Mere days after every other player in baseball joined the Toronto Blue Jays, outfielder Melky Cabrera has followed suit by signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the sport’s lone Canadian team. Cabrera, as everyone who is above the age of three and doesn’t huff paint knows, tested positive for performance enhancers during the 2012 season in the midst of a career year. Cabrera’s case as a free agent is an extremely interesting one, as he is coming off what are easily the two best seasons of his career but has the whole positive test thing lodged in his paw.
As it turns out, Cabrera surely cost himself millions upon millions of dollars by testing positive. Without those devil horns attached to his head, Cabrera would be looking at a much bigger payday, perhaps the kind befitting a guy coming off two seasons in which he exceeded 4.0-WAR. After the test came back, a lot of us figured it would be hard for Cabrera to get more than a one-year deal loaded with incentives. Cabrera wound up getting two years, but the Blue Jays cerintaly wouldn’t have anticipated signing him on this kind of contract back when he was winning the All-Star game MVP award.
Cabrera was snatched up for a whole lot less money than he would have been without a positive test, but does this signing work for the Blue Jays? We’ve not been the biggest Melky Cabrera apologists, as his success largely came out of nowhere and has been hugely dependent on a borderline ridiculous BABIP spike; if this guy puts a ball in play, it somehow becomes a hit regardless of how well it was struck. We still firmly believe Cabrera will return to earth, but it’s because of luck and not whatever was running through his body.
Chances are we’ll see Cabrera put up numbers somewhere between his banner seasons and his pedestrian 2009. If that’s the case, expecting a couple of seasons in the realm of 2.5-3 WAR out of Cabrera for 2013 and 2014 seems reasonable. The Jays struck while the iron was hot, signing the outfielder to a deal that will help the team in the short term without negatively affecting their flexibility in the future. Cabrera is already 28, so he should be just fine as a nice mid-tier acquisition for now. Alex Anthopoulos has once again done a nice job of finding value between the margins, and Cabrera serves to help shore up another spot on the Toronto roster.