JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT A POTENTIAL TRADE TO BRING BACK FORMER BLUE JAYS OUTFIELDER MELKY CABRERA
Many Blue Jays fans were hoping that Ross Atkins and his management team would commit the money to sign outfielder Dexter Fowler this offseason. I wrote HERE that a weak free agent class, combined with his great performance in a contract year on route to a World Series, made the signing unlikely. Fowler ended up signing a 5yr/$85mil with the St. Louis Cardinals, a hefty price difference from the 4yr/$60mil deal the Blue Jays extended to his camp. For someone who had a contract year at age 30, committing five years was a risk that was out of the question for the Blue Jays.
The two corner outfield positions remain to be priority number one for the Blue Jays, and there’s potential that the Blue Jays circle back, signing both Bautista and Saunders back to smaller contracts, saving the money for potential bullpen pieces. Another option would be to acquire a corner outfield in a trade, and maybe a reunion with former Blue Jay Melky Cabrera is an option.
Cabrera was signed for two years with the Blue Jays back in 2013. In his first season with the Blue Jays, Cabrera would struggle, only playing in 88 games attributed to a tumor found in his lower back that was causing him a lot of discomfort. In 2014, Cabrera would bounce back in a big way. Hitting over .300/.351/.458 for the season, and a 127wRC+ which was the second highest mark in his career. Cabrera was one of the best Blue Jays that season, and after declining the qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, his short stint in Toronto was over.
Signing a 3 year/$42 million dollar contract that offseason with the White Sox, Melky wouldn’t perform in 2015. Batting .273/.345/.455, with 12 home runs, an appalling 92wRC+ (Pillar had a 93wRC+ that season), finishing the season with a -0.3WAR, that WAR ranked him 5th worst among qualified players in the American League in 2015. Cabrera is never going to be a terrific mobile defender, but his poor play at the plate was met with some of the worst defensive play of his career.
The 2016 season would act as a big bounce back season for Cabrera, hitting back to his regular .296/.345/.455, with 14 home runs, a wRC+ of 114, and a 1.6 WAR. This is what is a bit worrisome about acquiring Cabrera, the inconsistency may scare people, and for good reason. Cabrera has been one of the most inconsistent players from year to year, and his time with the White Sox wasn’t always pretty. One positive moving into next season is we will be seeing “Contract Year Melky” who, at 32 years old is likely fighting for one of the last contracts of his career. Coming off a good season, he could have some extra motivation to perform at high level next season.
At this point in his career, you really have to take Cabrera for who he is. He isn’t someone who is on a team for his defense, consistently ranking as one of the worst defensive outfielders in the American League (still an upgrade over Saunders). At the plate you also have to take Cabrera for who he is, not someone who hits for a ton of power, or draws a lot of walks. Instead, he’s a switch hitter, who puts a lot of balls in play, and can hit for a really high average in the process.
The White Sox are currently having a fire sale, making way for a full rebuild effort. Slicing as much money off the books, in exchange for prospects, is the main goal of the offseason and they have already acquired amazing prospects in Yoan Moncado, Baseball America’s number one prospect, and Michael Kopech in the Chris Sale trade to the Red Sox. Kopech had a shaky year and a half that included a 50-game drug suspension for testing positive for Oxilofrine, and in 2016 broke a bone in his pitching hand during an altercation with a teammate. Even with his unfortunate stint with the Red Sox minor league system, Kopech still clocks 105mph on the radar gun, and could be an extremely exciting player.
The White Sox have also traded Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, acquiring two amazing right handed pitchers in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. While these are some of the highlight prospects they’ve received so far, the White Sox have completely revamped their minor league system. They most likely won’t be done with just Sale and Eaton, seeing David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana, and Cabrera move sometime in the coming months wouldn’t be surprising.
Unlike the other names mentioned, Cabrera is an expiring contract, and will most likely not get a ton of high end prospects in return. Seeing the Blue Jays work something similar to the Melvin Upton Jr. deal, where a lower end prospect is dealt in return to get Cabrera off their books seems logical for both teams. Though, with Cabrera having that expiring deal, it’s unlikely that the White Sox will pay any of his remaining contract. As for who the Blue Jays give up, that’s a tough prediction. It’s really up to the White Sox to scan and analyze the Blue Jays farm system to see who they think has some upside, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays giving up one of their top 20 prospects for Cabrera.
Some fans showed disgust on Twitter when I mentioned the thought of a Cabrera/Blue Jays reunion next season. While he might not be the number one choice, he’s still a player who fills one of those corner outfield holes, (Potentially providing a slight improvement defensively), who can hit in the middle of the order to a decent average, and provide some much needed improvements hitting lefty pitchers. Cabrera could be a low cost/low risk option the Blue Jays next season.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.