2013 Blue Jays: Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis

25 02 2013

One of the great unanswered questions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball is this: are there people whose entire careers resulted from their use? Can PEDs turn a mediocre ballplayer into a major-league player, or a fringe player into a star? Or do they just help a player maximize his talent?

If Melky Cabrera owes his career to his use of PEDs – and would not have been a star or even a regular without them – is he the only one? Or are there other players who used chemicals to obtain a major-league job and the millions of dollars that go with it? The incentive is there. (Buck O’Neil, the former Negro League player who lived well into his nineties, was once quoted as saying that the only reason that Negro League players didn’t use steroids was because they didn’t have them.)

Since, presumably, Cabrera will be playing the 2013 season without using performance-enhancing drugs, his numbers this year may go a long way towards answering the question of how much PEDs help ballplayers. Which is one of the many reasons why he is a fascinating player.
One of the reasons that the Jays signed Cabrera is that the bar is set relatively low for left fielders in Toronto. To help the Jays, Cabrera doesn’t have to be a star: all he has to do is play better than Rajai Davis, Corey Patterson, Juan Rivera, and Fred Lewis.

No one has really paid much attention to Emilio Bonifacio since he arrived here, but perhaps they should. In 2011, he had an excellent .360 on-base percentage and stole 40 bases in 51 attempts while playing 15 games or more at six different positions. Oddly enough, that year, he only played five games at second base, and only started twice there. If one of the new arrivals falters, or if somebody gets hurt, the Jays can plug Bonifacio into that spot, which makes him extremely valuable.

There’s not much to say about Maicer Izturis: he can play several infield positions, and sort of hits okay (his career on-base percentage is .337, though he was below that last year). If he plays for the Jays, he joins a list of players who played for both Canadian major league teams, as he came up with the Expos in 2004. (The Expos. Sigh.)

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