Melky Cabrera Rumors

Blue Jays Notes: Melky, Hamels, Gattis, Salty

Signing the likes of Pablo Sandoval or Russell Martin would represent a major shift from how the Blue Jays have approached the free agent market in recent years, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi writes.  Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays have signed only three free agents to multiyear contracts, none longer than three years (for Maicer Izturis) and none for more than $16MM (for Melky Cabrera).  The Jays’ stated internal policy of not offering contracts longer than five years could play a role, though they’d almost certainly have to top that mark to sign Sandoval, who reportedly wants a six-year deal.

More from north of the border…

  • With Cabrera’s status still up in the air, Anthopoulos is doing his due diligence on possible replacements within Toronto’s lineup, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  “We’ve thought about alternatives, you have to think about alternatives all the time for any position. I can’t speak for Melky specifically other than we’d like to have him back,” Anthopoulos said.  “We may have a good sense right now of what the likelihood is of signing him or not signing him, but I’m sensitive to not talking about someone else’s free agency, and not divulging negotiations or things like that….That’s not to say we don’t want it to happen with Melky, but we’re also being real with this. There’s a good chance he doesn’t come back, we just don’t know.”
  • Also from Davidi, the Blue Jays are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list.  The Red Sox are also known to be on Hamels’ block list, while the Cubs are not.
  • The BravesEvan Gattis doesn’t appear to be a Jays trade target, Davidi reports, and he also reiterates that the Jays aren’t interested in Yasmany Tomas.
  • If the Jays can’t land Martin, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun speculates that the club could pursue Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, “who is available” following a .220/.320/.362 performance over 435 PA in 2014.  Saltalamacchia just signed a three-year, $21MM free agent deal with Miami last winter, though obviously it wouldn’t be the first time the Marlins have looked to deal a recent high-profile signing.  I’m not sure I see Saltalamacchia as a fit for the Jays, as he costs a lot more than incumbent catcher Dioner Navarro but arguably isn’t an upgrade.
  • The Jays are talking to Brook Jacoby about becoming the club’s new hitting coach, Elliott reports.  Jacoby is an assistant hitting coordinator for the Rangers and previously spent seven years as the Reds’ hitting coach.

Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Tuesday

Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas will celebrate his 24th birthday on Friday, and it will surely be a happy one given the lucrative contract on the horizon.  Yesterday, agent Jay Alou explained the Phillies’ standing in the Tomas derby, telling reporters including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, “There are several teams that I could say are frontrunners, but yes (the Phillies are one of them).”  Surprisingly, the Phillies have yet to make a formal offer, but Alou says, “It will all get going soon.”

Today’s Tomas rumors…

  • Tomas is drawing interest from the Orioles, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal also notes on Twitter that the chase for Tomas is still heating up, with two teams set to visit him in the Dominican next week and others still weighing pursuit.

Earlier Updates

  • The Royals have entered the Tomas sweepstakes, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Royals don’t feel that Tomas has the same type of advanced hitting skills that countryman Jose Abreu brought to the division-rival White Sox, but they have a need for a right fielder and feel his defense is at least adequate. The Royals like Melky Cabrera as well but Tomas would allow them to preserve their first-round pick, whereas Cabrera received and rejected a qualifying offer from Toronto.
  • The Phillies, Padres and Giants have each seen Tomas three times, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He also reports that agent Jay Alou rejected an eight-year offer (though he doesn’t specify the value), preferring a five to seven year term to get Tomas onto the open market again around his age-30 season. The Mariners also like Tomas but aren’t expected to outbid other clubs, according to Heyman.
  • Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers aren’t likely to sign Tomas. Starting pitching is said to be the team’s top priority, and sources tell Wilson that the Rangers have informed Alou that their resources will be dedicated to that goal.
  • How about the $100MM figure that has been bandied about for Tomas?  “I don’t know where that came from, but he’d be happy and I’d be happy,” says Alou.  In my September profile of Tomas, I posited a seven-year, $105MM contract.  More recently, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports went with eight years and $100MM, an agent who spoke to Heyman said seven years and $93MM, and a GM said eight years, $100MM.  Eight years is an interesting call, because that would mean Tomas would be giving up a potential valuable free agent season.  Seven would be more aligned with typical MLB service time for a top prospect, who can put in just shy of seven years before reaching free agency if called up a few weeks into the season.
  • Yesterday, Jorge Arangure Jr. had an excellent profile of Tomas for Vice Sports.  In it, Arangure said Tomas will likely choose a team from the Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, and Padres, who have all scouted the player several times.  Tomas’ Dominican-based trainer Raul Javier, asked when the player would sign, replied, “Very soon.”

