The Chicago White Sox boosted their outfield by signing Melky Cabrera to a three-year, $42 million deal.
The 30 year-old Cabrera, a switch hitter, will play left field and receive $13 million in 2015, $14 million in 2016 and $15 million in 2017. He is the latest big signing by the White Sox, who have had a big offseason and become a contender in the Amerian League Central.
Chicago's payroll is currently estimated at around $114 million for 2015, a 31 percent increase from last season. Cabrera served a 50-game suspension in 2012 while with the San Francisco Giants after testing positive for testosterone, but White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Cabrera's past was not an impediment to the signing.
"No one condones what he did, but we are talking about a mistake that he made and took ownership for and showed honest remorse about from three seasons ago," Hahn said. "He's already gone through the understandable and deserved public scrutiny, and has not hidden from his past actions."
Grade for Cabrera: B+
Cabrera is a career .286 hitter with 88 home runs, 520 RBIs and a .754 OPS. He is expected to slide into the No. 2 hole behind Adam Eaton and in front of the powerful Jose Abreu and newly-acquired Adam LaRoche. Cabrera, who had 171 hits with 16 home runs, 73 RBIs and whopping .808 OPS in 2014, earned a nice contract after testing positive for testosterone just two seasons earlier.
Temporarily branded as a cheater and thought to be overrated, he has proved his critics wrong in some ways. During his two years in Toronto he played well despite posting lower numbers than he did in 2011 and 2012. Earning $42 million over three years is pretty good for a guy that had to play well just to get past some public perceptions.
Cabrera was rumored to be after a five-year deal with the Seattle Mariners in the neighborhood of the four-year, $57 million deal Nelson Cruz received. He was likely looking for more, but who could blame him? He ended up agreeing to deal for one fewer season, but at nearly the same annual rate.
Grade for the White Sox: C+
$42 million is a lot of money for a player that enjoyed his best season while using performance-enhancing drugs. He has never hit more than 18 home runs or driven in more than 87 runs. As Hahn appears to have done, we will have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is lean and clean for 2015 and beyond.
"Frankly, I respect the fact that he accepted and served his penalty and lived with the consequences and has done his best to put it behind him. Obviously, [the MLB drug] policy allows for not only the suspension and the punishment, but also the redemption. Melky has performed at the highest level on the other side of this issue, and we're optimistic he'll continue to perform at that level going forward."
Cabrera joins trade acquisition Jeff Samardzija and free-agent signee David Robertson from Chicago's winter meetings haul. The White Sox also signed LaRoche and left-hander Zach Duke. According to the Chicago Tribune, Jerry Reinsdorf told Hahn to blow past the club's budget and bring in Cabrera, which is a sign that the team wants to compete now and that an outfielder could have been added in the cheap.
However, the White Sox are taking considerable gambles with all of their big name acquisitions. Samardzija played well for Cubs, but didn't live up to expectations in Oakland. Robertson was too expensive for the New York Yankees and Zach Duke is Zach Duke, a guy who has only had an ERA under 3.00 twice in his nine-year career. LaRoche who has better power numbers and averages around the same amount of hits will be paid less than Cabrera. Maybe he should hire Cabrera's agent.