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Melky Cabrera Rumors
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi (Twitter links) and the National Post’s John Lott, for 50 minutes today before Toronto’s season finale against Baltimore. Here are the highlights:
- Anthopoulos declined to put a figure on the team’s 2015 payroll, but expects to have the financial flexibility to make moves and has “some ideas on trades and free agents.”
- The Blue Jays will make a competitive offer to Melky Cabrera, but Anthopoulos reiterated the club’s policy of limiting contracts to five years “is still firmly in place. That’s not going to change.”
- On the Jays’ starting rotation, “I wouldn’t feel good going into the season with five,” Anthopoulos said. “Philosophically speaking, you want to hoard as much as you can, keep as much depth as you can.” To that end, Anthopoulos hinted J.A. Happ‘s $6.7MM option will be exercised and Aaron Sanchez (“frontline starter potential“) will be stretched out in Spring Training. He will, however, at least consider trade offers for established arms.
- The Blue Jays will eschew big-name relievers and focus on set-up arms in an effort to rebuild their bullpen. Sanchez may pitch in relief sometime during the course of 2015, but only to manage his innings.
- “Yes,” was Anthopoulos’ reply when asked would he hire John Gibbons if he had a managerial opening next season.
- Brett Lawrie is slated to play third base next year, but could be moved to second if an impact third baseman is acquired. As for evaluating the other position players, Anthopoulos will place a premium on durability.
- Nicholson-Smith opines bench upgrades will most likely be accomplished through trades rather than free agency.
The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
Here’s more from the American League East…
- The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
- The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
- For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
- The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”
The Blue Jays are pleased with Melky Cabrera both on and off the field and will make him a qualifying offer following the season with the hope of retaining the switch-hitter on a multi-year deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. A qualifying offer, expected to fall in the $15MM range this winter, will be worth nearly as much as the two-year, $16MM pact Cabrera inked with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season.
As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney recently said (Insider link), issuing Cabrera a QO appears to be a “slam dunk” for Toronto. Though his season ended a bit prematurely due to a fractured pinkie finger suffered this month, Cabrera certainly put up some impressive numbers in his walk season. The 30-year-old hit .301/.351/.458 with 16 homers with slightly below-average glovework in left field. In total, Fangraphs pegs him at 2.7 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference valued him at 3.1.
Cabrera, of course, brings with him to free agency the baggage of having served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone back in 2012. While many were quick to point to his disappointing 2013 season — he hit just .279/.322/.360 — as evidence that he’d benefited substantially from PEDs, doctors eventually found a benign tumor on Cabrera’s spine that had to significantly impact his ability to produce.
The question, of course, will be what type of deal Cabrera can command this winter — a topic which MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth examined in depth in a recent Free Agent Stock Watch post. Cabrera recently told reporters that he hopes to remain in Toronto, stating that he loves the city of Toronto and suggesting that he feels indebted to a team that gave him a chance when his value was at its lowest point. I’d think a four-year deal is attainable for Cabrera on the open market, particularly after Jhonny Peralta managed to secure such a contract on the heels of a much more recent PED suspension last winter.
A year ago, Melky Cabrera‘s value was at its nadir. After a PED suspension cut short his 2012 breakout season with the Giants, and after he left the team under bizarre circumstances, Cabrera became a free agent and landed a relatively meager two-year, $16MM deal with the Blue Jays. He then began that deal by hitting a disappointing .279/.322/.360 in his first year in Toronto, then had surgery in September to remove a benign tumor from his back.
Since then, though, a healthier Cabrera has improved his bargaining position, hitting a much better .301/.351/.458 in his walk year and emerging as one of the better hitters available in a very weak free agent class. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s another year removed from his PED troubles, and his good season, along with even better seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, might suggest that teams this offseason will be less wary of suspended players than they have been in the recent past.
Cabrera now is out for the rest of the season with a fracture in his right pinky, an injury that could have some effect on his market as a free agent. He’s had surgery and should be ready for spring training, although the injury could theoretically have a lingering effect on his power.
