Melky Cabrera’s return to Kauffman Stadium was a roaring success Tuesday, as he went 2-for-3 and captured All-Star Game MVP honors in the National League’s 8-0 shutout of the American League.
Cabrera earned his trip to Kansas City by collecting an NL-leading 119 hits in the first half. He’s batting .353/.391/.519 with eight homers and 10 steals in 337 at-bats, putting him well on his way to duplicating or exceeding many of the career bests he established last year as a Royal.
And that has to sting Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, who made the call to extend Jeff Francoeur last year and trade Cabrera over the winter.
With Lorenzo Cain ready to step into center field, the Royals thought to sell high on Cabrera and sent him to the Giants for left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo. Obviously, the deal has been a bust so far, what with Cain spending the last three months on the DL and Sanchez going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and more walks (43) than strikeouts (34) in his 11 starts for Kansas City. Verdugo has been decent enough in Triple-A (6-2, 3.62 ERA, 70/43 K/BB in 87 IP), but I still think he projects as a reliever in the majors.
As bad as the trade has worked out, it’s worth noting that they only gave up a year of Cabrera, since he’s going to be eligible for free agency this winter. The Royals knew they weren’t going to keep both Francoeur and Cabrera for the long haul, and once they gave Francoeur a two-year deal, that settled matters. Even if they had retained Cabrera and let him play out this season, he almost certainly would have priced his way out of Kansas City with his performance.
Still, if the Royals had Cabrera in center or right and someone — pretty much anyone — other than Sanchez in the rotation, they’d likely be in the thick of the AL Central race right now rather than 9 1/2 games back of the White Sox. Francoeur has, by at least one measure, been the league’s worst regular this year, and Royals center fielders have hit .246/.306/.326 with two homers and 18 RBI to date. The difference between Francoeur and Cabrera could be worth five wins by itself.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.