The Giants added a bat, something everyone knows that they need, while dealing away a problem child who might have had the best arm on the team. The Giants also managed to do something that I always tell people not to do in the fantasy game. What boner did they pull? The sold low and bought high. Maybe they should spend some more time reading my stuff.
The Deal: Giants Receive: Melky Cabrera Royal Receive: Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo
Cabrera had the best season of a rather undistinguished career in 2011 as he hit .305 with 18 homers, 20 steals, 87 RBI and 102 runs scored. He also racked up 201 hits to impress everyone. However, this is what I see. Cabrera had success because of the copious plate appearance total. I mean, he had 706 of them (the 11th most in baseball). As a result, he was able to post career bests in RBI, runs, hits, doubles (44), homers etc. In terms of his ratios, his BB-rate of 5.0 percent was a career worst. His K-rate of 13.3 percent was a career worst. His .339 OBP was only .008 better than his career rate. His 1.44 GB/FB ratio was just off his career mark of 1.52. His line drive rate of 20.3 percent was only slightly above his 19.4 percent career mark. He also posted a career-high of .332 in the BABIP category, .033 points better than his career average and the first time he had a mark in the .300's since 2006. It was a strong year in terms of his fantasy value, but in terms of his real world performance his success was largely a factor of those 706 PAs and not because of growth in his game.
Sanchez was a strong performer in 2010 when he went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 205 Ks in 193.1 innings. Last season he regressed. Not only was he limited to just 101.1 innings with issues with his elbow, he also saw his K/9 mark go down half a batter (it was still an impressive 9.06), while his terrible BB/9 rate (4.47 in 2010) shot up well past pathetic into the realm of atrocious (5.86). So instead of trading him coming off his best season, the Giants held on and ended up having top deal him at his lowest point in four years. Great move guys. Sanchez still owns dominating stuff, but until he does a better job of throwing strikes it just won't matter. If he were able to get his walk rate under control, and to this point the best BB/9 mark he's ever had is 4.27 in 2008 – a full batter above the big league average mind you – Sanchez would be one of the better left-handed starting pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, he's shown little consistency in his career and the results are a mediocre WHIP (1.39) and ERA (4.26). At this point he's mostly potential and little substance.
Verdugo is a left-handed starter much in the same mold as Sanchez. He throws hard, his K/9 mark is in the double digits during his minor league career (11.1), but he's also walking far too many batters leading to 4.5 BB/9 mark. When he's locked in few can hit him, but far too often he ends up beating himself. He's not a lock to contribute with the Royals this season either as he has thrown just 130.1 innings at the Double-A level.
If everything comes together for Sanchez the Giants will rue the day they made this deal. It will also end up looking bad if they (a) fail to sign Cabrera to a long term deal (he's a free agent after the 2012 season), or (b) if Cabrera returns to being the hitter he was for his entire career prior to 2011. As stated, much of what Cabrera accomplished in 2011 was the result, NOT of improvements in his game, but because of all those extra plate appearances an a rather fortuitous BABIP mark. The data seem to favor a regression in the batting average (career .275), in the homer category (he'd never hit more than 17 homers in back-to-back seasons before hitting 18 in 2011), and in the steals department for Melky (he'd never stolen more than 13 bags in a season, and with 10 caught stealing last year in 30 attempts he really didn't add anything to the offense). The Giants needed a bat and Cabrera fills that need, but let's hope the Giants realize that they would be lucky to get a repeat effort out of Cabrera in 2012 so they still have a lot of work to do to bolster an offense that was the club's undoing in 2011.
The Giants' outfield might be Cabrera in center, Nate Schierholtz in right and ??? They could be interested in bringing back Carlos Beltran and/or Andres Torres/Cody Ross, but for now the look of the outfield is one of a second division club. If it's Aubrey Huff in left and Brandon Belt at first base, would that make you feel any better? Me neither.
Lorenzo Cain will likely open the 2012 season as the Royals starting center fielder. After hitting .312 with 16 homers, 81 RBI, 84 runs and 16 steals at Triple-A in 2011, he's someone to remember in the later rounds of mixed league drafts – he's got the skills to offer a substantial season in 2012.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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