In case there was any doubt left that the Blue Jays are pulling out all the stops following their blockbuster trade with the Marlins earlier this week, now Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com reports that Toronto has signed free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract.
Cabrera got the All-Star game MVP and was hitting .346 in 113 games for the Giants when he was suspended 50 games in August for a performance-enhancing drug and despite being eligible to return during the playoffs San Francisco opted to leave him off the postseason roster.
Without the positive drug test and subsequent suspension a 28-year-old switch-hitting outfielder coming off a breakout season would obviously have been in line for significantly more than a two-year, $16 million deal, so it’s certainly an interesting gamble for the Blue Jays that has plenty of upside.
Cabrera had a mediocre track record prior to 2011, but hit .305 with 18 homers, 44 doubles, and a career-high .809 OPS in 155 games for the Royals that year and then took his production to another level for the Giants. Combined during the past two years he played 268 games and hit .322 with an .849 OPS that ranked 13th among all outfielders over that span.
He joins a Blue Jays lineup that suddenly looks very dangerous with Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot and Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion doing damage in the middle, with Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia, and Adam Lind around them.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.