The Melk Man cometh, and the Melk Man leaveth.
Prior to the Russell Martin signing and the Josh Donaldson trade, re-signing Melky Cabrera seemed like priority number one for Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. But after those moves, bringing back Melky suddenly slipped down the wish list.
The moment the Blue Jays traded for Michael Saunders, that effectively put the kibosh on any possibility of Melky Cabrera re-signing with Toronto. And Melky’s deal with the Chicago White Sox over the weekend officially capped his tenure in Toronto as a Blue Jay.
Jeff Blair hinted the Martin signing may have actually been the beginning of the end for Melky and the Blue Jays. I suppose once the club opened up the pocketbook for Martin and not for Melky, that really spoke volumes.
But will the Blue Jays really miss Melky Cabrera?
Offensively speaking, he was either the second or third best hitter in their lineup. He was the prototypical number two hitter, and slotted in perfectly between Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista. That kind of void is hard to fill; or so it would seem.
Because the Blue Jays upgraded at two positions this offseason (catcher and third base), that may have made left field less of a concern. Even though Michael Saunders may be a bit of a downgrade compared to Melky Cabrera, he comes at a much lower price tag.
By letting Melky walk, it allowed the Blue Jays to reallocate funds to improve catcher and third base, and also allowed them to sign a first baseman (albeit, one that comes cheap, but one that does not come without concerns).
Knowing what we know now, Melky Cabrera suddenly doesn’t seem so irreplaceable.
If we knew the Blue Jays were going to sign Russell Martin and trade for one of the best third baseman in baseball, fans wouldn’t have been clambering so much for the Jays to re-sign Melky.
It’s kind of like seeing an item up for auction that you really want, bidding back and forth, only to lose out at the last minute; then afterwards, breathing a sigh of relief and saying “that’s alright, I didn’t really want it anyway.”
If you’re a Blue Jays fan waking up to the Melky news, the feeling you’re searching for is called “relief”
— Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF) December 14, 2014
The more I think about it, the more I feel the Blue Jays may have dodged a bullet by not re-signing Melky Cabrera. Three years and $42 million dollars isn’t that egregious a term or a ridiculous amount of money, but that’s bordering on elite-level outfielder money.
The Blue Jays definitely took a risk back in November 2012 by guaranteeing Melky Cabrera $16 million spread over two seasons. But as a free agent, I don’t think Melky was going to take another pay cut to come back to Toronto; even if he really did enjoy playing here.
The Blue Jays did shell out for Russell Martin, but his deal is heavily backloaded. Martin only makes $7 million in 2015 while Melky is set to haul in $13 million. Perhaps the Blue Jays’ already escalating payroll had something to do with parting ways with Cabrera.
Melky proved that he was one of the best outfielders in the American League this past season, but was that an anomaly or just a preview of what’s to come? Considering his PED use in the past and his spinal tumour last season, there’s still no real baseline for what to expect from Melky.
Are the White Sox getting the 2012 Melky, who was suspended for PED use? Are they getting the 2013 Melky that played with a spinal tumour for most of the season? Or are they getting the 2014 Melky that was playing in the final year of his contract?
In hindsight, Melky’s consistency this past season may have persuaded some to overvalue what he could’ve brought to the Blue Jays, mostly in the aspect of offense, but defensively as well.
Melky himself said he wasn’t ruling out re-signing with the Blue Jays solely because of the artificial turf at the Rogers Centre, but serious consideration needed to be made whether his body could hold up another 3-4 years playing 81 games a season on turf.
It would’ve been nice to keep that trifecta of Melky/Bautista/Encarnacion intact as a solid middle of the order. But with their recent offseason acquisitions, the Blue Jays can actually lengthen their lineup a bit, rather than just concentrate most of their offense in the 2-4 spots.
Ultimately, the Blue Jays were worse off without Melky Cabera in the lineup. But by adding Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders this offseason, that negates his departure and greatly cushions the blow of letting him walk to the south side of Chicago.
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Joe Robbins