Although the Blue Jays are in dire need of filling holes in the bullpen, second or third, it’s no secret that resigning outfielder Melky Cabrera is Toronto’s top priority. This was further underlined by some big moves just days into November, which saw long-time Jay Adam Lind pack his bags for Milwaukee in a trade for pitcher Marco Estrada. Shortly after, the organization declined options on right-handers Dustin McGowan ($4 million option/$500,000 buyout), Brandon Morrow ($10 million option/$1 million buyout) and Sergio Santos ($6 million/$750,000 buyout), making room for improvement in the pen and allowing more money to trickle into the Cabrera collection plate.
Although these moves help put the club in a position to extend a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to the 30-year-old left-fielder, there was immediate chatter that Melky Cabrera will most likely turn down the team that gave him a second chance after the fallout in 2012 with his former team the San Francisco Giants, where he was suspended (and sent to Legacy Healing Center) for 50 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. His value, regardless of his past PED use and a shaky 2013 season (where he struggled with a variety of ailments that were eventually attributed to a benign tumor in his spine), is projected to be much higher than the Jays are suggesting with their November 1 offer.
To his benefit, Melky Cabrera just finished one of the best seasons of his career where, in 139 games (his 2014 was cut short due to a fractured finger), he batted .301 with 171 hits, 16 home runs, 73 RBI and 13 outfield assists, which tied him for third-highest in the majors. He also joins a slim outfielder market where he is one of the top free agents.
The Melkman will undoubtedly look for a long-term deal since he is clearly in the prime of his career. Multiple sources expect the Jays will have to compete with offers around $64-$66 million for four or five years.
Melky Cabrera has publicly expressed a desire to stay in Toronto where he is content in the clubhouse alongside good friends Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion. However, on the business side, GM Alex Anthopoulos admitted over the weekend that he and Cabrera’s agents were far apart and it would take offers from the rumored other five interested teams to bring their numbers closer together. As an optimistic fan, this suggests that Cabrera may give the Blue Jays an opportunity to match an offer presented to him at the final hour.
If Melky Cabrera comes back to Toronto, he will be without an significant element of his comeback: hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, who took the same job with the Atlanta Braves after he and the Jays couldn’t come to an agreement in contract talks. Seitzer made a huge offensive impact in 2014, where he proposed a philosophy of hitting to all fields and taking what the pitcher gives you, which allowed the line-up to score in the fifth-most runs and rack-up the third most home runs in the majors.