Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Begun: Giants Trade Dirty for Melky Cabrera

Just read the news, oh boy:  Hank Schulman blogged that the KC writer tweeted that Jonathan Sanchez has been traded for CF Melky Cabrera.  He was able to confirm it.  There is also an article on Yahoo on it as well, which reported that Ryan Verdugo was also included in the trade.

Giants Thoughts

Not too surprising because Sabean in recent interviews noted that the Giants might have to trade a starting pitcher.  That leaves the rotation at Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito, with Eric Surkamp as the first guy up in case of need.  I also didn't think that Zito would end up in the bullpen as some had suggested, no way that would happen.  His greatest value is as a starter, particularly if he can return to his 2009-10 form, which was pretty good.

This also made sense because Sanchez was the most obvious to trade, in terms of value in return as well as lack of future value, because of his agent, Scott Boras.  Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner look like keepers, if at all possible, while Vogelsong and Zito would not yield much in trade, if anything in Zito's case.

This is a great trade assuming the Melky continues hitting the way he did in 2011, a breakout offensive season for him.  He plays CF, his OBP is decent enough for leadoff, and he has some speed judging by his SB, he just needs to hone his skill down to achieve a higher success stealing rate, which the Giants appear capable of doing, they were able to improve Randy Winn's  percentage in his time here.

His agent is NOT Scott Boras, so we might even be able to sign him long-term, and his hitting is good enough to move to the corners if necessary.  As much as I love Nate Schierholtz and believe in Brandon Belt, they both still need to prove themselves.  As do Melky as well, for that matter.  And his defense could be below average in CF while above average on the corners, according to, so that fits with him holding CF until Gary Brown is ready.

Another nice thing about him is that 2012 will be his 27 YO season, so he is headed into his prime years, potentially with us, if we end up signing him to a longer term contract, maybe an extension into his first or second year of free agency, which would still leave him at around 30 for his first big free agent contract, two good seasons won't necessarily get him that kind of big money.

Verdugo I think is thrown in because of the injuries that Sanchez had in 2011 that reduced his value a bit, as that leaves a question mark on his 2012 season.  Also, Sanchez is 29 next season, so he is a bit older then Melky, so that also justifies giving up another player.  I can live with that.  Verdugo struck out a lot but also walked a lot, and was a bit old for AA.  And the Giants have been very good in deciding which pitchers to give up in trades so far.

I like this trade a lot.  Clears up the CF situation, he's a pretty good player in exchange for a pretty good pitcher, he's a good hitter, and can play all OF positions, which gives Bochy a lot of flexibility in setting the lineup, depending on who is hitting and who is not (or injured).  Don't really see any need to sign any other OF now, OF appears to be set at Belt/Torres, Cabrera, Schierholtz, unless, of course, they somehow sign Carlos Beltran.


  1. I have always liked Melky Cabrera. And I think that Sanchez' peak is not much higher (if at all) than we've seen.

    This is good.

  2. Its a new wrinkle on a classic Sabean move - get your moves in early, and keep your position flex for further moves. I like it, because it avoids mediocre Oakland A's OFs for the moment, its a one year deal, and Cabrera is going to be 27 on April 1 2012. We always want more for our players and prospects, but Sanchez 2011 really hurt his value. I wish he could have avoided giving up Verdugo as a throw in, but like OGC says, its not the end of the world either.

    During the press conference they made the point about Cabrera working out and taking conditioning seriously before last year. That sounds good. He did drink his way off the Yanks, and he was rushed up by them. Overall I like this move, as long as they don't cut Torres off the roster.

    So OGC - after I have railed on Sabean for impatient moves in the past - I like both his moves so far this offseason. Just please don't get cocky and sign Betancourt or something silly like that eh Sabes.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys (and for the one you left on my last post, Shankbone).

    Yes, that's a good point, Melky has potential that he could still tap into, like turning all those doubles into homers, though obviously that won't happen as much in SF (and he is a natural LHB). But he has good speed, so double-digit triples look possible for him. His bat discipline is very good, as he does not strike out that much, plus has walked at an OK rate previously (though not 2011).

    The big difference for him in 2011 is that he got to play a full season for the first time since 2007. He did not play as much in the seasons in-between, though still a good amount (roughly 500 PA per season).

    Also, he has had a good three year stretch against LHP, and had his best year against RHP in 2011. Another nice point is that he hit really well on the road vs. at home, for his career. And he has hit well in SF, even though SF's pitching has been so good.

    One worrying point is that his BABIP in 2011 was high for his career, .332 vs. career .299. The good news is that he had a career .330 BABIP in the minors, so this could be a sign that he has finally caught up in maturity to the rest of the players in the major league.