East Links: Hamels, Tomas, Mets, Andrus, Jays

The Red Sox are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Rosenthal notes, Hamels wouldn’t necessarily block a trade to Boston, but he may want a team to pick up his 2019 vesting option ($20MM) in order to waive the clause. That would take Hamels’ total guarantee from four years and $90MM to five years and $110MM, likely making him a bit less attractive as  a trade target. Boston has been an oft-rumored potential trade partner should the Phillies decide to move their ace.

More from baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • Yasmany Tomas isn’t close to a deal of any sort, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, had a one-on-one meeting with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at today’s GM Meetings in Phoenix.
  • The Mets saw Tomas, but their scouts didn’t love him and they’re not likely to go near the $100MM range to sign him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He does note that the Mets are looking at outfielders on the trade market and willing to listen on Daniel Murphy again. However, the Mets have been underwhelmed by past offers for Murphy and may just hang onto him, as they’re comfortable giving Dilson Herrera more time to develop in the minors.
  • Sherman also reports that the Yankees are “intrigued” by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Yankees are trying to get younger and are hopeful of acquiring youthful players that may not have had their best season yet, and Andrus could fit that bill. However, they’re also wary of Andrus’ huge $120MM contract extension, which doesn’t even kick in until next season.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that he won’t allow other teams to dictate his offseason. What he means by that, Blair explains, is that the Jays won’t wait to see where a certain player signs before pursuing another. Blair recalls the 2006 Winter Meetings, when Anthopoulos was an assistant GM to J.P. Ricciardi. Toronto was hamstrung at the Winter Meetings waiting to hear back from free agents Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, both of whom signed elsewhere in the end. According to Blair, there was some stark internal criticism about how the other team’s plans were held up by other clubs. Toronto’s priority is re-signing Melky Cabrera, Blair writes, but the Blue Jays are aware that his QO and past ties to PEDs could lead to a slow-developing market.


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).


Quick Hits: Stanton, Mariners, Rios, Payrolls

The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).  Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.”  Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News TribuneVictor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
  • Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes.  “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.”  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
  • A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players.  Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
  • With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats.  Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
  • Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.

Blue Jays Notes: Lind, Cabrera, McGowan, Sanchez

When the Blue Jays brass met to discuss the offseason, Adam Lind was at the top of the list, writes John Lott of the National Post. The first baseman’s presence on the roster impeded flexibility, which is why the club dealt him for pitcher Marco Estrada earlier today. GM Alex Anthopoulos expressed hope that the trade would be the first domino in a series of moves. Here’s more from north of the border.

  • FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the White Sox were also interested in Lind but did not make a substantial offer. I’m not surprised the Sox did not match the Brewers’ offer. With the possible exception of Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox don’t possess a player like Estrada, i.e. an established major leaguer coming off a disappointing season.
  • The Jays and free agent Melky Cabrera are far apart in contract negotiations, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos was forthcoming about the talks, comparing the situation to some arbitration cases. “Sometimes you need to have that third party, which is the market…so they truly know what they are worth.” Based on those comments, it appears likely that Cabrera will test the market. We at MLBTR pegged Cabrera for a five-year, $70MM contract, but he’s obviously among the hardest players to gauge due to his history with performance enhancing drugs and a lost season in 2013 from a back injury. For what it’s worth, I consider the $70MM estimate to be conservative in today’s offensively anemic game.
  • Toronto declined Dustin McGowan‘s $4MM option because the contract was too rich for his projected role, says Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos did not rule out a reunion with McGowan at a lesser rate, per Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter).
  • Anthopoulos confirmed that the club views prospect Aaron Sanchez as a starter long term, tweets Kennedy. However, there may not be a spot in the rotation. My observation from strolling around the internet is that many fans hope to see Sanchez installed as the closer. No plans have been made at this time.
  • The Blue Jays will not make a qualifying offer to Colby Rasmus or Casey Janssen, tweets Davidi. He referred to the news as “confirming the obvious,” since neither player was viewed as a candidate for an offer.

Blue Jays Make Qualifying Offer To Melky Cabrera

NOVEMBER 1: The Jays have officially announced that they’ve extended a qualifying offer to Cabrera.

SEPTEMBER 16: 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.


Blue Jays Begin Contract Talks With Melky Cabrera

The Blue Jays are hopeful to retain Melky Cabrera and have opened preliminary discussions with his representatives at the Legacy Agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Toronto is said to be willing to offer “at least” a three-year contract, according to Heyman, though he’s spoken with some in the industry who expect Cabrera to pursue a five-year pact.