Still, Cabrera is likely to get a sizable deal, given the weakness of the outfield market. Rusney Castillo has already signed with the Red Sox, and there’s another Cuban outfielder, the very promising Yasmany Tomas, who’s currently waiting to be declared a free agent. There’s also Cruz, who will be coming off a very good offensive season but is already in his mid-thirties and has significant defensive limitations.
After that, there’s Cabrera, and then a significant drop-off. The best remaining outfielders are the aging, injury-prone Michael Cuddyer; the defensively challenged Michael Morse and Josh Willingham; and light-hitting types like Nori Aoki and Emilio Bonifacio. There will also be Colby Rasmus, a 28-year-old who has hit well at times and can play center field, but who was recently benched by the Jays. And the market could also include players like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending on the statuses of their options.
Leaving aside Tomas, there isn’t anyone on the outfield market who’s better rounded than Cabrera, even if one counts his PED past as a strike against him. Unlike Cruz, Morse or Willingham, he isn’t a terrible fielder (although he isn’t a great one, either). Unlike Aoki or Bonifacio, he has power. Unlike Cruz and Cuddyer, he’s still relatively young, at 30. And unlike Rasmus, he isn’t a complete question mark. The outfield market is full of dubious options. Teams considering punting on the left field position in order to upgrade their offense elsewhere won’t have much to work with, either.
Even better for Cabrera, there could be plenty of teams on the prowl for a corner outfielder this offseason. The Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Twins and White Sox could all make some degree of sense for Cabrera, depending on how the rest of the market shakes out. Cabrera has said that he wants to return to the Blue Jays, and a return to Toronto might be a good fit as well. The Jays have Jose Bautista in right, and assuming Rasmus departs, they’ll probably soon have top prospect Dalton Pompey as their regular starter in center. But they don’t have a stellar option in left field.
Given Cabrera’s performance, a potentially vigorous market and the Jays’ own need for an outfielder, extending Cabrera a qualifying offer seems like an obvious decision. Such an offer should help the Jays limit other teams’ interest (particularly from teams like the Mets and Reds, who currently look to have two of the first unprotected picks in next year’s draft), and could lead to some sort of multiyear agreement for him to remain in Toronto.
As long as teams aren’t worried about the lingering effects of his hand injury, Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency should be able to swing at least a three-year deal. Last month, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled various agents who suggested he could get anywhere from $36MM to $45MM over a three-year deal, meaning that the three-year, $39MM deal Shane Victorino received from the Red Sox before the 2013 season might be a precedent. A four-year deal might also be a possibility, with Cabrera’s camp possibly pointing to last offseason’s contracts for Curtis Granderson and Peralta.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In a piece for Sports on Earth, MLB.com’s Jim Callis ranks the top dozen players from this year’s crop of rookies by their anticipated future production. In spite of his questionable elbow situation, Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees leads the way, with shortstop Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox occupying the second slot.
Here’s more from the AL East:
- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is “probably likely” to sit out the remainder of the year and could be headed for another hand procedure, manager John Farrell said today in an appearance on WEEI (Twitter link). News of the increasing difficulty with Pedroia’s left hand and wrist emerged last night, with MLB.com’s Quinn Roberts among those reporting that a surgical option was on the table. “Surgery is one of [the options],” said Pedroia. “I could rest or continue to play or surgery. There’s three things we could do. We’ll come up with a plan the best we can that’s best for the team.” It is incumbent upon the team to act decisively to resolve Pedroia’s impairments, writes WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, especially since he is already entering the tail end of typical peak years of production. The star 31-year-old is mired in his worst season at the plate since becoming a regular (.278/.337/.376). On the other hand, he is still an elite defensive player and has racked up over 4 wins above replacement. Pedroia is owed $97.5MM (some of it deferred) over the next seven seasons under the extension he signed just over a year ago.
- Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera once again presents quite an interesting free agent case, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs explores. Heading into his age-30 season, Cabrera is very well-placed in the upcoming free agent market, and Petriello thinks that a three or four-year deal makes sense in spite of Cabrera’s baggage. Some clubs will be willing to forgive his previous PED issues, and Petriello notes that a qualifying offer may not be a major impediment if teams with a protected first-round pick — he suggests the Phillies, White Sox, Astros, and Padres, and potentially the Reds and Mets — make a run at Cabrera. Ultimately, his value could settle somewhere in the range of three years and ~$40MM up to Curtis Granderson‘s four-year, $60MM deal.
- The Yankees are not far off from facing yet another round of questions with regard to embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Though simply cutting him loose surely has some appeal, given the uncertainty of his ability to perform (to say nothing of off-field considerations), Sherman notes that doing so would prevent any chance of recovering some portion of the remaining $61MM owed Rodriguez if his hip issues ultimately trigger an insurance payout. Sherman argues that the club should have Rodriguez report for training in October, ready to learn first base. The Yankees could then begin to see what he has left to offer, opening the possibility of using him on either side of the diamond and recouping what value there is left to be had from his ill-fated contract.
Miguel Gonzalez‘s name was mentioned in trade rumors this summer (most notably as part of a possible Jon Lester package) and yet as MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko points out, Gonzalez’s recent success could be another example of “how sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.” The Orioles right-hander has a 2.00 ERA over his last nine starts, including a complete game shutout of the Reds last Wednesday. Gonzalez has been a solid piece of the O’s rotation for the last three years and has a 3.38 ERA over 136 IP this season, which I suspect will earn him a nice salary bump this winter when he is arbitration-eligible for the first time.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Also from Kubatko, the Orioles are “hesitant” about making a long-term commitment to Nelson Cruz. Though the O’s have recently had some light negotiations with Cruz’s representation about a new contract, it isn’t hard to see why the club would be wary of guaranteeing multiple years to a 34-year-old who is a defensive liability and has a PED history. Of course, Cruz’s bat looks as potent as ever, given his .862 OPS and a league-high 39 homers this season. As you would expect, a one-year “qualifying offer appeals to the Orioles,” Kubatko writes, though surely Cruz feels his production merits a longer deal.
- Melky Cabrera has been scouted by at least one NL team for the last three weeks, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports. One of those scouts tells Blair that his team could be willing to offer Cabrera something in the neighborhood of a four-year, $53MM contract in free agency this winter, a deal akin to what Jhonny Peralta received from the Cardinals last offseason. Peralta’s deal was front-loaded, and Blair opines that a similarly-structured deal could await Cabrera given that both players have a PED suspension on their records.
- Blair also can’t figure out why the Blue Jays haven’t already re-signed Cabrera for 2015 and beyond, given how well the outfielder has hit this year. Cabrera, who is done for the season after fracturing his pinky finger on Friday night, has expressed an interest in staying in Toronto.
- It’s been a tiring season for David Ortiz, as the Red Sox slugger tells ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald that “it wears you out more than when you know you’re going to the playoffs — believe it or not. It wears you out more than when you know you have more games to play.” Ortiz isn’t sure how much longer he’ll play beyond 2015 (the end of his current contract), though when he does he hang it up, he said he’ll do it in the offseason rather than announce his retirement a year in advance like Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera.
- Red Sox righty Joe Kelly and the Orioles‘ Andrew Miller were two trade deadline acquisitions that have worked out very well for their teams, Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for Gammons Daily. Boston hopes Kelly can be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in their 2015 rotation while Miller has continued his superb season since joining Baltimore’s pen.
- Also from Gammons, if the Orioles don’t bring back Nick Markakis, one possible replacement could be prospect Mike Yastrzemski. A 14th-round draft pick in 2013, Yastrzemski (Carl’s grandson) hit .288/.346/.490 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 16 triples in 594 PA over three minor league levels this season, though he has yet to reach Triple-A.
