Melky Cabrera to the Giants—a typical move by general manager Brian Sabean, right?
Well, not so fast.
After the disappointing 2011 season, the front office of the San Francisco Giants feel the pressure to get back into the playoffs. Brian Sabean has said for years his main focus this offseason is to keep the pitching staff intact, so why would he trade Jonathan Sanchez (and a minor league pitcher) for Melky Cabrera?
Sabean will take heat for this move, but it was the right move to make—here are five reasons why.
There was no guarantee that the Giants were going to offer Sanchez a contract extension.
Despite him being a big part of their World Series run in 2010, walks hurt him in a sub-par year in 2011, and he finished the season on the disabled list. He was not guaranteed to be a factor in the Giants' future plans.
If you were going to let him walk, wouldn't it make sense to trade him for a bat that you desperately need? Of course.
If they did re-sign him, he would get a raise from last year to a number in the $6 million range—not a bad price for a starting pitcher, but with Sanchez you don't know which performance will be showcased.
The trade does not save much money or help sign big name players like free agents Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, but saving a few million can help in the long run.
The Giants payroll will be close to $130 million in 2012, and with pitchers like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain going to get raises in the upcoming years, they need to save every dollar when they can.
What Sanchez would show up in 2012?
He strikes out a ton, but also walks a handful every game. A typical line for Sanchez is 5.1 innings, 2 ER, 5 hits, 7 Ks and 5 BBs. Not a bad line until you see the walk total, and if the Giants didn't have one of the best bullpens in baseball that can help get him out of jams, his numbers would be much worse.
He will be the ace of a weak staff, and when he is on the front end of an average team like the Kansas City Royals, his numbers get worse—especially since most games he will be going up against the top pitchers from opposing teams.
The Royals' first game of 2012 is on the road against the Los Angeles Angels. Mr. Sanchez will meet Jered Weaver, who finished second in the Cy Young voting this year—good luck.
For years, the Giants have gone after post-prime players who had career years three or four years before starting their career with the Giants, with Sabean hoping they can find their magic in SF.
Cabrera is only 27 years old, and has a great deal of experience at the big league level. He finally worked hard last offseason and look what happened: According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Cabrera played in 155 games, compiled 201 hits, scored 102 runs, hit 44 doubles, five triples, had 87 RBIs and on top of that stole 20 bases.
If he were on the Giants last year, he would have led the team in every single one of those categories!
Yes, his numbers will dip in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, but the Giants will gladly welcome anyone who can help their horrible offense score runs.
How long were the Giants supposed to wait to see if Sanchez would turn into the pitcher everyone expected him to be?
He had a great year in 2010, posting a 13-9 record with an ERA of 3.07, but besides that year he numbers are below average.
Would you rather have a guy who turns 29 this month who had a career year two years ago or a 27-year-old coming off a career year in which he looks like he finally figured it out?
The Giants lost their patience with Sanchez, and it was time for him to move on—maybe a change of scenery will be good for him.
Welcome to San Francisco, Melky. The only question now is what farm animal will you be nicknamed after? My guess: a cow.