Much like the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins, bringing in Melky Cabrera was one of those "pie in the sky" scenarios that made complete sense for the Blue Jays, but I never really expected them to pull the trigger on.
It also seems incredibly convenient that the Marlins are reportedly sending $8 million dollars back in salary to the Blue Jays, and that cash will go towards paying Melky Cabrera's salary in 2013. That is what I call being smart with your money.
I'm curious if Alex Anthopoulos was working on inking Melky Cabrera all along, or if the trade with the Marlins was what suddenly convinced Cabrera to sign on the dotted line?
From his standpoint, how could he turn down two years of guaranteed money? I can imagine every other team must have been lined up to sign Melky Cabrera to a one-year incentive-laden contract, but the Blue Jays stepped up and offered two years.
The obvious comparison contract-wise is the deal that Torii Hunter just inked with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a two-year contract worth $26 million dollars; by comparison, Melky Cabrera signed for $10 million dollars less, and he's also eight years younger than Hunter.
The Tigers are getting the arguably better player in Torii Hunter, but I'd much rather take my chances on somebody eight years younger and for $10 million dollars less. After all, that surplus can be put towards one and possibly even two more players.
It's very difficult to gauge what kind of results to expect from Melky Cabrera because there's the task of finding that hypothetical point where he started taking performance enhancing drugs. Was it with the Giants, his brief stints in Kansas City or Atlanta, or could it be linked all the way back to his days with the Yankees?
Personally, I think the real baseline for Melky lies somewhere in between his 2009-2010 seasons. For argument's sake, I'm just going to throw out 2012 and maybe even 2011 as well. If the Blue Jays get a facsimile of Melky Cabrera from 2009 with the Yankees or 2010 with the Braves, then that's quite alright with me.
Ordinarily, signing a player who just came off a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs might create some backlash, but the majority of folks are welcoming this signing with open arms. And it's for good reason; the Blue Jays are using this opportunity to buy low. Because one can only imagine what kind of money Melky Cabrera could have commanded on the free agent market had he not gotten caught.
Another positive of signing Melky Cabrera is it doesn't shoehorn the Blue Jays into starting Rajai Davis or Anthony Gose as the everyday left fielder. Gose could probably still use some seasoning in Buffalo this coming season, and Rajai Davis ideally should be relegated as a fourth outfielder.
It may be a case of incredibly lowered expectations to hope for Cabrera to OPS just .671 like he did in 2010 with the Braves, but let me remind you that at his very best with the Blue Jays, Rajai Davis had an OPS of just .687.
Essentially, Melky Cabrera's floor is Rajai Davis' ceiling ... so anything better than the bare minimum from Cabrera will surpass the very best we can expect from Rajai Davis. That seems like a pretty safe gamble to take on the part of the Blue Jays.
By adding Melky Cabrera to the lineup, the Blue Jays plug another hole in their lineup that desperately needed an overhaul. They now have another left-handed bat (another switch-hitter, mind you), that helps solidify the top of the order.
When it comes to building a formidable lineup, I always look at the Yankees and Red Sox as prime examples of orders that never take a break. For the longest time, their one through nine was a steady stream of solid hitters ... something the Blue Jays were considerably lacking.
Once the Blue Jays order reached the five or six hitters, the skill level dropped off considerably. But now that Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus project as being the six and seven hitters, opposing pitchers can no longer look forward to taking a break in the bottom third of the Jays lineup.
Adding Melky Cabrera to the order allows the Blue Jays to stretch out their lineup even further, and are now suddenly (on paper, at least) looking like one of the best lineups in the American League.