Two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ outfield is hitting the open market this winter, as center fielder Colby Rasmus is also eligible for free agency. However, Heyman says that there’s been no thought to bringing Rasmus back, and the team is instead focused on retaining the switch-hitting Cabrera at this time.

Cabrera struggled through the worst season of his career in 2013 before a benign tumor was found on his spine. Surgery to remove the tumor ended his season, and he bounced back in a big way this year, slashing .301/. 351/.458 with 16 homers in 139 games. Cabrera’s season did end early once again when he broke a pinkie finger on a headfirst slide.

Nonetheless, Cabrera has set himself up for what will easily be the largest payday of his career. However, a three-year pact seems highly unlikely get the job done, in my estimation. In my free agent profile for Cabrera two weeks ago, I pegged him for a five-year deal given his relative youth and status as one of the best bats on this year’s thin free agent market.

Cabrera has said that he wants to return to Toronto, so it’s possible that the Jays have some hope of getting a deal done before he hits the open market. If a deal is not reached by the time qualifying offers are due, the Blue Jays will make the $15.3MM QO, which Cabrera will almost certainly decline in search of that big payday.


Quick Hits: Nationals-Astros, Plantier, Cabrera, Hillman

Palm Beach County has approved $108MM in public funding for a $135MM spring training complex to be shared by the Nationals and Astros, writes James Wagner of The Washington Post. The clubs must still agree to a site for their new spring home. The move to Florida’s east coast also has implications for the Cardinals and Marlins. They are now more likely to remain in their shared complex, which included an opt out based on number of teams in the area.

  • Phil Plantier has been relieved of his duties as hitting coach for the Padres, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. The Padres featured the worst offense by many measures in 2014, although much of that can be pinned on sub-par personnel. Assistant hitting coach Alonzo Powell is expected to remain with the club.
  • Jose Bautista spoke about Melky Cabrera‘s upcoming free agency on Sportsnet 590 the FAN and handicapped a return at about 50-50, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. According to Bautista, Cabrera will see what’s out there, but he’s “had a good experience in Toronto.” With Colby Rasmus expected to leave via free agency, the Blue Jays outfield could be in a state of flux is Cabrera also departs.
  • Newly hired Astros bench coach Trey Hillman has worn a lot of different hats in his career. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle profiles Hillman in his latest piece. He was let go from on-field positions with the Royals (manager) and Dodgers (bench coach) before latching on with the Yankees as a special assistant. Per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, Yankees GM Brian Cashman approached Hillman about the opening left by former head of minor league operations Mark Newman. Hillman reportedly declined the position because he preferred an on-field role.

Free Agent Profile: Melky Cabrera

A benign spinal tumor was learned to be a significant factor in Melky Cabrera‘s disappointing 2013 campaign, and the switch-hitter regained his form in 2014 as he prepared to hit the open market for the second time in his big league career.

Strengths/Pros

Cabrera hit a strong .301/.351/.458 with 16 homers, 35 doubles and three triples in 621 plate appearances this season. In three of the past four seasons, he’s batted above .300 and context-neutral stats such as wRC+ and OPS+ have each pegged him as at least 18 percent better than a league-average hitter in each of those campaigns.

Melky  CabreraA switch-hitter, Cabrera is a bit stronger as a right-handed bat, but his platoon split is minor. Over the past four seasons, Cabrera has batted .308/.350/.477 as a right-handed hitter and .309/.352/.451 as a left-handed hitter. In terms of average and OBP he’s about the same from each side, but he does offer a bit more pop against lefty pitchers.

He’s never been one to strike out much (career 12 percent), and he posted a career-best 10.8 percent strikeout rate in 2014. Cabrera’s swinging-strike rate (5.1 percent) was the 21st-lowest strikeout rate among qualified hitters this season, and his 88.3 percent contact rate ranked 16th.

Cabrera will play the majority of next season at the age of 30, so he’s a relatively young bat. Even a five-year contract would only run through his age-34 season, so it’s possible that a team could buy mostly prime years without worrying about too much of the decline phase with this deal.

Weaknesses/Cons

The elephant in the room when discussing Cabrera’s free agent stock, of course, is his past suspension for PED usage. Cabrera was hit with a 50-game suspension near the end of his tenure with the 2012 World Champion Giants, and he admitted at the time that his punishment was “the result of my use of a substance that I should not have used.” That test called the validity of his excellent 2012 numbers into question, and naysayers exuded a sense of almost vindication in 2013 when his numbers went into the tank. While the tumor can now clearly be noted as a strong factor in those struggles, some will always question how much of Cabrera’s production is legitimate.

