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.