Toronto Blue Jays: Bring Back Melky Cabrera


The Toronto Blue Jays face an interesting decision with regards to Melky Cabrera this coming off-season: re-sign the pending free agent to significantly larger contract or let him leave town.

Last week, when “The Melk-man” learned his season was over due to a broken pinky finger, with a tendon avulsion, requiring surgery, he was asked what his plans for next year might be.

Cabrera responded “I stay in Toronto.”  When asked again if he wanted to stay, he responded, “Yeah.”

Later, through coach Luis Rivera, Cabrera added, “This was the club that gave me the opportunity after I got in trouble a few years ago, and I want to stay.”

BAM! There they are. The words Blue Jays fans have been waiting for. A free agent that wants to play in Toronto. Oh Canada! Astroturf be damned. Melky Cabrera wants to be a Toronto Blue Jay next year. Now, it is up to management to make the right decision and get it done.

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But before we all start celebrating Cabrera’s return, let’s make sure we all understand the situation. Remember in the spring, when the Blue Jays were trying to sign Ervin Santana,  and a group of players were apparently willing to rework their contracts to make sure the money could be made available? You’ll  also remember that this set off a fire storm of speculation that Blue Jays’ payroll was maxed out.

While President Paul Beeston has said publicly that the team payroll will increase next year, it remains to be seen if this is only due to anticipated increases in existing contracts (eg, Jose Reyes will earn a whopping $22 million next season, up from $16 million this year) or new additions that run up the payroll further.

Is the money available? Probably, but clearly I’m just speculating. But, even if it is only taking money from contracts that may come off the books, like Colby Rasmus, Casey Janssen and Adam Lind, there is reason to believe they are telling us the truth. The Blue Jays could conceivably make a few trades, as well, trying to unload age and dollars in either Mark Buehrle ($19 million for 2015), or R.A. Dickey ($12 million for 2015). Though Dickey has pitched better, especially in the second half this season, his contract is probably easier to move than that of Buehrle. Of course, if  Beeston is being straight with us, and payroll does legitimately increase, maybe they won’t have to trade anyone.

Regardless, I don’t see how they Blue Jays can possibly avoid re-signing Cabrera. He wants to be here. He had an amazing season, coming up a broken pinky finger short of career highs in home runs (16/18), batting average (.301/.305) and runs batted in (73/87). Defensively, he was superior to most left fielders in the league. He tied a career high with 13 outfield assists, good enough to be tied for second in the American League, four assists ahead of teammate Jose Bautista. The health problems of a year ago have long been forgotten.

Cabrera is likely to command a deal of four or five years, for at least $12-15 million a season, a substantial increase on his current two year, $16 million deal. That is a lot of money, but if he can perform even close to the way he has this year, he is worth every penny. Bringing him back would lock up the corner outfielders for a couple of seasons, while a new centerfielder (Anthony Gose/Kevin Pillar platoon?) would slot in between Bautista and Cabrera.

“This was the club that gave me the opportunity after I got in trouble a few years ago, and I want to stay.” – Melky Cabrera

Another big factor in signing Cabrera is the attraction of other free agents. With the season Melky has put together, he could sign just about anywhere. But he wants to stay in Toronto. Don’t think other free agents aren’t going to call him and ask him why. He has obviously been treated well, enjoys the team and the city, or he’d be leaving. This is a great opportunity for the Blue Jays to recruit players to Toronto, now and in the future.

Finally, re-signing Cabrera would allow the Blue Jays to reach out to fans and let them know they aren’t rebuilding, they are “re-tooling” for another run at the playoffs next year. The fan base is clearly disheartened, and frustrated, with the way this season – one that looked so promising in late May – has derailed in the past couple of months. This might just be money the team needs to spend as much to keep the fans engaged, and enthusiastic, as to keep the team competitive.

I really believe bringing Melky back is priority number one for the off-season. In fact, if I was Alex Anthopoulos, I’d try really hard to get him signed to an extension before the season ends. If that can’t be done, then get him inked as quickly as possible in the off-season.

Melky Cabrera wants to be a Toronto Blue Jay next season. The Toronto Blue Jays need to make it happen.