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Numbers Game: Busy Blue Jays bring in Melky Cabrera

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Scott Cullen
11/16/2012 3:24:32 PM
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The Toronto Blue Jays continue to add in a busy offseason, signing a free agent outfielder who was having a career year before a suspension cut his 2012 season short.

Numbers Game looks at the Blue Jays' addition of Melky Cabrera.

The Blue Jays Get: LF Melky Cabrera.

Cabrera, 28, was in the midst of his best season in 2012 when he was busted for an elevated testosterone count, drawing a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball.

In 113 games with the San Francisco Giants, Cabrera hit 11 home runs, drove in 60 runs, stole 13 bases and hit a career-best .346 with a career-high .906 OPS, giving him a 4.6 fWAR; fantastic numbers that have been automatically discounted because of Cabrera's PED use.

It's the uncertainty surrounding projection for Cabrera's future that figured to make him a relative bargain signing on the free agent market this year (at least when compared to a player who was leading the National League in batting average) and the suddenly new-look, free-spending Blue Jays were willing to take that risk, signing him to a two-year, $16-million contract.

Can a clean Cabrera approach last year's performance level?

Cabrera certainly had more power last season, but not outrageously so. According to www.fangraphs.com, his HR/flyball ratio was a career-high 10.7%, but it was 9.8% in 2011 with Kansas City and 10.3% in 2008, his last year with the New York Yankees. Moving to a hitter-friendly park, there's a decent chance that even a clean Cabrera could still put up decent power numbers.

In 2011, playing primarily centre field with Kansas City, Cabrera had a 4.2 fWAR, hitting 18 homers, driving in 87 runs and posting a .305 average and .809 OPS. That season amounted to a breakout campaign and has, retroactively, come under suspicion, but it's not unusual for major leaguers to have breakout seasons at 27-years-old, so it's not unreasonable to think that a clean Cabrera could still be a productive part of the Blue Jays lineup.

Maybe Melky Cabrera will never hit .346 again -- odds are he won't, because last season's .379 batting average on balls in play is due for major regression -- but if Cabrera even produces along the lines of his career numbers (.284 AVG, .752 OPS) he would be an upgrade on Rajai Davis, the speedster who will now be Toronto's fourth outfielder.

Cabrera has established that he's a contact hitter and a decent base runner, whose defensive play has slipped in recent years (posting a negative Ultimate Zone Rating in each of the last three seasons, with Atlanta, Kansas City and San Francisco, respectively), but should still be good enough to upgrade the Blue Jays by a couple of wins, if not more, over the course of a full season. If he ends up being worth more than that, well, that's the upside that leads the Blue Jays to take the risk.  

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Melky Cabrera (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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