The pitching starved Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants struck a deal sending Melky Cabrera to the weak hitting Giants in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo.
The Royals, selling high on Melky Cabrera’s best season as a major leaguer, landed a solid starting pitcher in Jonathan Sanchez, helping both teams fill voids but neither team is getting a star.
Cabrera hit .305/.339/.470, posting a 118 wRC+ (18% better than league average) and it was the first time in his career he has hit above league average. On the flip-side, he also posted his worst walk rate at only 5% and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was far and away the highest of his career at .332, meaning it is his outlier and not anything we can make a solid prediction on.
Cabrera is also a bad, nay, horrible center fielder and is moving to one of the toughest parks to play center in. Cabrera, despite the 20 stolen bases, has been a terrible base runner outside of 2011. In my opinion he will revert to 4th outfielder status but, sadly, that may be an upgrade for San Francisco.
Sanchez has always put up good strikeout rates with a career rate of 9.36 K/9 but has never reached 200 innings in a season and only pitched 101.1 in 2011. Sanchez also had his worst walk rate last year at an absurdly high 5.86 BB/9 as he saw his fastball velocity drop for the 3rd straight year and the first time below 90 mph.
Sanchez is also a fly ball pitcher and moves away from a good pitcher’s park to a fairly decent hitter’s park. But, like the Giants, the Royals are filling a position of need and get an immediate upgrade in Sanchez over starters like Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, and Luke Hochevar.
If I had to pick a winner for this trade it would be the Royals. They landed a starter with a solid track record of missing bats, albeit while walking a bunch of hitters, and they get a minor league lefty that projects as either a 5th starter or reliever, most likely a decent LOOGY. They also get to replace Cabrera with Lorenzo Cain in center at 1/10th of the cost, also making Royals pitchers a bit happier.
The Giants do save about $3M in this deal but they have to replace Sanchez with Barry Zito or Eric Surkamp while placing Melky Cabrera in center which will likely cause a few extra outs to land as doubles and make the current Giants pitchers a bit upset. Even if the Giants get a league average line out of Cabrera his lack of defense in center and the drop in starting pitching depth hurts more than the whatever potential Cabrera brings.