Melky Cabrera shipped to San Francisco for LHPs Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo

The Royals announced at about noon today via Twitter that they have traded outfielder Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for left-handed pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo. The initial reactions were hugely positive from most Twitter-holics, but let’s get into the details to figure it all out.

I think we all know what we had in Melky. He was a one-year deal that seemed to be nothing more than a flyer to spin off at the trade deadline for whatever Dayton Moore could find. Instead, he had a career year and jacked his trade value up to a ridiculously high level. Rather than turning him at the deadline, the Royals waited until their favorite time of year – a week after the season completely ended – to ship him off. And Moore completed a trade that seemingly can’t do anything but help the Royals in 2012 and beyond.

The biggest piece of the trade return is Sanchez, who has a career ERA of 4.26 over 174 games in parts of six seasons. As he’s 12 days from age 29, Sanchez isn’t really young and will slot in as one of if not the oldest Royals starting pitcher in 2012. Still, he can be a useful piece of the puzzle. In 2011, he struck out 9.1 per nine innings and only gave up 7.1 hits per nine. Those are pretty solid numbers for a starter, but the main concern comes from his walk rate – 5.9 per nine innings in 2011, 4.8 over his career – and whether he can improve those numbers. As walks are a matter of concern for the pitching corps going into the offseason, if new pitching coach Dave Eiland can make progress on the group and especially Sanchez, it could be a very strong set of pitchers for 2012. And don’t think that the Royals brass won’t look past the fact that Sanchez was with the World Series Champion Giants in 2010. I’m sure they took that into account when looking at pitchers possibilities.

Some other things about Sanchez to note: he had a ground ball percentage of 42.4 in 2011 (40.8 over his career) and induces more ground balls than flyballs (1.14 ratio). His walk ratio in 2011 was worse than any previous season, so there is a chance that he can greatly improve that. And that affected his WHIP. It really seems like the Giants sold low on Sanchez, who, with recovery and a bit more control, could be an integral rotation piece for Kansas City.

The second piece is Ryan Verdugo, who shares my birthday and is only 24. Verdugo was drafted three times: in the 43th round of the 2005 Draft (Phillies), in the 42nd round of the 2007 Draft (Giants), and in the 9th round of the 2008 Draft (Giants). He moved through the Giants’ farm system fairly smoothly and has posted a strikeout rate of 9.2, a walk rate of 4.4, and a hit rate of 7.9 per nine innings through AA. Verdugo started 25 games in 2011, throwing 130.1 innings for the season. As he had one career minor league start before 2011, it’s worth noting that he could start a bit slow from the sudden boost in workload for the season. Still, he shows promise and could be useful in either a bullpen or spot start position if he doesn’t prove himself to be a consistent starter. Verdugo could truly be a very useful part of the puzzle for the Royals.

My instant reaction was extremely positive: I was eating and spit out my sandwich because I was so surprised. After a bit of time, my reaction mellowed a bit, but I still love this trade. It’s extremely unlikely that Melky repeats his 2011 performance in 2012 and I wanted a way to get Lorenzo Cain and possibly David Lough on the Royals’ roster. Sanchez needs to recover from past performances, but he’ll get an extended chance to do so. Even if it doesn’t work out really well for the Royals, I just can’t seem to think they lost very much here. If Melky is having a monster year and none of the Royals’ potential centerfield types can get the job done offensively, then we can talk. But I don’t think that will happen and I can only feel positively about the trade.

Good move, Dayton. If you can find one more starting pitcher, possibly a two-spot starter, without giving up too much, then we should be in a great spot for 2012. Keep it rolling.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Jonathan Sanchez Kansas City Royals KC Melky Cabrera MLB Royals Ryan Verdugo

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