Although pretty much every Giants fan is stewing over this trade, it was actually a “win” for the Giants. For those of you who actually know about history and trade patterns, trading is supposed to be beneficial for both parties involved. Dude A and Dude B each trade surplus goods for items that they need or hold more value to them. In the case of this trade between the Giants and Royals, both teams emerged as “winners” (a very abstract term).
I always like to eliminate the variable that is the least quantifiable (in people terms: the stuff we don’t know). The Royals obtained AA prospect Ryan Verdugo, who is a decent prospect with high strikeout numbers but absolutely no control. His ceiling is a 4th or 5th starter or above-average reliever. Some scouts say that he should convert to a reliever due to his very poor control (15.8 BB%) and his high strikeout rate (36.7%). Thus, Verdugo isn’t really a difference-maker in this trade and is only meant to sweeten the deal for a team bereft of pitching talent.
Nobody will argue against the statement that the Giants had a huge hole in center, and the Royals had absolutely no pitching. The Giants also have pitching prospects- like Erik Surkamp- chomping at the bit to get into the rotation and replace Barry Zito. The Royals also had a plethora of players looking for starting time in the outfield, and Lorenzo Cain is undoubtedly a huge benefactor of this deal.
Looking at the advanced statistics, Jonathan Sanchez really doesn’t seem to be a good pitcher at all. He’s about league-average, with a high strikeout rate and almost no control (sounds like somebody else in this article). While Sanchez’s strikeout numbers are sexy, he stinks at basically everything else. He doesn’t induce groundballs, and his FIP- and xFIP- rate him at exactly a league-average 100 for his career.
However, Sanchez had a poor 2011 with career-lows in statistics such as Swing% and Zone%. His overall fastball velocity was actually below 90, and that’s either a cause for concern or just a down year. Only time will tell, but it really seems like you know what you get with Sanchez; inconsistency.
At 26, Melky Cabrera had a career year, as he netted 4.2 WAR last season. There is no way that he sustains a .305 BA with the .332 BABIP last year, and I see him as a guy who will hit in the .280s for the next couple of seasons (career BA of .275 and BABIP of .299).
Leche posted the best power numbers of his career (.164 ISO), and it seems like he is genuinely improving as a hitter at first glance. It isn’t a dramatic improvement, but it’s enough for me to believe that he can sustain a few 3 WAR seasons. Melky was also above-average on the bases, but he did have a very poor K/BB ratio. This was also the first season in which he was rated as an above-average hitter (118 wRC+).
The last time in which Melke Man posted power numbers anywhere near what he produced in 2011 was in his last season with the Yankees (2009). He bested those numbers this season, so it isn’t a stretch to think that he has some pop in the bat. Another thing is that the only two things that changed for Melky as a hitter in 2011 were his line drive rate and his value against fastballs increased dramatically.
Although a lot of Melky’s spike in productivity has to do with luck, you can’t just suddenly get extremely lucky with a BABIP anywhere under .350. However, the problem is his ability to actually field. Everybody agrees that Melky is a below-average defensive player, and playing in the toughest park for a center fielder will not help that cause. Cabrera’s hitting numbers translate well for a CF, but he would be a below-average hitter for his position if moved to left field.
This is an interesting conundrum, but it really isn’t all that big of a deal. Melky presents a major upgrade to an inept offense that really doesn’t have much of a choice at this point. And oh by the way, this pitching staff isn’t filled with a punch of Jered Weavers who rely on their outfielders to make plays for them. The Giants have one of the best staffs in the MLB at not allowing fly balls, and Melky’s lack of fielding prowess should be slightly masked.
Even though Melky Cabrera is only a slight upgrade over Andres Torres because of defense, hitting is more important to the Giants right now. And of course, Melky is a better hitter than Torres at this point. The difference between them isn’t huge, but the Giants didn’t exactly give up Tim Lincecum- dumbest rumors ever- either.
I project Jonathan Sanchez as a league-average 2 WAR pitcher, and Melky is a 3 WAR outfielder. There is a chance that Sanchez ends up being a 3 WAR player, and it really seems like these two players are about even; albeit, with Leche holding a slight edge. That slight edge is Ryan Vertigo, uh Verdugo, and this was just a case of two teams swapping guys at positions of talent for guys to fill positions of need who will in turn clear the way for the young guys looking to make a name for themselves (or- more pessimistically- Zito).