November 07, 2011
On a day when the Kansas City Royals were expected to announce they were changing the name of their home stadium, they pulled a fast one and announced a trade instead. An intriguing deal, too, involving two principals with lots of talent and many flaws.
To the San Francisco Giants: 27-year-old outfielder Melky Cabrera(notes), who had a career season in 2011, hitting .305/.339/.470 with 18 homers, 44 doubles and 20 stolen bases. The Melkman didn't walk much (35 times in 706 plate appearances) and his defense in center didn't win him much support from the Fielding Bible scholars. Cabrera will be a free agent after the 2012 season.
To the Royals: Left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez(notes), who turns 29 later this month and is coming off an injury-plagued season. Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter in 2009, gets a lot of strikeouts but walks too many batters. He had a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts, striking out 102 and walking 66 in 101 innings. Kansas City also gets minor-league lefty Ryan Verdugo, a possibly decent prospect who is going on 25.
Cabrera, who got into shape after five below-average seasons, finally produced something in 2011. His batting average on balls in play — .332 — probably will drop to the .270-290 range, as it was in previous seasons. Giants manager Bruce Bochy problably shouldn't let him near center field, or the top of the batting order, but if he's even 85 percent of what he was this past season, the Giants improved their offense. Or maybe GM Brian Sabean is treading water until outfield prospect Gary Brown is ready. It's better than the Miguel Tejada(notes) addition, I'll say that.
After the no-no in '09 and a breakthrough season of sorts in '10 (though his advanced statistics weren't impressive), Sanchez struggled with biceps tendinitis in 2011 and had the worst control of his career. His strikeout rate had dropped from 9.8 per nine innings in 2009, to 9.5, to 9.1 in 2011. Not alarming, but not all that encouraging, either. Dave Cameron over at the Fangraphs says the Royals got a useful player, but probably nothing more.
Is this the kind of pitcher who will help the Royals contend, as I'm expecting them to, in coming seasons? It seems like Moore could have gotten more from someone else for Melky. Someone who wasn't coming off an injury, who didn't walk so many people. We'll never know. And now he's going from the NL West to the AL Central, where they can hit a little. Verdugo might be an asset, but it's just guess.
Stew verdict: I would have traded Melky and Sanchez, too. Just not necessarily for each other.
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