    Meanwhile, it would not be surprising if 2010 was Sanchez's peak. Though I still have hopes that he will finally figure it out and put it all together. He would be untouchable if he could do that.

    Yes, a new wrinkle on a classic Sabean move, though I would note that he really didn't have many off-seasons where he had a player like Dirty to trade. And they could still make a move for either a CF, LF, or SS still.

  4. Thanks for passing on info from the press conference.

    Here are the scribes blogs on that presser:

    One interesting fact is that despite all the media/fan rumors about Sanchez being on the trading block in the past, the club was never close to trading him until now.

    There was no way to trade him before, anyway IMO, as trading him would have created a hole in the rotation that they would have been unable to fill. Vogelsong's emergence, though, gave them that opportunity.

    Amazingly, the Giants aren't ready to commit to where he will play or hit, though they are comfortable with him in CF. Suggests that they might still look to get a CF-type, lead-off type, hitter. They could leave Cabrera in the #2 spot where he did well in 2011 and move Franchez to #3, where they have hit him before. Then Posey and Sandoval.

    To Shankbone's point about his conditioning, Melky, who was at the press conference, said that 2011 was a result of his weight training last off-season, which he will do again.

    Sandoval, despite some media claims that he gained weight, sweared to Bochy that he has not gained any since the season ended, that the uni in Taiwan made him look bigger, and swears to come to camp even lighter than last season. His strained shoulder appears to be fully healed now, as well.

    The way Bochy talked about Cabrera, sounds like they might make him the #3 hitter in the lineup, as he noted that Melky is "a run producer. He scores runs and also has the ability to knock in runs. He's 27 years old and it looks like he's coming into his own. He can hit at the top of the order. He can steal a base. he's athletic and can play anywhere in the outfield. It's hard to say where he will hit in the order and maybe even where he's going to play in the outfield..."

    About SS, Sabean said that Crawford "has done nothing to hurt his chances (in AFL)", but the decision on whether to get another shortstop hasn't been made. I agree with Andy's prediction: "As I mentioned earlier, the strong leaning is to give Crawford the job if the Giants get enough offense from other sources. My prediction: if they re-sign Beltran, Crawford will be at short."

    Gary Brown was noted, both that this move does not block him, plus that he was given a break in the AFL because of that illness I reported on previously, which Sabean noted was not Valley Fever, which I guess is a pretty bad thing that can be caught down there.

    Sabean did note that Dirty's value was down because of his health problems and inability to come back after the ankle sprain, but I would note that this is still pretty good value in return.

  5. Baggs also has posted an article on the deal:

    Neglected to mention above that Baggarly thinks this means that Torres would be non-tendered by the Giants.

    That was likely even without the trade, due to his high salary and poor hitting in 2011.

    Though now I wonder if he will want to come back if he is free to look around. He might have come back before if he knew that he could battle for a job.

    And perhaps that is why the Giants are vague about their plans for Cabrera, maybe that will be their carrot to get Andres back, is letting him compete with Belt for the third OF spot.

    Of course, if they sign Beltran, that would not be a possibility anymore, as that would give us three starters: Beltran, Cabrera, Schierholtz.

    My gut tells me that the odds of signing Beltran is now much higher, for if they had to sign a free agent CF, that would have cost at least $6M per if not $8M, to get Crisp or Sizemore, plus the money for Beltran.

    If anything, the Giants might have saved some money, as Cabrera only got $1.25M last season and Sanchez got $4.8M. I see Sanchez getting $5-6M in arbitration, while I can see the Giants offering Cabrera a 2-3 year contract, fixing in a lower 2012 salary that backloads in to 2013 and 2014.

    So the money works even better now to get Beltran, particularly if we lose Torres ($2.2M last season) and pick up a cheap OF somewhere. Or they could give Justin Christian and Darren Ford a chance to win the 4th OF role.

    The main question now is how many years other teams will offer him. I really can't see another team going beyond 3 years, mainly because of his knee problems. I think that 3 years the Giants can handle, in the $15M-ish range that has been discussed (John Shea wrote that in a column he wrote about the Giants needing to sign Beltran) for him.

    MLB Trade Rumors estimated arbitration awards:

    Sanchez: $5.2M
    Torres: $2.5M
    Cabrera: $4.4M

    Based on this, the Giants save $3.3M by this move (minus whatever they can re-sign Torres back to the team; if so, I would guess around $1M). Savings of roughly $3M if Torres leaves and Giants use someone cheap (like Christian, Ford, cheap free agent)

    Also, don't recall if I had mentioned before, but Beltran changed agents, dumping Boras for Dan Lozano. That has to be a good thing for the Giants because Boras loves to take his time in negotiations, dragging things out.

    However, he might be busy with his other clients, Albert Pujols and Jimmy Rollins, as well.

