The Silent Assassin has struck again.
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has earned that nickname for the cone of silence he operates under while completing transactions. But the moniker seems a little cold-blooded for a man who doles out so many second chances.
On the heels of his blockbuster with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, Anthopoulos has inked troubled outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16-million contract, according to ESPN.
The MVP of this year’s all-star game, Cabrera was suspended 50 games on August 15 for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. The switch-hitting Dominican joins the growing list of players with baggage – including Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar – that Anthopoulos has acquired and given a fresh start to in Toronto.
Signing Cabrera further illustrates Anthopoulos’s shift to a win-now philosophy. The $16 million shelled out for Cabrera is a relative bargain when you measure him strictly by his statistics. Prior to his failed drug test, he was destined for a long-term deal worth at least $12 million a season.
With the acquisition of Cabrera, the Jays will now likely have the National League’s last two batting leaders atop their lineup in 2013. Shortstop Jose Reyes, who will become a Jay once he passes a physical and the commissioner approves the Jays/Marlins blockbuster, captured the NL batting crown in 2011. This season, Cabrera was leading the NL in hitting prior to his suspension, and his .346 batting average would’ve won him the batting crown if he hadn’t asked to be dropped from consideration.
So what does Cabrera bring to the Jays?
Well, at 28 years old, he appears to be in his prime. Merely an average big leaguer over his first six seasons, the switch-hitting outfielder enjoyed a breakout campaign with the Kansas City Royals in 2011 that saw him hit .305 and register career-highs in hits (201), home runs (18) and RBIs (87).
But the Royals shipped him to the Giants last November for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. Toiling on the West Coast, Cabrera was selected to his first all-star game and was named the game’s MVP, and prior to his suspension, he was on pace to record career-bests in almost every offensive category.
With the Jays, Cabrera will likely bat second. The six-foot, 200-pound outfielder makes decent contact, possesses extra base power and should steal around 20 bases. And though probably not a Gold Glove threat, he owns a strong arm and can play all three outfield positions.
The acquisition of Cabrera bumps Rajai Davis back into a bench role and likely pushes Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra to Triple-A Buffalo.
But this isn’t a move without risks. Not all players can rebound from the stigma that follows them around after a positive drug test. Is Cabrera mentally tough enough to answer questions about his positive test for the rest of his career?
The other question is whether or not his dramatic spike in productivity over the last two seasons was a result of his boosted testosterone levels? And now that he’ll be forced to play drug-free, will he be able to duplicate that level of success?
All of this said, given his productivity over the past two seasons, Cabrera is worth gambling a short-term contract on.
With Reyes, utility player Emilio Bonifacio, catcher John Buck and starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle headed to Toronto and Cabrera seemingly slated to be the Jays left fielder in 2013, Anthopoulos has addressed virtually all of his club’s needs in the past week.
The Cabrera signing is another indication that the Jays and Rogers, their oft-criticized owners, are committed to winning a championship as soon as next season.
So indeed, the Silent Assassin has struck again. But given his soft spot for talented but troubled players like Cabrera, I’d suggest that “Second Chance Silent Assassin” might be a more appropriate nickname.