SF Giants: Why the Jonathan Sanchez – Melky Cabrera Trade Works for Both Teams

Augustin KennadyContributor IIINovember 7, 2011

SF Giants: Why the Jonathan Sanchez – Melky Cabrera Trade Works for Both Teams

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    The San Francisco Giants traded left handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and pitching prospect Ryan Verdugo to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera on Monday in what could be termed the first “major” move of the offseason.

    After years of trade speculation, Jonathan Sanchez is officially off the trading block (and off the Giants roster). This move is sure to have plenty of critics, but I would argue that both teams actually win in this deal (especially the Giants). Here are some justifications for this argument. 

Jonathan Sanchez Didn’t Fit with the Rotation

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    The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching rotations in the major leagues. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong rank near the top of the National League in ERA. Jonathan Sanchez had a wonderful season in 2010 and was a major contributor to San Francisco’s 2010 World Championship.

    But in 2011, Sanchez no longer fit:

    2011: 4-7, 4.26 ERA, 101.1 IP, 102 K, 66 BB

    His BB/9 was one of the worst in the major leagues, his ERA was less than stellar and, even though his K/9 rate was excellent, it came at a cost of runs and a lack of innings pitched. With Barry Zito’s salary not going anywhere and Eric Surkamp waiting in the wings, Sanchez did not fit into the rotation. He does, however, fit with the Royals anemic rotation. 

Melky Cabrera Is a “Free Outfielder”

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    The San Francisco Giants traded Jonathan Sanchez before he went to arbitration. He was to be a free agent in 2013. By trading him before arbitration, the Giants can avoid paying Sanchez the $4MM-$5MM he would have earned this season. Instead, they can pay this money to Melky Cabrera, who earned $1.25MM last season.

    This means that the net cost of Cabrera is essentially $0. A starter who did not fit (and a reliever nobody has been hyping) netted the Giants an outfield solution. This means that Coco Crisp and others are not necessarily priorities, and the Giants may shift their focus to signing Carlos Beltran. 

Nobody Has Ever Heard of Ryan Verdugo

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    Nobody outside of his parents has ever heard of Ryan Verdugo. The 24-year-old left handed pitcher pitched for the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels last year and posted a pedestrian line of:

    2011: 8-6, 4.35 ERA, 130.1 IP, 133 K, 63 BB

    These numbers, at the minor league level, are surprisingly similar to Sanchez’ major league numbers. Perhaps Ryan Verdugo will become a Cy Young-caliber pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, and he may one day evolve into such a pitcher. But with a rotation as stacked as that of the San Francisco Giants, he is what one might call an “acceptable loss.” 

Melky Cabrera Answers Some Questions

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    A caveat; Melky Cabrera answers some questions. Melky Cabrera alone does not answer the San Francisco Giants’ offensive woes. That being said, he is a substantial upgrade over the current platoon of Giants outfielders. By the numbers, Cabrera is solid:

    2011: .305/.339/.470/.809, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 102 R, 20 SB

    Melky Cabrera is a potential 20/20 threat who can bat .300 and hit in the middle of the order. The Giants’ lineup, assuming they acquire a top-of-the-order shortstop and re-sign Carlos Beltran,  would look something like this:

    1. Insert Leadoff Hitter Here
    2. Freddy Sanchez
    3. Carlos Beltran
    4. Pablo Sandoval
    5. Buster Posey
    6. Melky Cabrera
    7. Aubrey Huff
    8. Brandon Belt
    9. Pitcher

    That lineup can win ballgames on a consistent basis.