the lineup and and a bottom half of the lineup featuring players who have shown in the past to be capable of star-level 3-4+ WAR seasons in the bottom half, the Jays could possess one of the most potent in baseball in 2013.

Note to John Farrell: You mad, bro?

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