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.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.