When baseball suspended Melky Cabrera for elevated testosterone in mid-August, many assumed he would receive only a one-year deal as a free agent.
That assumption was wrong.
Cabrera, 28, agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, according to a major-league source.
The deal, which is pending a physical, marks another dramatic move by the Jays, who finalized their 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins on Monday.
The Jays appealed to Cabrera, according to a source, because of the strength of their lineup and the likelihood that he will be a story, but not the story, with the team.
The two-year deal, as opposed to one, should further ease the pressure on Cabrera. He will be a free agent again at age 30, and by then — barring further incident — the suspension should be behind him.
The Jays likely will use Cabrera as their starting left fielder, with Colby Rasmus in center and Jose Bautista in right. Rajai Davis will remain an extra outfielder.
Emilio Bonifacio, one of the players coming to Toronto from Miami, is expected to be a super-utility man, spelling Maicer Izturis at second, Jose Reyes at short and Brett Lawrie at third, and possibly Rasmus in center.
The Jays, who are assuming nearly $160 million in their trade with the Marlins, also could make additional moves to pare salary.
Baseball suspended Cabrera on Aug. 15, and he did not play again for the San Francisco Giants. Prior to his suspension, he led the National League in batting and was MVP of the All-Star Game — an achievement that eventually helped the Giants gain home-field advantage in the World Series. For Cabrera, a free-agent contract of at least $70 million seemed within reach.
But his positive test for testosterone marked a violation of baseball’s drug policy, and raised questions about the legitimacy of his stellar performances for both the Giants and the Kansas City Royals the year before.
In 2010, Cabrera batted .255 with a .671 OPS for the Braves, who released him at the end of that season. He then signed with the Royals and batted .339 with an .809 OPS in ’11. The Royals traded him to the Giants last off-season, and he batted .346 with a .906 OPS in ’12.
After Cabrera’s positive test last summer, an associate of the slugger purchased a website and attempted to create evidence to support a claim that the outfielder inadvertently took the substance that caused a positive drug test, Major League Baseball said.
Baseball officials uncovered the scheme as Cabrera prepared his case to challenge the test. Cabrera’s grievance then was dropped, and MLB announced a 50-game suspension.
Major League Baseball subsequently banned Cabrera associate Juan Nunez from all team clubhouses.
Nunez, a consultant for Cabrera’s agents, took responsibility for fabricating the website.
The union recently cleared Cabrera’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, of wrongdoing.