As one of my good friends says, I still think Sabean is trying to get Asdrubal Cabrera, but keeps getting the wrong Cabrera.
(Archives note: We used this pro-con format before, on April 6th of this year. This could be an ongoing theme…)
Seriously, though, this trade has really polarized Giants fans. Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez. Any Sanchez trade would have been controversial, but Melky is just…not what was expected. On one hand, Brian Sabean spoke of him as if they hadn’t ever gotten a better offer. Others have taken the position that Sabean sold low and bought high, with Sanchez having his worst major league season and Cabrera coming off his best season.
With all the confusing rhetoric coming from all sides (even the national commentators, who don’t have a Red Sox trade or a Yankees free agent to talk about), I’ve decided to break this down into a simple Positive vs. Negative list.
The Giants traded away a pitcher with no-hit stuff.
Seriously, he’s the first guy since the Count to throw a Giants no-hitter. That’s no small thing.
This move guarantees that Barry Zito is back in the rotation.
Really, this should have been an assumption, but people will still complain.
Melky is a center field tweener: Not enough offense to play a corner, not enough defense to truly man center field.
Cabrera’s Ultimate Zone Rating (a newer defensive stat, with 0 as the baseline) is -6.7. Andres Torres, by comparison, had a 9.4 last season while injured. (He had a 22.0 in 2010).
Melky had too high a price after a surprise career year.
Remember him as a Brave, batting .255 with a .671 OPS? He was a big part of the Giants win in the NLDS by not showing up, going 0-for-8 in three games.
The Giants sold Sanchez at his career low.
True…but it was also his career low so far.
Melky is a better offensive player than Aaron Rowand or Andres Torres.
This, of course, assumes last year’s performances. But Cabrera is pretty much universally better than Aaron Rowand in any season as a Giant.
Melky figured out conditioning is an issue, and fixed the problem, so he’s not likely to drop off to what he was before.
Giants fans know conditioning is important. And Melky’s especially not likely to forget the lesson as he goes into a contract year.
Sanchez was expendable after the emergence of Ryan Vogelsong.
This comes with the confirmation that Barry Zito’s contract is unburiable.
Sanchez was a notoriously inconsistent pitcher.
In 2010, he had the highest walk rate in the majors. It got worse in 2011. And while he could throw a no-hitter mid-season, he would also need a Jeremy Affeldt bailout in Game 6, and no team should put themselves in position to need a bailout in any Game 6.
Melky saves money.
Even coming off a career year, Cabrera is likely to cost $2 million less than Sanchez. He also likely will make the Giants choose not to bring back either Andres Torres (about $3 million, most likely) and/or Cody Ross (made $6.3M last season, but likely will make around $3-4 million). That’s money that can go to other free agents.
Melky will not block top prospect Gary Brown in center field.
This is because Melky, like Sanchez, is a free agent after 2012. That’s more than can be said for many other center field options, particularly Coco Crisp.
Melky will get the Giants a compensation pick, and possibly a Type A. Sanchez may not even get any compensation as a free agent.
Looking at the ranking predictions by MLBTradeRumors, Melky was a borderline Type A. With a good season coming, and his career-worst season dropping off his rankings next year, he could get that. Sanchez, meanwhile, was a mid-level Type B who would lose his career-best season in the compensation calculations next season.
That’s 7-to-5 in favor of being positive, and possibly that last one is the best indicator of the Giants thinking long-term. The Giants know Cabrera’s not the long-term answer with Brown coming, and are setting themselves up to get a good set of draft picks. I can’t not like that.
This trade won’t fix everything. But it’s a start. Sanchez was frustrating the heck out of me. Cabrera is an offensive improvement. He’s not perfect. But if he was, he wouldn’t have been available.
On the other hand…now I have to root for a guy named Melky. There’s no way jokes about his name won’t show up in the strip at some point soon.