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:
THE BP DAILY RATHMAN
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'd be glad to see your thoughts or start up a discussion. Thanks for reading.