Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes has reported that Melky Cabrera and the Toronto Blue Jays have reached an agreement on a two-year, $16 million contract, officially ending the outfielder's brief tenure with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants should have attempted to match the Jays' deal with Cabrera. Despite the drug use, he's still a young, athletic, fast, switch-hitting outfielder who can throw, make contact and hit .300 for the life of this contract.
His failed drug test was disappointing, but it lowered his market price substantially, and the Giants should have taken advantage of that.
According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, the Giants never reached out to Cabrera this offseason.
After Cabrera was suspended for the remaining 45 games of the regular season and the first five games of the postseason for failing a drug test, the Giants elected not to bring him back for the NLCS and World Series.
According to Baggarly, Cabrera lied about failing the drug test and never addressed the team following his suspension, though he did agree to recuse himself from consideration for the batting title.
The Giants decided that Cabrera's drug use made him too risky of a gamble going forward, and that his character was going to be a potential problem on a team that clearly has good chemistry. However, they now have holes in left and center field, with Angel Pagan also potentially departing via free agency.
Cabrera is a somewhat difficult player to evaluate in light of his suspension. After the 2010 season, he was a career .267/.328/.379 hitter who had been non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves. He didn't have the range for center field, was out of shape and looked like a fourth outfielder at best.
The Kansas City Royals took a flier on Cabrera in 2011, and he rewarded them by hitting .305/.339/.470 with 67 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. The Royals then flipped him to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez, and Cabrera built on his breakout season by hitting .346/.390/.516 with San Francisco.
He was on his way to the batting title, consideration for the NL MVP Award and a contract likely approaching five years and at least $50 million before the suspension.
Instead, the Blue Jays are taking a $16 million gamble that Cabrera is the player he was in 2011 when he had a very good season without failing a drug test.
One might assume that Cabrera was cheating in 2011 given his substantial improvement, and that he just avoided getting caught. However, the fact is that he didn't fail any drug tests that season, thus it's also possible that he could be a solid player without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.
The Bill James projection system forecasts Cabrera for a .295/.348/.432 batting line next season, which would make him a huge bargain when you combine that with his speed, throwing arm and average range in left field.
Torii Hunter is a decade older than the 28-year-old Cabrera, and he just signed with the Detroit Tigers for $10 million more than Cabrera despite projecting to hit a weaker .271/.336/.428 next season.
Cabrera wasn't going to ever repeat his 2012 performance regardless of whether or not he was clean. His .379 batting average on balls in play just wasn't sustainable going forward.
However, he was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2011, and that made him worth $19 million that season according to FanGraphs. If Cabrera can repeat that performance next season, this contract will be an absolute steal for the Jays.
The Giants will now have to replace Cabrera, and retain or replace Pagan. They could also decide to plug one outfield hole with Gregor Blanco, though he is best used as a fourth outfielder.
The Jays are going to get a bargain in Cabrera if he can approach the production he put up two seasons ago, which I think is likely. The Giants are moving on from Cabrera, but it's going to be difficult to acquire a similarly productive outfielder at such a low price.
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