Coming off last season’s 50-game suspension for PED use, Cabrera was left off the World Series champions San Francisco Giants' playoff roster after his suspension finished.
At only 28, Cabrera should be coming into the prime of his career. A below-average hitter who could hit for doubles during his tenure with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, Cabrera started to pick up some offensive steam two years ago with the Kansas City Royals hitting .305 and collecting 201 hits before last season’s big asterisk by the bay.
The question for Cabrera in Toronto will be just how much of that was PED-induced and how much of that was turning raw talent into mature product.
Coming to a team that has just made the big splash as Toronto did in acquiring the nuts and bolts of the Miami Marlins’ lineup actually work in Cabrera’s favor.
While the folks that do the drug testing will be watching him carefully to see if he stays clean, he will blend in with the rest of the Blue Jays lineup and the pressure from fans and press will be focused elsewhere.
At $8 million per season, this contract is not quite in a flier category, but it is close.
He shows good speed and decent stealing ability and, along with Jose Reyes, should turn the long power alleys at Rogers Center into his own personal running track.
Cabrera can bunt and can draw a walk when needed as well.
It may not be clear what the Blue Jays’ scouts might have seen to justify giving Cabrera a $2 million raise after his failed test ended his 2012 season, and certainly that failed test cost him some big money in the short term, but they have given Melky a chance to show everyone that he really had picked up his game the last two seasons with the Royals and the Giants.
Considered to be a favorite now for at least a wild card spot, Cabrera qualifies as perhaps that last missing puzzle piece that all teams need to get to that next level.
The Blue Jays probably do not consider him a blue-chip free agent, but his knowledge of playing in the now ultra-competitive AL East certainly plays in his hands. If that gets Toronto an extra win or two, then that salary will be forgotten by the critics.
The Jays are gambling that their time is right now and Cabrera can re-establish himself on what Toronto hopes is their first playoff team in 20 years.
For the Jays, they understand those important puzzle pieces cost money. Obviously they are willing to spend money to build a winner and Cabrera’s past performances show he can do that.
More importantly for Cabrera, he now has two years to transform himself into the player he wants to be. He will not be the biggest name on the team when spring training rolls around and, if all goes well, he can turn a successful two years in Canada into a much bigger payday at 30 and show everyone that his talents were not fake after all.
*Statistics via Baseball Reference
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