Back to his on-field characteristics, Cabrera may not strike out much but he also doesn’t walk much or show excellent plate discipline. He’s an aggressive hacker who despite rarely swinging and missing at a pitch averaged just 3.69 pitches per plate appearance in 2014 — a figure that tied him for 105th in Major League Baseball among qualified hitters.

Cabrera once had value on the basepaths as a potential 20-steal threat, but Fangraphs pegged him with negative baseruning value in each of the past two seasons. Perhaps last year can be written off, but Cabrera stole just six bags and provided negative baserunning value even in a healthy 2014 season.

Both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved feel that while Cabrera’s arm is a plus asset in left field, he is overall a below-average defender at the position. Given his decreased speed, it would seem a stretch to suggest that he could still handle center field, even on a limited basis. Indeed, Toronto only played him there for nine innings this past season. He also ended the season on the DL for a minor injury — a broken pinkie finger sustained while sliding back into first base. The injury did require surgery.

Finally, the Blue Jays reportedly plan to extend a qualifying offer to Cabrera, so a team will have to surrender its top unprotected pick in order to sign him.

Personal

Cabrera has fit in well to a Blue Jays clubhouse that features a number of his countrymen in Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Juan Francisco, among others. He was also well-liked in San Francisco, even after his suspension. At the time, Sergio Romo made it clear that Cabrera would have been welcomed back with open arms, asking, “Why wouldn’t we want him on our team?” and referring to Cabrera as “a great teammate.”

Cabrera has taken an active role in the community in his native Dominican Republic, organizing youth league tournaments (Spanish link) and encouraging children to stay diligent with their studies while chasing their baseball dreams. Cabrera also donated both cash and food to his home country following the hurricanes of 2007 and was honored with the 2008 Munson Award for his “excellence and philanthropic work in the community,” per the Blue Jays’ media guide.

Market

Cabrera made his desire to return to the Blue Jays perfectly clear late this season, stating plainly“I stay in Toronto.” Of course, that thinking can obviously change if the Blue Jays’ offer to Cabrera — and GM Alex Anthopoulos has said he expects to make a “competitive” bid — doesn’t stack up with those that he receives from other clubs.

A number of teams will be looking for offense in a thin market for bats, and Cabrera’s will be one of the best out there. The Orioles, Tigers, Royals, White Sox, Twins, Mariners, Rangers, Giants, Padres, Reds, Phillies and Mets could all be in the market for an outfield upgrade, so Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency will have no shortage of teams with which to converse. Among those clubs, the White Sox, Twins, Rangers and Phillies would have a protected first-round pick.

Perhaps most importantly, Cabrera will find himself near the top of a thin free agent crop of hitters. Among his chief competitors will be Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez and Yasmany Tomas — an aging slugger with questionable defense, a pure DH entering his age-36 season and a 24-year-old that has yet to play in the Majors, respectively. Cabrera’s power doesn’t stack up to those players, but he’s shown a consistent ability to hit for average with respectable pop, and he offers more certainty than someone like Michael Cuddyer or Colby Rasmus.

Expected Contract

Cabrera is in the unenviable position of hoping to set a precedent. Through this offseason, no player has hit the open market with the stigma of both a PED suspension and a qualifying offer and been able to cash in on a sizable deal. Jhonny Peralta secured a four-year, $53MM pact last offseason fresh off a suspension, but he was not the recipient of a qualifying offer from the Tigers. Any number of free agent bats have cashed in after receiving a qualifying offer, including Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Carlos Beltran. While none of those deals looks enticing at this point, that’s certainly not to say that second-tier free agents with qualifying offers will continue to struggle.

Cabrera’s agents will look to make their client the first to receive a strong multi-year deal in spite of that QO and in spite of a past suspension. He does have the benefit of having performed well in a season two years after his suspension, and more importantly, there’s a case to be made that he’s the safest bat on the market. Cruz is four years older with less defensive value, Martinez’s age and lack of position will limit his market, and though Tomas is tantalizing, he’s unproven.

Ultimately, Cabrera’s contract is difficult to project, but I feel the $36-45MM figure floated past the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy in a survey of rival agents was low. Cabrera can rightly claim that he’s one of the best bats on the market at a relatively young age, and that’s enough for me to predict a perhaps unnecessarily specific five-year, $66.25MM contract (Peralta’s contract with an extra year at the same AAV).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.