    With this trade, that should end any rumors about trading off any other starting pitcher, the Giants just do not have the depth to do that right now, or a rising star who looks ready to take the jump up either.

  6. Should also note that this would be in line with what Beltran said that the Giants would need to do if he were to return, get some additional offense. Don't know if that is considered to be enough for his tastes but I like it.

    My lineup calculator has Cabrera, Franchez, Sandoval, Posey, Huff, Belt, Schierholtz, SS (really bad, .632 OPS), and that lineup is expected to produce 4.38 RS per game.

    Huff, FYI, .714 OPS; Belt .722 OPS. So the lineup is assuming middling production out of everyone except Cabrera, Sandoval, and Posey. That plus last season's RA equals 95 wins.

    Beltran should boost the lineup up to average NL team RS range, which should put our team in the 98+ win range, barring any huge injury loss or Sandoval/Posey severe drop in production. Those two adds around 0.4 runs to a mediocre lineup (I tried looking at a lineup of Franchez 1-4, plus rest, and that equals only 3.91 RS; Cabrera is 0.1 run per game above Franchez leading off). Beltran adds about 0.3 runs himself per game.

    An OK Huff would add about 0.1 RS, same with Schierholtz and Crawford.

    Giants could be one of the elite teams with Beltran on-board, but they should still be pretty good even without him.

  7. Saw a comment somewhere that the Giants rotation is weakened greatly by this, partly because Vogelsong won't repeat his great season.

    As I noted in a prior post, Vogelsong doesn't need to duplicate his great season. Because he didn't start the season with the Giants, he just needs to match what the Giants got from the #5 starter spot, basically Zito and him. Together, their ERA was 3.41.

    That would be hard to duplicate. However, that is not quite correct, as Zito came back later in the year when Sanchez was out, so together they had more than one starter's starts.

    Combining Vogelsong, Sanchez, Zito, Runzler, and Surkamp, we get a total ERA of 3.91 ERA out of the 4/5 spot in 2011. If Zito can get back to here he was in 2009-10 with a 4.10 ERA (I know, big IF), then Vogelsong only needs to attain a 3.72 ERA in 2012 for the 4/5 spots to deliver what they did in 2011.

    That is still pretty good, but not out of the question if you look at his skill level. His FIP was 3.67, his xFIP was 3.85, SIERA of 3.85, so his skill level exhibited in 2011 suggests that he could continue being that good in 2012.

    Of course, the bigger question then is whether Zito can get back to where he was in 2009-10. I still think that the car accident was a big factor in his lousy 2011. Getting a year off, he should be as fresh as he's ever been going into 2012, plus one would hope that he's working hard on keeping himself in baseball shape.

    This would be a good reason to justify the Giants picking up Beltran, for if Zito does regress, we would have Beltran around to take up that slack and still keep the team in the 95 win range.

  8. Oh, I should also add that when he was a prospect, he was considered to have plus speed. If he can keep himself in good shape, I don't see any reason why he couldn't maintain a higher BABIP, as well as swipe more bases.

  9. Are you telling me Coco Crisp is still in play? I know Torres is definitely on the cusp, and will most likely be given a choice between a reduced salary or dfa, or maybe just dfa... If they go another direction, that's one thing, but if they cut Torres and sign Coco Crisp that is a piss poor move.

    I'm sure most of the hemming about batting order and what field they play Melky in is for Beltran's sake, great. If it is about Coco Crisp, so help me...

  10. I am amused by some reactions on the blogosphere - why do so many Giants' fans sound like an old man shaking a shoe at his computer screen?

  11. Shankbone, what I'm saying is that I can't say that Crisp won't happen. Else why play coy about what position he is going to play? Hank Schulman speculates the same in a later blog post:

    Though he would get Crisp AND Beltran, which would mean Schierholtz is the 4th OF. I don't see that happening, the Giants announced Nate as the incumbent RF, so it would not make sense then to take him out of that by signing so many OF.

    I can see getting either Crisp or Beltran, but not both.

    I see your point about getting Crisp, I wouldn't be happy about it either, but it's not the end of the world either. I would just prefer getting Beltran rather than Crisp, but sometimes reality don't go the way you want.

    Baggarly in a later post noted that Cody Ross might come back if there is little interest in him in the market. He would return as a 4th OF and platoon partner for Nate.

  12. Baggarly made an interesting point in his blog. He noted that Sabean said he began shopping Sanchez immediately after the season ended, meaning that they had decided long ago that Dirty wasn't coming back for 2012.

    So he made the point that the Giants did not break up their rotation since Sanchez was a pitcher they no longer wanted. That's being a bit picky, then technically the Giants broke up the rotation at the point when they decided that they no longer wanted him, but they still did break up the rotation (and I know I'm being picky too :^).

