Royals get Jonathan Sanchez from Giants for Melky Cabrera

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Suddenly the Royals’ lack of interest in signing Melky Cabrera to a contract extension makes even more sense, as Kansas City has traded the outfielder to San Francisco for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez and pitching prospect Ryan Verdugo.

Cabrera is coming off a career-year and the Giants can certainly use lineup help, but he hit just .260 with a .319 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage during the previous three seasons. He’s in his prime at age 28, but Cabrera is also a prime candidate to regress significantly in 2012 and will be a free agent next offseason.

Sanchez is the opposite story, as he struggled this season after a strong 2010 that saw him throw 193 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 205 strikeouts. He also walked a league-high 96 batters even while faring well overall and this year Sanchez posted a 4.26 ERA with 66 walks in 103 innings. Verdugo is a marginal prospect, so this is pretty close to a one-for-one swap and I like the move more for the Royals.

They’re stacked with young position players and need rotation help, so buying low on Sanchez is smart and as a 28-year-old with a 4.27 ERA and 669 strikeouts in 646 innings as a starter he still has plenty of upside if they can get him to throw strikes. And if not he might be a late-inning bullpen option. Cabrera is a solid all-around player and was much more valuable than Sanchez in 2011, but the Giants are buying high on someone who’s more often than not been fourth outfielder-quality.

This move also opens the door for Lorenzo Cain as the Royals’ starting center fielder, assuming they don’t rekindle those trade talks with the Braves for Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado.

Yankees acquire A.J. Cole from the Nats

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The New York Yankees have acquired reliever A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations.

Cole was supposed to be the Nats’ fifth starter this year but that didn’t work out too well. He pitched in four games for the Nats, starting two, to the tune of a 13.06 ERA, having given up six home runs in 10.1 innings. That’s . . . something.

Don’t get too used to Cole on the New York roster, as this seems like one of those “give us an arm” for a couple of days deals, after which Cole will be DFA’d and will either accept an assignment to Scranton or be cut loose. Such is life at the fringes for a guy who is out of minor league options.