Reasons for optimism on the Melky front

There’s some bad vibes coming out of Jays land these days, as players and media types seem to be setting us up for disappointment for everyone’s favourite Melk-man.

Comments from Jose Bautista in pieces by Shi Davidi http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/bautista-on-2015-the-talent-is-still-here/ and John Lott http://www.nationalpost.com/m/wp/sports/mlb/blog.html?b=sports.nationalpost.com/2014/09/29/toronto-blue-jays-jose-bautista-melky-cabrera-is-gone-but-dalton-pompey-has-just-arrived&pubdate=2014-09-29  suggest the slugger doesn’t believe Cabrera will be back next year. Meanwhile, Jeff Blair was beating that drum pretty heavily yesterday morning on the radio.

But fear not! For I remain optimistic. And I have reasons – which may or may not be coming from a ridiculously hopeless optimist – that the quotes from Bautista aren’t all bad.

  1. The GM’s excited. Surely, after last year’s fiasco where Alex Anthopoulos went into the offseason with a goal of acquiring two starting pitchers and a second baseman, and then going a big 0-3 on that front taught him a lesson. Either he forgets how that blew up in his face or he’s quite confident this offseason will be different, because he has once again ratcheted up the anticipation. AA told reporters recently that he’s really excited about this winter as the team has flexibility. So, bad memory or legitimate reason for optimism? I’ll take the latter.
  2. It’s a public pressure tactic. I wonder if Bautista made those comments as a way to put a little pressure on the front office and ownership to pony up this winter. He hasn’t been afraid to voice his displeasure when the team failed to make moves last offseason and during July’s trade deadline. His most recent comments seem to strike an interesting balance between excitement and assumption Melky’s gone.
  3. He’s just spitballing and helping his buddy. Players look out for players. Could Bautista just be drumming up interest for his friend and fellow union member Melky? Sure, this one seems a little out there, but is it totally unreasonable to think he’s trying to remind everyone how good Cabrera is? Maybe not the greatest reason of optimism for the Jays, but not a sure sign that he’s gone.
  4. Kung Fu Panda! Just because the Jays don’t get Melky resigned doesn’t mean they can’t improve the team. Sure, Cabrera going elsewhere makes the challenge that much tougher, but it doesn’t make it impossible. In recent days many have pointed out Cabrera’s WAR this year (3.1 by Baseball reference, 2.6 by Fangraphs). While strong, it’s not irreplaceable. And with at-best average defence, many wonder how he’ll age. Is Melky leaving maybe a blessing in disguise? Maybe the Jays redistribute that money and make a play on one of the other big name free agents? Enter Pablo Sandoval. The Kung Fu Panda could mean a huge upgrade in the infield for the Jays. He provides solid defence, important when Reyes will likely be manning shortstop and you’re dealing with the carpet infield, and a solid bat. And moving from San Francisco and the NL West to the more hitter friendly Rogers Centre and AL East could see his mid-teens home run total take a substantial bump. Then maybe find a cheaper option in the outfield, either through free agency or trade, and suddenly the roster construction actually looks better.

So there you have it, some reason for optimism in light of Cabrera’s possible departure.

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