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.
Given the impact of the trade and latest acquisition from the Giants, not only in Toronto but also among all MLB teams, Alex Anthopoulos has erased any stigma the club has incurred over the last 10 to 20 years! The payroll, now over $120M, boasts some of the best players who were available and puts the Blue Jays in contention and in the same league as the rest of the big spenders in the American League.
While the Jays were one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2012 for the first two months (before all of the injuries), this season promises to be even better with a legitimate shot at a playoff position. While I agree with you Kevin Glew that these additions appear to address all of the Blue Jays’ needs (two starting pitchers! utility infielder, move Escobar, a left fielder), what does remain on the Jays’s wish list is another starting pitcher (you can never have too much pitching right David Cone?) and perhaps a Nick Swisher type of player with a left-handed bat to support the lineup between Jose Bautisa and Edwin Encarnacion. Unless Adam Lind can supply that kind of consistent OBP and power (again remains to be seen), the league will pitch around one or both of the Jays’ best hitters. I’m with you Kevin, as a long-time Toronto Blue Jays fan I am excited about this team again. Last year, the club just seemed to be built on some genuine talent packaged together with too many young near-do-well players who were pressed into duty and could not handle the 162-game season. That slap in the face the club endured by losing their manager coupled with Escobar’s foolish antics on the field has seemingly lit a fire under the Jays management that is too classy to admit it.
When September rolls around in 2013, we won’t be wondering who might be able to come up from Buffalo to help out. We’ve seen the best of the bunch this past season for two months!
For the past two seasons, we Jays fans only hoped some of the young players would blossom on the major league circuit while the tried and true “veterans” of the team cobbled out career statistics.
While Anthopoulos has more than delivered what was promised, and considers other options that are available for this year’s Christmas wish list, this coming season promises to deliver an October presence!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joe.
From Devon Teeple:
This signing really makes you think.
The Giants wanted nothing to do with this guy after the suspension, but heck you never know right. Will be interesting to see how he performs after all of this!
AA is certainly wheeling and dealing that’s for sure.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the comment, Devon. It will, indeed, be interesting to see what Melky can do in Toronto.
A risky sign. I think Davis and Gose combined would do more for the Jays and would be half the price. We are going to need more pitching! Morrow and Johnson get hurt almost every year.
Risky, indeed, but I like it. I that I think I fell in love with Gose’s speed last season, but his bat could use some seasoning at Triple-A. Don’t get me going about Davis. 🙂
You bring up an interesting point about Davis. I felt disappointed in his production in the second half of the season but I checked his stats and they are up over previous years. What stat am I missing that makes his one-year $2.5M deal a bad one?
Joe, actually at $2.5 million, Davis, at least statistically, is a pretty sound investment. So it’s really just my personal view of him as a player – too many defensive misadventures (despite his one highlight reel catch) and though he’s a good base stealer, he’s not necessarily a good baserunner. But that’s just my opinion.
Hey, no need to apologize (Canadian, eh?). I have to agree with you. I could go either way with Rajai Davis. He has impressed and disappointed in any given week/month of the season. However, his overall consistency might be limited to the base paths this season.
While his overall defence improved, you and I are probably feeling suspicious about his communication and fielding skills now that he is another year older. He will be a small coaching project. However, I am glad to have him back. He was one of Farrell’s favorites but I will not hold that against him.
How much better will he be with a few more hits behind him? Going from first to third will be expected and not just anticipated. I like what he brings to the Toronto Blue Jays. I hope he shows up healthy in April.