SF Giants Offseason Moves: Sanchez Traded for Cabrera: 4 Immediate Implications

Barry ShillerContributor IIINovember 7, 2011

SF Giants Offseason Moves: Sanchez Traded for Cabrera: 4 Immediate Implications

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    In a piece published early Monday, I noted four conventional tendencies San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean ought to defy this postseason.

    By trading Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City for 27-year-old outfielder Melky Cabrera (as reported by mlbtraderumors.com), Sabean has defied one—clinging to his pitching—and hinted at others.

    Here's a quick take on four immediate implications of Sanchez-for-Cabrera.

Finally: Intolerance for Mediocrity

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    While Jonathan Sanchez didn't cause the San Francisco Giants to miss the 2011 MLB playoffs, he contribute materially to the club's collective face-plant.

    And his maddening inconsistency surely influenced Brian Sabean's decision to move him.

    Young left handed pitchers are notoriously (and particularly) slow to develop. In his first six major league seasons, the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax was just one game over .500 and walked 100 or more hitters twice. He turned out OK.

    Not suggesting Sanchez will turn into another Koufax (the Giants surely hope not). But whatever happens to him, this trade implies that the Giants' patience runs only so deep.   

    Sanchez's July 2009 no-hittter and strong 2010 (13-9, 3.07 ERA, 205 strikeouts in 193.1 innings) affirmed his amazing potential. 

    His shaky 2010 postseason—0-2, 4.05 ERA and epic meltdown in Game 6 of the NLCS—affirmed that the 28-year-old lacked something—call it mental discipline—that should have surfaced by now. 

    Sabean (and presumably Bruce Bochy) were tired of it. They'll undoubtedly praise Sanchez publicly—gotta give up talent to acquire talent and all that—but good on them for sending him away. Perhaps other underperformers (Aubrey Huff?) will take note.

A YOUNG Addition!

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    The litany of aging, past-their-prime acquisitions on Sabean's San Francisco resume has dogged him for years (He once characterized critics of past moves as the "lunatic fringe" of the Giants' fanbase.).

    History, accurately chronicled, doesn't lie. Acquiring the 27-year-old Cabrera is a break with Sabean's pattern of acquiring older players with decent past track records, hoping they recapture their magic.

    In this case, he's traded for a young guy with an uneven track record, coming off of a career year. That's a material change.

    If Cabrera comes close to replicating his 2011 season—.305 BA, .809 OPS, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 20 SB, 44 doubles—this deal will be a success no matter what Sanchez does with the Royals.

    Cabrera (left-handed glove, switch hitter) hasn't yet strung together successive decent seasons (He delivered just 4 HR, 42 RBI for Atlanta in 2010, then signed a one-year reclamation-project deal with the Royals.).    

    Sabean is gambling that Cabrera, a free agent in 2013 unless the Giants negotiate a long-term deal, will be motivated sufficiently to deliver as he did a year ago. For once, we'll be watching a new Giant whose ceiling may yet to be realized.

Fifth Spot in the Rotation Is Wide Open

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    Sabean declared lefty prospect Eric Surkamp, who pitched well in two late season call-up starts before getting cuffed in his last four, not ready for the 2012 rotation.

    If true, the Giants have a hole in the rotation they otherwise must fill. As I observed earlier, expecting Barry Zito to reclaim and hold on to that job seems ridiculously unrealistic.

    But if it's not Zito or Surkamp, it's likely to be an offseason acquisition (no one else in the system seems like a fit; Dan Runzler was very shaky during his limited 2011 trial).

    With three established righties, you'd figure the Giants prefer to add another left hander to complement Madison Bumgarner.  

    There are plenty of options. Look for Sabean to sign someone to a one-year opportunity deal, as was done with Ryan Vogelsong in 2011. 

No Crisp?

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    Credit to Andy Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News for pointing out that Cabrera's arrival likely fills the Giants' hole in center field and lead-off spot (Although he batted in the second spot for Kansas City, that's a spot reserved for Freddy Sanchez.).

    That likely takes free agent Coco Crisp, everyone's favorite rumored free agent acquisition for San Francisco, out of play.