I took some time to let our first big trade of the offseason breathe. I watched the knee-jerk reactions of Giants’ fans on twitter, acting like they once again got taken to the cleaners like they did signing Barry Zito to that awesome un-friendly team contract.
Then after that the experts such as Jon Paul Morosi, Dave Cameron and Buster Olney began saying hold on a second. Jonathan Sanchez is not who everyone makes him out to be. Essentially they all reminded baseball internet followers that Sanchez actually has less than luke-warm command of the strike-zone, and he’s not a top of the rotation type of guy.
When I thought about this trade, I tried to formulate my own spin on it.
What did we see during this past World Series? Well, I personally saw a couple teams with really good offenses and starting staffs that had trouble getting through five or six innings, that in turn were supported by deep bullpens. In case you’ve forgotten, part of Kansas City’s incredible crop of prospects are bullpen guys who made their debuts in 2011, and looked pretty good doing it. The Royals also have the makings of a young and potent offense.
In no way am I saying the Royals have copied the blueprint of the Rangers and the Cardinals to a T, but I will say they are making use of the resources available. Obviously the Royals don’t have the payroll to go out and get a C.J. Wilson or a Roy Oswalt, heck maybe not even Aaron Harang for that matter. But when you step back and look at their situation, maybe they aren’t in desperate need of guys like this.
According to Fangraphs, the Royals bullpen finished off 2011 in 14th place for accumulated WAR in the majors. But you must take into consideration Joakim Soria had his first off year, and as I noted earlier, many guys in this bullpen were getting their first taste of the MLB.
If your ball club resides in the AL Central, you may have been exposed to the talents of guys like Greg Holland, who pitched 60 innings and carried a FIP of 2.21 with a K/9 rate of 11.10. You may have also seen Aaron Crow, the 24-year-old who also struck-out over 9 per nine innings, and carried an ERA under three. Throw in Blake Wood, Louis Coleman, Jeremy Jeffress and the aforementioned Soria, and you have an extremely nasty bullpen that can provide support for a less than dominant starting rotation.
The speculation that Melky Cabrera’s spot in center field is now open for Lorenzo Cain is most likely real. Cain will have his work cut out for him in 2012 if he intends on providing the Royals with the same production Cabrera did. But he has the talent to make things interesting. In 2011, Cain hit .312 with an OPS well north of .800 in AAA, and in his quick six games with the big club, he didn’t exactly look lost at the dish hitting .273.
This also kind of sounds weird to say, but Melky Cabrera’s breakout 2011 campaign was greatly aided by hitting in front of guys like Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer. While Hosmer was indeed only a rookie last year, it was more than apparent as the season wore on that pitchers weren’t all that excited to pitch to him. Yes, Cabrera did what he was supposed to do – he smacked fastballs all over the diamond, but what I’m saying is he might not see the same luxury of pitches he saw in the zone when he makes his way over to San Francisco.
I don’t anticipate this as being the type of trade we look at a couple of years down the line, and say one of these teams got burned. I hold the opinion that it will work out well for both teams. In essence, I’m merely trying shed light to the Royals’ faithful that the expert’s take on Sanchez being average shouldn’t dampen the mood in Kansas City.
Lorenzo Cain may have some growing pains in 2012, and there may be moments where the Royals miss the services of a Melky Cabrera. But as it stands now with a brewing explosive offense, and a bullpen that appears to be as a deep as an ocean, the Royals may be one starting pitcher away from doing something the Indians accomplished last season – be buyers at the trade dead-line.