melky cabrera getty

Let’s stop beefing about the fact that Melky Cabrera got a contract

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I’ve seen a dozen of these sorts of sentiments from baseball writers since Melky Cabrera signed with the Blue Jays last week:

Melky Cabrera was rewarded with a two-year, $16-million free agent contract by the Toronto Blue Jays. Cabrera’s deal came less than two weeks after the Oakland Athletics gave pitcher Bartolo Colon a pay raise and a one-year contract that could be worth, with incentives, $6 million. Steroids win again, in other words.

I railed against this last week, but let’s put it in simpler terms:  if you are upset that Melky Cabrera got a contract to play baseball, you must necessarily believe that PED users should get lifetime bans, yes? If you’re not willing to make the latter argument, you are being intellectually dishonest if you make the former. The guy has served his time, has been penalized significantly in terms of dollars and shame, and has a right to continue his career, does he not? If not, make your case for him being banned for life or shut the hell up (I know many of you in the comments section and many casual fans will do so, but I direct this specifically at baseball writers who, unless they are trying to traffic in some easy outrage like this, never independently make the case that PED users should be banned for life and never seriously would).

Even if you discount Melky Cabrera’s past two seasons as 100% fraudulent and without an ounce of actual baseball talent underlying them — which is itself silly given what we know about how PEDs work — an eight million dollar a year deal for a normal 27 year-old outfielder who has played in nearly 1000 games and can play some center is not by any stretch of the imagination a “reward” compared to what other players like him get paid. Coco Crisp is going to make just a bit less than that over the next two years and he’s five years older than Melky. Coco Crisp is a nice player, but it’s not like he’s making crazy elite superstar bucks.

Heck, even if you pretended that 2011 and 2012 didn’t exist at all, I’d then ask you to go back to 2010 and value a 21-25 year-old center fielder who is able to stick in the lineup of two winning teams and show some occasional power. Not a great player by any stretch of the imagination, but someone who has shown some flashes of quality mixed in with his erratic play and who, by most accounts, just needs to dedicate himself more in order to become a useful, everyday player.

What does that guy make when he hits the free agent market? I submit that it’s much closer to $8 million a year than $8 million a year is to whatever Cabrera would have made this winter if he had not been busted for PEDs.

But please, go ahead and continue arguing that Cabrera got away with something and that “steroids have won again.”

Jose Bautista: “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since famous bat flip

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning in Game 5 of baseball's American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Arguably the most memorable moment of the 2015 season came in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers. The game was tied 3-3, but the Jays were threatening with runners on the corners and two outs. Jose Bautista launched a 1-1 Sam Dyson fastball for a no-doubt tie-breaking three-run home run that would send the Jays into the ALCS to face the eventual world champion Royals.

Bautista didn’t immediately run to first base after hitting the home run. He admired it, looked at Dyson, and then flipped his bat triumphantly. As far as bat flips go, it was a 10 out of 10. Yasiel Puig was proud.

The six-time All-Star admitted “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since that moment in the ALDS, as Jonah Birenbaum notes for The Score. Bautista also served as the assistant coach for musician Drake at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. As Drew noted earlier, Bautista had a pretty nice view at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well.

The Jays are hopeful to sign Bautista, 35, to a multi-year extension. In six seasons since breaking out with the club in 2010, he has hit .268/.390/.555 with 227 home runs and 582 RBI in 3,604 plate appearances. No one has hit more home runs since the start of the 2010 season, as Miguel Cabrera is the closest at 199. And only Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols have driven in more runs in that span of time. It’s easy to see why, despite his age, the Jays want to keep Bautista around a little while longer.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.