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Would Melky Cabrera be worth the Blue Jays limited amount of money?

Money not well spent?
Money not well spent?
Jared Wickerham

The horse is getting pretty close to beaten to death by now, but it's an issue that's going to keep being talked about all offseason. The Blue Jays have a ceiling on their payroll and although we don't know what the exact number is, we do know that they're not going to throw cash at every free agent. With the current 2015 payroll sitting somewhere between $125-$130 million, there is only so much Alex Anthopoulos has to work with in the coming months when trying to upgrade this team. It seems like almost a unanimous opinion around Blue Jays land that the team should make a run at bringing back Melky Cabrera on a free agent contract. To me it seems like the limited cash might be better used upgrading larger holes in the team than a left field which is currently up for grabs between Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, and John Mayberry Jr.

With all of the steroid and tumour issues in Cabrera's past, it's pretty hard to get an accurate feel for what the switch-hitter will bring to the table in the future, not to mention he is now on the bad side of 30-years-old. Getting a WAR of 2.6 per year for the entirety of his free agent contract would be mighty nice, but you could also end up with the garden gnome we saw in left field during the 2013 year if his body begins to break down. In my eyes, the marginal upgrade that Cabrera would provide over some sort of combination of the existing options with the additional risk isn't sufficient enough to spend the small amount of money that the Blue Jays have to work with.

With a platoon of John Mayberry Jr. and Anthony Gose, the Blue Jays would have two superior defenders to Cabrera, while their combined hitting against left and right-handed hitters respectively would be an obvious drop-off, it might not be as bad as you would think. Mayberry has a career slash line against lefties of .269/.324/.533, while Gose hits righties to the tune of .241/.316/.350 with an OBP that has been trending upward. If Gose continues to sputter at the plate, Dirks is another option from the left side who doesn't have massive platoon splits, but is still superior against righties with a slash line of .278/.333/.418. The absence of Melky would certainly be felt on the offensive side of the ball, but a mash-up of these three guys wouldn't produce that large of a black hole in the lineup and would provide much better defence.

The money side of the equation is when it really starts to look like a good idea to let Cabrera be on his merry way to a team with more money to spend. Anthony Gose will be paid the league minimum (around $500k), while Mayberry Jr. and Dirks will go to arbitration with projected totals of $1.9 million and $1.63 million respectively. With Dave Cameron of FanGraphs recently projecting that Cabrera will get three years and $39 million in free agency, the cost savings would obviously be massive by not signing Melky. That's ignoring the fact that it seems likely, to me at least, that Cabrera will get more than that projected total from a team willing to bet that he can continue his 2014 post-steroid, post-tumour performance. In addition, the qualifying offer extended to Melky means that the Blue Jays will get a draft pick if he signs for another team. When a team is working with limited financial flexibility these things unfortunately matter a fair bit and the amount of money (plus the draft pick) start to tip the scales in the "don't sign Melky" direction.

If the Blue Jays could save about $10 million by throwing together a platoon in left field, that money could go to upgrading second base and the bullpen in less flashy, but more effective deals. It won't make the casual fan happy and it could look extremely stupid if the platoon ends up falling flat while Cabrera continues his 2014 form, but it's worth the risk in my eyes. Unfortunately it looks like this offseason won't be about where the Blue Jays spend their money, it will be about where they don't spend it.