The Royals are having a better season than the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean the Royals’ situation is better, Andy Martino of New York Daily News reminds fans who would like to see the Yankees take a more player development-heavy approach. The Yankees, who depend heavily on expensive talent from outside their organization, have spent the past 20 years in playoff races, while the Royals have spent years losing while trying to develop a solid core. The Yankees consistently contend, which is why Carlos Beltran picked the Yankees over the Royals last offseason, Martino writes. “I liked (the Royals). I liked the team,” says Beltran. “But at the end of the day, I felt that this (the Yankees) organization — every year, man, they find a way to put things together.” Of course, the Yankees are able to pursue the strategy they do because of their financial advantages, and Beltran’s first year perhaps illustrates certain problems with their strategy. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Melky Cabrera suffered a season-ending injury last night and can become a free agent after the season, but he wants to remain with the Blue Jays next season, the Associated Press reports. “I stay in Toronto,” Cabrera said last night. Cabrera, 30, has had a strong season in the last year of his two-year, $16MM deal, hitting .301/.351/.458.
- 2014 hasn’t been a strong season for the Rays, but Jake Odorizzi‘s development has clearly been a bright spot, as Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida notes. Odorizzi has struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings in a full season in the rotation, and he’s posted strong numbers overall, improving after a bumpy month of April. That’s not bad for a player who wasn’t even the headliner in the trade in which he was acquired. ”I think you’re just seeing a young man understanding what he has and how to utilize it,” says Rays manager Joe Maddon. ”That’s it.”
Yankees catcher Brian McCann will visit a neurologist today after suffering a concussion during yesterday’s game, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. If McCann heads to the 7-day DL, Austin Romine, who’s hitting .252/.313/.374 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, would likely take his place for the time being. A DL stint would be another disappointment in what’s been a rough season for McCann, who’s hitting just .238/.294/.384 in the first season of a five-year deal. Here’s more from around the East divisions.
- A.J. Burnett, who has struggled since the All-Star break, no longer looks like a trade asset for the Phillies, Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News writes. Burnett has allowed five runs or more in four of his last five starts. There’s also the problem of his contract, which contains a complex player/mutual option for 2015 and increases in size for starts he makes down the stretch this season. He also has a $7.5MM signing bonus that the Phillies don’t begin paying until December.
- Melky Cabrera‘s rebound season in 2014 will likely earn him a significant contract, and the Blue Jays need him back next season, Brendan Kennedy of The Star writes. Figuring out how much Cabrera will get is tricky, due to his health history and PED connections, Kennedy points out. But Kennedy polled several agents, who figured Cabrera’s .314/.365/.477 season so far might get him about three years and $36MM-$45MM this winter, which would be a nice upgrade on the two-year, $16MM deal he’s on now. One suggested Shane Victorino‘s three-year, $39MM deal with the Red Sox might be a precedent for a deal with Cabrera.
The Orioles have announced that former first-round pick Kevin Gausman will take the hill for Wednesday’s start against the Tigers. Gausman, a consensus Top 30 prospect, debuted with the O’s last season but posted a 5.66 ERA in his 47 2/3 innings with the club. He’ll look to make a better impression this time around.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes that despite being tested three extra times last season and passing all of his mandatory tests thus far in 2014, Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera has been unable to escape the scrutiny that follows him as a former PED user. Cabrera will find out just how heavily that baggage impacts his value when he hits free agency this winter, Crasnick writes, but his teammates are quick to defend his character and skill set.
- The Yankees‘ injury problems continued to pile up, as offseason acquisition Carlos Beltran was removed from last night’s game and to undergo an MRI after hyperextending his right elbow, ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand writes.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including Brendan Kuty of the Star Ledger, that he’d be “open to any external options” for his starting rotation but added, “…they’re really hard to find this time of year.” The GM wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Adam Warren shifting to the rotation with CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova all on the shelf.
Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera has changed agents, moving from ACES to The Legacy Agency, reports Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (via Twitter). He will be represented by Peter and Ed Greenberg, along with Chris Leible.
Cabrera is already under contract for 2014, the second year of his free agent deal with Toronto. He will make $8MM as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he saw just 372 pate appearances and posted a .279/.322/.360 slash line. Cabrera is set to hit free agency before the 2015 season at age thirty.