    Either way, the rotation was broken up at some point, whether with the trade or long ago when that decision was made, in my opinion.

    Unlike Andy, I'm not scared to think of Barry Zito as our #5 starter. Most teams don't have a very good option in that slot, nor a reliable one, and Zito had been that pitcher in 2009 and 2010. Even if he regressed back to the Zito of 2007 and 2008, that is roughly what other teams face with their #5 starter. But I don't think that Zito will regress that far. Something in the mid-to-high 4 ERA would still be great in the #5 slot.

    Great analysis by Andy about the Sanchez situation, recommend you read it. Really digs deep into why the Giants finally got tired of the Dirty Experience.

  13. Marc, um, because a lot of them are old men shaking at shoe at his computer screen? :^)

    At least it would seem that way, there were a lot of these down-trodden people on USENET in the late 1990's, early 2000's, my age and higher (so 50's and 60's), for whom the sky was always falling. It didn't take much to get any of them saying anything negative about the Giants, no matter how good things were (for example, I analyzed the 2003 team and wrote this long post - do I do any other? - about how the team was improved, and I was totally shot down with a condescending, "whoa there young buck, nice, but you are way off, the team is going down the drain.")

  14. There are a couple of blogs (names aren't important) that love to tool on Sabean for everything. I think the average age is in that demographic described. They are some very negative johnnies who make enraged one sided arguments and don't ever offer any alternate to whatever bad thing Sabean has done. One of them loves Dusty Baker to death. That cracks me up - Dusty is a destroyer of pitching staffs and now has quite a record to back that up in Chicago and Cincy.

    On the other hand, you have Raising Matt Cain, which is the same demographic, obviously a few close friends who love the Giants - cheerful salty dudes. I really like reading those guys. Then you have the new kid Giants Nirvana, put up some good content. And DrB does a great job. Lefty Malo is my favorite Giants blog, hands down. There are some really diverse opinions out there - its very nice to have so much information that ten years ago wasn't available.

    Unfortunately as OGC has chronicled, sometimes politeness takes a backseat to venom. Having differences of opinion make it interesting. Being an internet tough guy is a giant waste of time.

    I read the Baggs stuff - definitely sheds a light on just how bad Sanchez' attitude had become. My biggest problem with him was his conditioning - he really looked awful last year. I still have a soft spot for the dude, but he was not in the long term plans of the Giants, bottom line. And I'd much rather have Melky than Angel Pagan, so I'm cool with that.

    Andres Torres is just too similar to Coco Crisp for my tastes to go sign 2/12 and up with Crisp. Now that they have insurance on the CF front, I hope they pursue LF options to the nth before worrying about CF again. It does take Crisp's leverage away, which I love. Heck, if they can make a gamble on Sizemore now I like it a ton more - thats the beauty of Melky. Still, Torres is a great 4th OF - well worth 2MM or so, just 5 times the minimum and gives you something legit off the bench (as opposed to say Darren Ford), coverage all over the OF, speed and defense.

    On the 5th starter front, I think Zito is done. Jamie Moyer might have got away with the 84 MPH heater, but Zito just doesn't know where his curve ball is going, and it becomes batting practice time. My good buddies nickname for Zito is BPBZ. Batting practice is one of those abbrievs, I'll let you guess another one...

    Here's my suggestion - dip a little into the rainy day and sign Paul Maholm to a one year prove it. That dude has some Roy Holladay style, just turned in a pretty nice season. Put him in our park with our coaches...

    I just think it'll be a PR exercise with Zito. Competing for the 5th starter, then the bullpen, then down to AAA to learn a knuckler. For me, he's just a waste of time at this point.

  15. FYI, I put a lot of thoughts and comments at DrB's site, if you are interested.

  16. Thanks for the props, OGC! I appreciate your comments on my site.

  17. Sandoval sweared to Bochy that he has not gained any since the season ended, that the uni in Taiwan made him look bigger

    Pablo cradling a dozen eclairs in his glove, Does this uniform make my ass look fat?

    Bochy, Don't get that chocolate on the other bats dammit.

  18. OGC - you have a lot of work on your plate recently?

  19. Yep, got the holiday rush on research, so I've been busy, haven't disappeared.

  20. Hello Martin -
    Haven't written in a while, but still reading every post of yours. I have a question about Vogelsong and I address it to you because, if the question interests you, you will look at the stats and not just give an off the cuff response.
    My perception is that he was lights out for the first 2, 2 1/2 months, then sort of came back to earth. It seems his 2nd half numbers, starting, I think, just before the all star game, were not nearly so extraordinary. So I am worried if he is likely to repeat next year or if the league has caught up to him. Thoughts?

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