The Melky Cabrera sweepstakes appear to be over after news broke late last night that he would be signing with the Chicago White Sox.
Interestingly, the reported deal that Melky will be signing is going to be $42 million over the course of three years which puts the contract within the range of what the Blue Jays may very well have been offering him at the beginning of the free agency period. While we’re not privy to any insider information from the Blue Jays, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reported in November that other agents told The Star that Cabrera would sign for somewhere between $12 and $15 million per year on a three or four year deal.
It turns out that these agents had a very finger on the pulse of the market, with a $14 million annual average value of the reported contract. The original reports noted that Melky needed to pass a physical before the contract would be approved. The Blue Jays will receive a compensation pick in the draft in between the first and second rounds and will replace the 17th-overall pick that the Blue Jays forefeited when they signed Russell Martin.
What does this mean for the Blue Jays? Obviously the money and length of contract that Melky is signing for are not all that far above what the Blue Jays were probably offering. Rumours of a 3-year, $39 million contract offer were going around in November (thanks to Bob Elliott at the Toronto Sun for that figure) and this contract is not much above that.
There was also speculation (mainly by Bob McCown on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590) that the Blue Jays made their offer and probably asked Cabrera to come back to them to see if they would match/exceed whatever offer he had from another team. While this is all well and good, the acquisition of Michael Saunders (for J.A. Happ) probably meant that the Blue Jays weren’t going to bring Melky back, even at the reasonable, three-year contract that he appears to be getting from Chicago.
This situation brings up a series of scenarios that need a couple of conditions to be satisfied before we can proceed with the breakdown. The first condition for this hypothetical to play out is whether the three-year, $39-million offer was what the Blue Jays originally had on the table. The second is whether the Blue Jays asked Melky to have a chance to match whatever offer he got elsewhere. If those two conditions are true, then the resulting scenario of Melky going to Chicago is extremely curious.
Scenario #1: Melky didn’t give the Blue Jays the opportunity to match the offer. After seeing that the Jays had effectively replaced him with Michael Saunders, Melky decided to take his services elsewhere and take the money without giving the Blue Jays the opportunity to re-sign him.
Scenario #2: The Blue Jays had made up their minds to let Melky go after trading for Saunders. In this scenario, the money they were saving would go towards either a) players at other positions (like the bullpen or second base) or b) making up the shortfall thanks to the drop in the Canadian dollar (depending on whether you want to believe this story).
Scenario #3: The Blue Jays had made up their minds to let Melky go after signing Russell Martin and giving up their first-round draft pick. In this scenario, the priority then became replacing Cabrera in left field in order to make sure that they got a supplemental round draft pick in compensation.
Although this is a completely irrelevant thought experiment, each permutation of possibility really changes the way in which we should see Blue Jays’ management and their strategy for this offseason. Again, certain things that have been rumoured would have to be true for any of these scenarios to be contemplated but I find them fun to think about.
I also thought that the Blue Jays would re-sign Cabrera. I even said as much on The Cardy Show at the end of November. Yeah, that’s embarrassing. But I freely admit that I am horrible at predicting what will happen with these Blue Jays.
UPDATE: Thanks to Jeff Blair of Sportsnet, we have a less speculative answer as to what probably went down with Melky. He reports that it was the Martin signing that got the Jays out of the Melky sweepstakes!
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