I hope the Jays can re-sign Melky, because that's a nasty hole that he'd leave at the top of the order, but at the end of the day, free agency is pretty much an auction. And in order to win an auction, you have to have money to spend. It's not that the Jays aren't spending money, it's just that they appear to have already spent it all.
Beeston said a few weeks ago that payroll was going to go up, which, well, it almost has to if the team is to look approximately the same, with the addition of a warm body at either 2b/3b and all the bullpen patchwork that needs to be done. We already kind of touched on this, but the amount that it cost to pay everyone in 2014 as pretty close to what's committed already for 2015, with holes left to fill. So yeah, technically, it has to go up-ish-- that's still technically true even if it goes up by, say, fifty bucks.
The idea that payroll is "definitely going up", though, at least suggests that the Jays are either serious about bringing Melky back, or finding something reasonable to replace him, or at least to fill one of the other holes. They could just go after scrapheap guys to fill spots, trying to find another Bautista or Encarnacion redemption arc and just letting the big contracts expire in preparation for 2016-- they may still go after Melky and do that with all other positions, which is the half-measure that we don't really need at all-- or they can actually try to assemble some quality at all the positions and maybe win for a change.
All the non-Cabrera options here assume that Cabrera has signed elsewhere, and that the Jays will be getting a comp pick.
Melky Cabrera (Free Agent)
We already know what we have here, so we'll not spend too much time on it. Good offense, sketchy defense, and something in the neighbourhood of $15MM a season. It would be cool if there were an easier place for him to play (e.g. 1B or DH), because he can't even seem to handle LF all that well. And of course, Melky leaving isn't all bad; if he signs elsewhere, the Jays are saving $15MM or so, are not hamstrung in to playing an aging and increasingly immobile player for another 3-4 years, and they get a compensation pick in the 2015 draft. We all know what kind of lotto ticket draft picks are, but sometimes those hit.
Another con to signing Melky: the Jays have a bunch of expiring contracts heading in to 2015. Melky will obviously command more than one year, and thus, will tighten the admittedly very loose noose as far as the future budget goes.
MLBTR's Steve Adams may have lost his mind today, when he suggested 5 years and $66.5MM, but he does make a reasonable case for it. I think the winner, whoever it may be, is the only one to offer four years, myself, but regardless, I also don't imagine the Jays go to 5 years.
Yasiel Puig (Trade)
Yeah, I know. Probably not happening. It's rumor season.
Michael Saunders (Trade)
Speaking of rumor season, apparently Michael Saunders and Jack Z aren't seeing eye-to-eye in
Nick Markakis (Free Agent)
I kind of expect Markakis to make it to free agency this year. Markakis has been a roughly league-average player since 2009, and the O's are pretty unlikely to exercise his $17.5MM option. Markakis is a capable, or at least passable, right fielder, and probably wouldn't want to move to LF to appease Bautista, but I don't know the guy.
Yasmany Tomas (Free Agent)
The Market for Cuban defectors seems to just keep growing. Yoesnis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Jose Abreu all signed the biggest contracts ever given to a Cuban at their respective times of signing, and all signs point to Castillo getting over $100MM, thanks to his age (24), power (apparently mucho), and lack of free agent compensation. Very rarely can you find a high-upside free-agent and sign him through his prime without risking much of his decline phase, but we can look no further than Masahiro Tanaka to see just what teams will pay for that right.
The big caveat here is that Tomas is going to be expensive, and will have a whole bunch of teams looking to sign him. It's very possible, though, that one of those teams will look to replace their current LF/RF with Tomas, and then trade off the incumbent as a consolation prize.
Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier (Trade)
With Andrew Friedman taking over in LA, it seems a bit more likely that there will be pressure to bring up Joc Pederson, or to at least fix the outfielder glut that the Dodgers have. Friedman usually needs to trade expensive guys for prospects, since he's never had the luxury to have a bad contract or eat money in a deal; now he's going to have unlimited money, and should be able to get creative in freeing up some room with Kemp, Ethier, or Carl Crawford, I guess.
All of those contracts are pretty bad, and they're all corner outfielders at this stage of their careers. Let's not worry about taking playing time away from Puig or Pederson anymore-- at least one of those contracts is going, and probably for pennies on the dollar. If someone would take Ethier, that's probably better, since he's a glorified platoon player at the moment, but if not, Kemp probably still has a bit of value with his bat. More likely is that he gets moved to a team who needs a DH, given his -2.5 dWAR in 2014. He's due ~$100MM between now and 2019, so I'd guess that the Dodgers would be eating $50-60MM just to give him away.
Norichia Aoki (Free Agent)
Aoki is a pretty interesting free agent, in that he's 33, and hits for absolutely no power, so he should be reasonably cheap. He does get on base at a good clip though, and plays a pretty reasonable RF defense. If the Jays miss out on everything, this could be a decent backup plan, especially as a guy who can get on base and set things up for the bigger bats. He also hits lefty pitching much better than righties!
Like I've written in both the 2B and 3B post, I think the Reds should blow everything up. Wanna make some sort of bold move, AA? How 'bout some blockbuster for Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and, say, Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos?
- Bruce is owed $26MM through 2016 (plus a club option) and was atrocious in 2014, so it would be selling low on someone who was worth 4 WAR just a year prior, but that's what blowing it up is.
- Phillips is owed $39MM through 2017 for some reason, and isn't worth that much.
- Cueto and Latos both have a year left before hitting free agency, but are very affordable (Cueto has a $10MM option, Latos should make about the same through arbitration) and very good pitchers... possibly even good enough to mitigate some of the risk of taking on $65MM worth of Phillips and Bruce.
I can't really see why Nelson Cruz shouldn't be a target either, given the Jays struggles against LHP, but I think they end up getting outbid pretty comfortably if they even check in.