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November 8, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Now in the Newsletter, the BP Daily Rathman

by Daniel Rathman

Looking for something to read with your morning coffee? Check out The Daily Rathman in the Baseball Prospectus newsletter each weekday. There, you'll find my take on pertinent baseball news, a rant about my sleepless college life, or something in between. For those readers who haven't subscribed to the newsletter, here is today's entry:

When I first saw the tweets saying that the Giants had traded Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo to the Royals for Melky Cabrera flash across my laptop screen, I could not formulate a snap judgment on the deal. With most trades, my gut instinct is either love or hate; with this one, it was both.

Sure, the Giants were selling Sanchez at his valley and buying Cabrera at his peak, but not long ago Sanchez—set to earn roughly $6 million in arbitration—was considered a possible non-tender candidate as GM Brian Sabean looked for money to improve his offense. Sure, the Giants were picking up a center fielder who can't really play center, and a No. 2 hitter who really should hit sixth or seventh, but maybe they were planning to use Melky in a corner and bat him closer to the bottom of the order.

Just leave it to the Giants to turn a potentially good trade into a bad one. Bruce Bochy indicated immediately afterward that he was comfortable with Cabrera, who graded out well below average by virtually any defensive metric, in center. He later said that Melky was likely to hit near the top of the lineup, in part because, "He crosses home plate and that's a need here." Well, so do the kids who stay at AT&T Park to run the bases after Sunday home games, and it doesn't take your No. 4 starter to acquire them.

From the Royals' perspective, Monday's trade is understandable. They have a promising replacement for Cabrera in Lorenzo Cain, and need to gamble on high-upside pitchers until their own prospects are ready. Moreover, if Sanchez shows signs of regaining his fastball velocity and control, the Royals will be able to deal him for something of value next summer.

From the Giants' perspective, it's confusing, to say the least. Factoring in defense, Cabrera may not be an upgrade over Andres Torres in center or Nate Schierholtz in right. The $2 million or so that the Giants saved in salary may need to be used on a rotation replacement for Sanchez—rather than toward another bat for the lineup—if the Giants don't have faith in Barry Zito. Beat writer Andrew Baggarly tweeted after the deal that the Giants may now use Brandon Crawford as their everyday shortstop, having, in their view, upgraded the offense in the outfield.

To recap, the Giants are banking on a breakout unsupported by peripherals—Cabrera's BABIP rose without an increase in line-drive rate, and his walk rate actually plummeted—to compensate for vastly worsened outfield defense, decreased rotation depth, and an all-pick, no-stick solution at shortstop.

With only the tweets and my raw thoughts to go on, I didn't have a strong opinion on the deal. Now that Bochy and Sabean have spoken, I hate it more than Dodger blue. At least the Royals have a process. All the Giants have is processed Melk.

For a little background on my rumblings, you should know that I'm an unabashed Giants fan, and currently a senior at Tufts University, where the best sports team may well be muggle quidditch. Any grumpiness you detect can be attributed to the awful Boston weather.

Finally, if you have a comment about something I wrote, please feel free to pass it along to me at drathman@baseballprospectus.com, and I'd be glad to see your thoughts or start up a discussion. Thanks for reading. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Melky Cabrera,  Giants Outfield

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


I noticed these pieces in the newsletter and wanted to say I really enjoy them. More than once I've finished it and thought, that guy really captured what I was thinking (like about Mark Cuban being an owner to fear). It's like the trend toward short mini-columns in newspapers; not everything needs to be stretched out to 20 column inches, and some things are handled really well and even better in half that length. Keep up the good work.

Nov 08, 2011 07:17 AM
rating: 0

This is an enjoyable twist. I'll keep reading.

Nov 08, 2011 08:06 AM
rating: 0

The only way to get this is subscribing to the newsletter? There's no way for it to be a regular blog post?

Nov 08, 2011 12:08 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

For now, though I would consider moving it in the future.

Nov 08, 2011 14:34 PM

If you're a premium member (and you must be, otherwise you couldn't comment), don't you receive the newsletter automatically? I sure do.

Nov 09, 2011 11:37 AM
rating: 0

Does anybody really believe that the Giants were going to nontender Sanchez? Just to make sure that Barry Zito had a rotation spot again, instead of working out of the bullpen? I sure don't.

Nov 09, 2011 11:38 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

I don't believe the Giants would have ended up non-tendering Sanchez, but it was considered a possibility at the end of the season. Given that they seem determined to not raise payroll, saving $6 million might have become a consideration, especially given that they were able to strike gold with Vogelsong last offseason. Lots of veteran RHPs that AT&T could make look good on the market as alternatives to Zito.

Nov 09, 2011 12:19 PM

I just read this blog post now. How DO you subscribe to the newsletter? There's no link given in this article, and I couldn't find anything about a news letter on the BP home page either.

Nov 14, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff

if you have an account please click 'manage my profile' in the blue login bar on any page, and there is an option for newsletter subscription.

Nov 14, 2011 13:59 PM
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