It's beginning to sound like that hole in left field will not be filled by former Blue Jay and current free agent Melky Cabrera. The news, by way of Buster Olney, is rather vague but certainly sets the mood for what is going through Cabrera's head when trying to decide where to take his talents in 2015. While the Blue Jays have reportedly already made an offer to Cabrera, it seems the Dominican is only going to pick up negotiations with Toronto if all of his other suitors back out and decide not to try and sign him (unlikely). Here's the tweet that broke the disappointing news:
Melky Cabrera's preference is to sign with a team other than the Blue Jays so he doesn't have to play his home games on artificial surface.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 28, 2014
If Cabrera doesn't read Bluebird Banter, then there's a chance he's unaware that the team will likely be receiving a new and improved turf in 2015 to reduce all the problems that come with playing on green stuff that isn't grass. Of course the team is also planning to have real grass in the Rogers Centre by 2018, which would mean that he could reap the benefits of that in the last year or two of his four or five year contract.
It's likely that this news will bring out all the folks who are angry about the turf impacting the recruitment of free agents, but the Blue Jays are at least being proactive about it by trying to find a way to get grass in the stadium as soon as possible. There's also a chance that Cabrera is stating this "frozen" preference in the hopes that the Blue Jays melt it away with a higher offer than anybody else is willing to give him.
Melky has had a number of suitors this offseason including the Orioles, White Sox, and Mariners as well as the Blue Jays obviously. It's expected that Cabrera will get a contract in the neighbourhood of five years worth around $70 million, which certainly isn't out of the question for Toronto who have a large amount of financial flexibility after this season.
It sure seems like Melky Cabrera has played his last games in a Blue Jays uniform (until 2018 at least!):
Add #BlueJays to long list of clubs pursuing Torii Hunter. Team pursued him two years ago, not especially confident of retaining Melky.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 20, 2014
Signing of Russell Martin likely takes TOR out of a major deal w/Melky Cabrera. Lose a pick signing Martin, gain 1 if Melky signs elsewhere.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 17, 2014
Melky Cabrera's agent Peter Greenberg joined the Jeff Blair Show after this report broke and some of the more interesting (paraphrased as closely as possible) quotes are listed below.
On whether the turf is a deal-breaker:
No, Melky has said all along that he's enjoyed his time in Toronto. He enjoys the fan, the city, the teammates. No one in the league would rather play on turf over natural grass though.
On whether he has a firm offer:
We're not close to making a decision...Still talking to the Blue Jays, I spoke to Alex a couple days ago. He asked me what Melky thought about the team signing Russell Martin...They're going to have to figure out the budget...There's still mutual interest on both sides.
The Blue Jays haven't given us a deadline and we haven't given them a deadline...These things sometimes take a little bit of time... We're not intentionally moving slowly.
Has (the steroid suspension) limited the market for him? Possibly.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>I want everyone to know that I am a baseball player and it doesn't matter to me what surface I play on. I will be the best player I can be.</p>— Melky Cabrera (@TheMelkman53) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheMelkman53/status/538396573529829376">November 28, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>