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In Cain we Trust


Monday the Royals announced that they had traded outfielder Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for left-handed pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo.

This is a move that had to be made for two obvious reasons: The Royals need starting pitching and they had an unfamiliar log-jam in centerfield that needed to be sorted out. I think my colleagues have done a solid job of analyzing the deal from the perspective of what the Royals got in Sanchez and Verdugo.

So, I’ll take a different approach and look at the underlying significance that the move entailed. The Royals decided to shop Cabrera at his highest value and hold on to Lorenzo Cain. As I alluded to in my previous post, I felt the Royals would have to make a decision on Cabrera/Cain and my preference was to keep Cain.

I like Cabrera and even though he is entering the prime of his career at age 27, I still don’t think his line .305/.339/.470 is likely to be duplicated ever again in his career. Not only was that the best season of his career, but you could argue that it was twice as good as any season he’s had in the big leagues. All said, however, I think the trade was good for both parties, as I don’t think Melky will slide all the way back to his Yankee days in terms of production and the Giants have an abundance of young arms, making Sanchez expendable.

On the Royals side, they did exactly what they needed to—add starting pitching that upgrades from Jeff Francis. Sanchez is an upgrade and projects as a No. 3 in a good rotation. But, back to my purpose for writing this article, examining what the Royals are left with in centerfield.

The Lorenzo Cain era is finally underway in Kansas City.

Cain is a significant upgrade defensively in center. For anything that he might give up to Cabrera’s 2011 season with the bat, he will get right back with his glove. To put it bluntly—the kid can flat out go get it in center. I hate to say Cabrera was a slouch in centerfield, but compared to Cain, that’s exactly what he is. Cain covers lots of ground in center and over the course of a full season, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to take away 20-25 runs defensively in replacing Cabrera.

Side note: I have a buddy who insists that this is a bad deal, mainly because he is a HUGE Melk-Man fan. But man-crush aside he believes giving away a bat like Melky’s is foolish just to upgrade a little on defense. I can’t emphasize this enough, the Royals already have the offense at the corners with Hosmer, Moustakas, Gordon and Francouer (potentially Myers) and Butler DH’ing. What they needed is DEFENSE up the middle. Escobar and Cain provide that and then some. I have a feeling that midway through next season many Royals fans, like my buddy, will forget all about the offensive worries with Cain, similar to how they did with Escobar when his bat corrected itself and he was making highlight reel plays that Yuni Bettancourt couldn’t get too even if it was a beach ball getting hit. 

I digress…

Offensively Cain, hasn’t really had a chance to entrench himself into the majors, so most of his established statistics come from the minors. Looking at this past season Cain threw up a line of .312/.380/.497 for Omaha, with his only concerning statistic being his decreased walk rate (7.3%) from his previous year with Milwaukee (11.0%). A lot of that can be attributed to his extended stay in triple-A. Not that he wasn’t use to the minors, but it is widely believed that Cain was expected to supplant Cabrera at the All-Star break after the Royals dealt him.

Due to Cabrera’s emergence, it brought pause to any trade talks the Royals might have been having and left a befuddled and disappointed Cain stuck in the minors. Which I believe led to him pressing to put up noticeable numbers to warrant a call-up, despite Cabrera’s lingering presence on the roster. So to simplify, I’m not worried about his low walk rate.

The Royals pulled off an incredible feat in this one deal. They were able to upgrade their ball club in three areas, without giving up a single prospect. The starting pitching is better, the defense up the middle is better (and the offense should remain steady) and they added another young arm in the system that could project to be another Sanchez, or a potential LOOGY coming out of the bullpen.

Not bad for one move.