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.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.