Kansas City’s move to sell high on Melky a good one

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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.

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.