PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 17: Jonathan Sanchez #57 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Two of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Citizens Bank Park on October 17 2010 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jonathan Sanchez
I suppose it's safe to say that the Hot Stove League is officially underway, as today brought upon quite the transaction. In preparation of a potential non-tender, Jonathan Sanchez and minor leaguer Ryan Verdugo were both shipped to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Melky Cabrera, who is coming off a career year for the Blues. The Royals expanded their strikeout-stuff-laden rotation while parting ways with a player who embarked on 40+ doubles in '11. That guy, Cabrera, will now roam the spacious AT&T Park outfield grass while potentially taking advantage of the extra-base friendly dimensions.
But what should we really expect out of Melky Cabrera? Melky posted fantastic numbers in 2011, highlighted by a 4.2 fWAR and a well above average wOBA of .349. However, that followed a dreadful .294 wOBA in 2010, which, in addition, subsequently helped submerge his WAR to the negatives (-1.0). Word on the street is that Cabrera will regress somewhat towards his career wOBA mark of .320, especially coming off a stellar and career year. In addition, it's hard to maintain a .332 BABIP two years in a row. On the other side of the coin, he's cheap and a likely candidate to don a uniform roughly 150 times per season.
Sanchez's campaign was infamously highlighted by a 5.86 BB/9 sting, but he missed a decent amount of time suffering from a bicep injury. Sanchez, when healthy, struck out 102 batters in 101 innings which means his stuff never disappeared even when in pain. He's always possessed high strikeout rates even while walking a fair share of batters and most importantly he's provided as a durable lefty with the ability to keep the ball in the park.
The most intriguing sign of this trade is the tandem of high-strikeout pitchers embedded in the Royals potential 2012 rotation. With Felipe Paulino, Danny Duffy and now Jonathan Sanchez the Royals won't have to rely on their defense as much as they've had to in the past. Another interesting factor that plays in to this whole post-trade scenario is the gap opened by Melky's departure. More than likely, Lorenzo Cain (free Lorenzo!) will head in to Spring Training with the job to lose, but you never know what kind of magic Dayton Moore will pull this off-season.
It would seem as though the Royals received the most upside in the trade, especially considering they also acquired Ryan Verdugo, and with the contracts of both players nearly equal it's probably fair to give the edge to the team not acquiring the replaceable outfielder coming off a career year. This isn't to excuse Sanchez and his excessive amount of walks, but after last year's performance his value can only get higher. Additionally, I had a chance to see the aforementioned Ryan Verdugo pitch for Richmond this year, and while he doesn't offer much upside due to his age and lack of stuff, he did K more batters than pitched innings.
Presumably, this trade wouldn't have been made if either didn't have an adequate replacement for the respective position. You see, the Giants will probably let Barry Zito battle with a few Spring Training invites and possibly the likes of Justin Fitzgerald or Dan Runzler for the 5th spot of the rotation while Kanas City has Lorenzo Cain ready to roll. I just fear that the Giants have too many Melky Cabrera types (i.e. Torres), and, if anything, could have received more for Sanchez should they had kept him until mid-season.