Blog Entry

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

Posted on: November 7, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 3:09 pm

By Evan Brunell

The Royals have acquired starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and a minor-league prospect from the Giants in exchange for Melky Cabrera, the first trade of baseball's hot stove season.

This deal is a major risk for the Giants that could either pay off beautifully or crash and burn, while the Royals capitalize on a player's high-water value and land a coveted mid-rotation starter who could one day suddenly figure things out and morph into an ace. Put simply: San Francisco is buying high on Cabrera and selling low on Sanchez. (Read more on how this trade affects free agency.)

San Francisco has made no secret of the fact they covet a center fielder who can lead off for the club, and Cabrera certainly fits that mold. He enjoyed a career season for Kansas City, playing much of the year at age 26 and hitting .305/.339/.470 with 67 extra-base hits, also swiping 20 bases. But is Cabrera's season really as good as it appears?

Hot Stove Season
While those 20 stolen bases look nice, he was also caught stealing 10 times. For stolen bases to provide overall net value to a team, Cabrera needs to swipe bags at a rate of at least 75 percent. He hasn't shown that ability yet, as this is the first season he's been let loose on the bases. In addition, the Melk Man has never had a discerning eye at the plate, but he was far more aggressive in 2011 than years past. One could argue that it paid off, and it did to an extent, but much of his newfound impatience has come in swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone. Unless you're Vladimir Guerrero, swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone is a good way to get yourself out. Pitchers will pitch further and further off the plate to Cabrera until eventually Cabrera will be get himself out for hacking at pitches that aren't meant to be hittable.

Cabrera made just $1.25 million in 2011 and is due a sizable raise in his last season before free agency, projected to earn about $4.4 million (per MLB Trade Rumors). That makes the deal essentially a financial wash, as Sanchez made $4.8 million last season and is due a raise of his own, but not a significant one. Cabrera is best used in right field, but could play center if San Francisco is confident in his defense, freeing up more money for San Francisco to spend for a shortstop and possibly another outfielder. The Giants could also elect to bring in another starting pitcher, but Sanchez actually clears up a logjam in the rotation. S.F. can now move forward with a quintet of Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Barry Zito.

Only time will tell just how good Cabrera is, but it was an inspired choice by GM Brian Sabean to deal someone the club had soured on and address a glaring need in the outfield. But it's still a risk, and Kansas City's risk is much less because while Cabrera's at his high-water mark, Sanchez is being dealt at perhaps his lowest value.

Sanchez is a fireballer who can stand toe to toe with the best in striking out batters, but he also has erratic command. He served up walks in 14.9 percent of all plate appearances this past season, up from 2010's 11.8 percent. Sanchez is never going to be considered a control wizard, but injury may have been to blame for the spike in walks instead of a simple regression. In June he walked an eye-popping 20.5 percent of batters in June that skewed his season numbers, then promptly spent six weeks on the DL with biceps tendinitis.

These two things appear related, especially since Sanchez's control in the other months were within career norms. Unfortunately, even if Sanchez bounces back to career norms in walks, he still issues too many free passes to be an innings eater, but the Royals will gladly take a 28-year-old fireballing lefty in the middle of the rotation and take 190 innings over 32 starts.

The Royals have been seeking veteran starters to slot in the rotation as they attempt to gain relevancy. It's the right time for the club to start making a push, and the rotation was an obvious need. Sanchez is best used as a No. 3 or 4 starter, but the club's rotation is so poor that right now, Sanchez has to be considered the favorite to start Opening Day. Kansas City did very, very well here to get a legitimate starter in exchange for someone who hightailed it out of Atlanta as one of the more despised players in recent Braves history. The deal also opens up center field for Lorenzo Cain, who came over from Milwaukee prior to 2011 in the Zack Greinke deal.

Sanchez is coming to K.C. with 24-year-old Ryan Verdugo, who posted a 4.35 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A. It was Verdugo's first season as a starter in the minors, and put up remarkably similar numbers to Sanchez. He's someone who can punch out batters, but who also offers up a bit too many free passes. He figures to serve as rotation depth in Triple-A, although his future may be in the bullpen as a setup man. GM Dayton Moore said that the club views the lefty as an eventual reliever.

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Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 10:50 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

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Since: Sep 12, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 6:03 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

As i was trying to post this it looks like the blog is up for what i want to post. So with that trade it is so obvious now that Beltran won't be signed by the Giants. Melky had a good year last season hopefully he can do it also on a new team. As for Sanchez a lot was expected and injuries got it better with him. Hopefully the Royals can keep him healthy.

Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 10:44 am

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

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Since: Apr 5, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:09 am
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Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: November 7, 2011 9:27 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

.305 average is deceptive when the OBP is only .339. That's terrible for a leadoff hitter. I like Melky, but he's not a great player. He's a marginal starter on average/good teams and a good player on lousy teams.

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: November 7, 2011 8:39 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

This is a classic Sabean deal, and it's not a good one. This is a perfect example of a buy low-sell high trade, and the Royals are getting the better end. As a Giants fan, I would have rather seen us keep Sanchez, who has great stuff when healthy and all there. Cabrera is too big of a risk in this deal, just two seasons removed from a horrid season in Atlanta. This is not going to solve the Giants' hitting problems.

Since: Jun 19, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:12 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

There was a good deal of skepticism when the Royals signed Cabrera at the last Winter Meetings. The Melk-man was coming off a lackluster season for the Atlanta Braves after being traded by the New York Yankees.

However, Cabrera took a big salary cut to sign and the switch-hitter from Bajos De Haina in the Dominican Republic worked strenuously to get back into shape, losing weight and adding muscle. When he hit the field for the Royals this season, scouts marveled that he looked like a different player.

That showed not only in his physique but in a huge upswing in his statistics. Talk about a breakout, bounce-back year:  Cabrera accumulated 201 hits -- the first Royals player to reach 200 since 2000 -- and had a career-best .305 average. He settled in as the Royals' two-hole batter and piled up 44 doubles, 18 homers, 87 RBIs, 102 runs and 20 stolen bases -- all career highs.  

He also excelled in center field, getting 13 assists to contribute to the Major League-leading 51 posted by the Royals' outfielders.

Cabrera was the Royals most consistent player last year, had a career year and realized his potential.

So, what's the risk ?    

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:34 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

If his head is straight, Sanchez has a chance to be a no. 1 starter...This could be a good deal for the Royals. We'll see.

Since: Mar 10, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:28 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

I think the Royals benefit : the Melk Man needs to be congratualted for getting in tremendous shape > When Melky was with the Yanks he was not ready for the Majors but he has made himself into an everyday MLB player : THE GIANTS have Pitching so they can replace Sanchez and the Royals have two or three nice prospects to slip inot the Melk man's OF spot. ITs a great deal for the Royals and fills and helps a need for the Giants. I still Expect the Giants to resign Carlos  Beltran and sign Jose Reyes. 

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:05 pm

Giants, Royals exchange risky players in deal

To those who picked up on the error with stolen bases, thank you for pointing it out. It has been corrected.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or