Team-friendly contracts made Cabrera’s addition possible
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The additions of Jeff Samardzjia and David Robertson were stunning enough.
Adding Melky Cabrera to the pile of star-caliber players to the White Sox roster for 2015 is almost mind-boggling.
But that’s exactly what the White Sox pulled off on one extraordinary seven-day period, culminating with word that Cabrera, a switch-hitting left fielder who fits one of the last remaining holes in the Sox lineup, has agreed to a three-year contract. This after general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams said they were done spending.
“We’ve gotta figure out a way to do a few more things,” Williams said Thursday.
Apparently that meant talking chairman Jerry Reinsdorf into writing another check.
What’s another $14 million or so for three years when you’ve already added Adam La Roche at DH for $12 million, Robertson and Samardzija for $10 million each, lefy reliever Zach Duke for $4.5 million for 2015. That’s about $46 million in additions, pushing payroll to the neighborhood of a reasonable — by today’s payroll standards — $110 million if Viciedo’s estimated $4.4 million through arbitration comes off the books.
The Sox were at about $90 million last season, when they were paying Adam Dunn $15 million and Alejandro De Aza, Gordon Beckham and Matt Lindstrom $4 million or more each. Paul Konerko, who retired, made another $2.5 million. Having that space cleared helped, but having Jose Abreu under contract for $8.66 million and starting pitchers Chris Sale at $6 million and Jose Quintana at $3.4 (with all of them signed for several more years) in 2015 made this offseason’s extraordinary — and unexpected — splash possible. The credit there goes to Hahn, who perfected his skills as a creative, expert negotiator of contracts while he was assistant GM under Williams.
If Samardzija’s addition to the rotation and Robertson’s at the back end of the bullpen (following LaRoche and Duke) didn’t establish the Sox as a contender in the AL Central, Cabrera’s presence will absolutely clinch it.
Here’s s how manager Robin Ventura’s Opening Day lineup could look in 2015:
Adam Eaton CF
Melky Cabrera LF
Jose Abreu 1B
Adam LaRoche DH
Avisail Garcia RF
Conor Gillaspie 3B
Alexei Ramirez SS
Tyler Flowers C
Micah Johnson/Carlos Sanchez 2B
Cabrera batted .301 with a .351 on-base percentage with 16 homers, 35 doubles, 73 RBI and six stolen bases for the Blue Jays last season. A tougher out and higher on-base guy, he profiles perfectly for the second spot, where Ramirez hit for a good portion of his Silver Slugger season. Ramirez would fit well in an RBI spot batting seventh, or sixth against left-handers.
Cabrera, 30, signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Jays after he had received a 50-game suspension for testosterone with the San Francisco Giants.
A career .286 hitter with a .339 on-base percentage, Cabrera was the All-Star Game MVP in 2012 who was leading the National League in hits and was second with a .346 average when he was suspended on August 15. Major League Baseball and the players union disqualified him from the batting title — a measure that Cabrera had requested — and the Giants left him off their playoff roster.
None of that history matters to the Sox. Reinsdorf, 78, who has watched attendance slowly but steadily decline since the Sox won the World Series in 2005, wants badly to win one more, and as Williams has said since the GM meetings, the Sox — who lost 99 games in 2013 and 89 last season — are tired of “taking it on the chin.”