It’s not all that often I have nice things to say about a Dayton Moore transaction. This one, though, looks pretty good to me.
The Royals picked up Jonathan Sanchez from the Giants for Melky Cabrera on Monday and even got San Francisco to throw in a somewhat intriging minor leaguer in Ryan Verdugo to complete the trade.
In doing so, Kansas City cashed in Cabrera after what could go down as his career year. The 27-year-old hit .305/.339/.470 with 18 homers and 87 RBI in 658 at-bats last season. That .470 slugging percentage topped his previous high-water mark by 54 points. It was so out of character that even with the .470 included, his career mark stands at .398 after six seasons.
Sanchez, on the other hand, was a big disappointment for the Giants. Failing to build on a 2010 season in which he ended up with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts, he went 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts. Always among the game’s most walk-happy pitchers, he set a new standard there last season, issuing 66 free passes in 101 1/3 innings before being shut down in August with a sprained ankle. It was easily the worst walk rate in baseball for anyone throwing 100 innings.
Needless to say, Cabrera was the far more valuable player in 2010. Cabrera, though, is a below average defensive center fielder on a team that already had the corners spoken for. The Royals also have a potentially solid regular ready to step in for him in Lorenzo Cain, whose name was coming up in the Braves trade talks regarding Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado last week. Cain hit .312/.380/.497 in Triple-A last season, and while he doesn’t figure to show that kind of power in the majors, he’ll probably be decent offensively and an upgrade on Cabrera with the glove.
Now, the trade is no slam dunk for the Royals. Both Cabrera and Sanchez are a year away from free agency, and if Sanchez happens to pitch up to his ability next year, he’s going to be very expensive to retain. That limits Kansas City’s upside.
The Royals, though, need to take chances, and today’s gamble not only has the potential to make them significantly better in 2012, but it came without causing any damage to the team’s strong farm system. Actually, the system is now slightly stronger with the addition of Verdugo, a 24-year-old left-hander who went 8-6 with a 4.35 ERA and a 133/63 K/BB ratio in 130 1/3 innings in Double-A last season. He was a reliever prior to 2011 and he’ll probably make his way back to the bullpen because of his poor command, but he could prove to be a useful short reliever come 2013.
As for the Giants’ side of the deal, I think they would have been better off going in another direction. Even if Cabrera holds on to the gains he made in the power department last year, his defense will cut into his value some. Also, the Giants need a leadoff man that’s not where Cabrera fits best. Certainly, Cabrera seems poised to give the team better numbers than Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand did last season. Plus, it was already a lock that Sanchez was a goner. Still, given the Giants’ needs, I think it would have made more sense to sign Coco Crisp to play center and trade Sanchez for a couple of prospects.