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That Melky Cabrera trade isn’t looking so good

Jul 11, 2012, 1:04 AM EDT

Melky Cabrera AP

Melky Cabrera‘s return to Kauffman Stadium was a roaring success Tuesday, as he went 2-for-3 and captured All-Star Game MVP honors in the National League’s 8-0 shutout of the American League.

Cabrera earned his trip to Kansas City by collecting an NL-leading 119 hits in the first half. He’s batting .353/.391/.519 with eight homers and 10 steals in 337 at-bats, putting him well on his way to duplicating or exceeding many of the career bests he established last year as a Royal.

And that has to sting Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, who made the call to extend Jeff Francoeur last year and trade Cabrera over the winter.

With Lorenzo Cain ready to step into center field, the Royals thought to sell high on Cabrera and sent him to the Giants for left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo. Obviously, the deal has been a bust so far, what with Cain spending the last three months on the DL and Sanchez going 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA and more walks (43) than strikeouts (34) in his 11 starts for Kansas City. Verdugo has been decent enough in Triple-A (6-2, 3.62 ERA, 70/43 K/BB in 87 IP), but I still think he projects as a reliever in the majors.

As bad as the trade has worked out, it’s worth noting that they only gave up a year of Cabrera, since he’s going to be eligible for free agency this winter. The Royals knew they weren’t going to keep both Francoeur and Cabrera for the long haul, and once they gave Francoeur a two-year deal, that settled matters. Even if they had retained Cabrera and let him play out this season, he almost certainly would have priced his way out of Kansas City with his performance.

Still, if the Royals had Cabrera in center or right and someone — pretty much anyone — other than Sanchez in the rotation, they’d likely be in the thick of the AL Central race right now rather than 9 1/2 games back of the White Sox. Francoeur has, by at least one measure, been the league’s worst regular this year, and Royals center fielders have hit .246/.306/.326 with two homers and 18 RBI to date. The difference between Francoeur and Cabrera could be worth five wins by itself.

  1. Matthew Pouliot - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    Full disclosure: I liked the deal when it happened

    • theaxmancometh - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      Dude I gotta correct u again? It was 8-0, not trying to be a douche or anything

      • Matthew Pouliot - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:22 AM

        Thanks. I was hoping I’d fixed it before anyone noticed, but nope.

      • theaxmancometh - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:33 AM

        Unlucky 4 u that the loading screen takes a while in Skyrim, so I check out the site to pass the time lol

      • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM

        Seems like you weren’t trying all that hard not to be one, either … dude.

    • natstowngreg - Jul 11, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      Every deal looks good when it happens. At least, it looks good to someone.

  2. Loose Changeup - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    Trust the process

    • mattyflex - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      :(

  3. captainwisdom8888 - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    Well, if it isn’t looking good for one team, it’s looking good for the other…

    *Maybe I’ll change my name to CaptainObvious.

  4. Detroit Michael - Jul 11, 2012 at 2:45 AM

    In all fairness, every team but the Royals made a mistake when during the previous off-season they didn’t sign Melky as a free agent given that apparently anything more than $1.25M annually plus playing time would have lured him to a team other than the Royals. This guy was available off the scrap heap.

    • bigleagues - Jul 11, 2012 at 7:55 AM

      Gospel.

    • paperlions - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:11 AM

      Yes, but he was available for cheap for good reason. He was horrible in 2008 and 2010 and bad in 2009.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM

        Sure, but that’s called taking a flyer. GMs do it all the time, betting that a free agent player will rebound and have a better season, getting more value for less money. It just rarely pans out.

  5. sailcat54 - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    Giants fans would like to take a moment to thank the Royals front office for the early Christmas gift!

  6. chew1985 - Jul 11, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    Melky also demonstrates a very rare mistake in the Yankees’ evaluation of their own future talent, though it did take him a while to reach this level. One of the little-heralded secrets of the Yankees’ success over time has been their knack of keeping their own best talent {Jeter, Pettitte and Mariano} and letting the right talent go when pursuing a veteran only available by trade {Alfonso Soriano for A-Rod}.

    I’m not a big Yankee fan, but having watched my Phillies self-destruct in just five years after reaching the top and gutting their upper level minor league talent gives me a new appreciation for what those D*mn Yankees have accomplished.

    • bigleagues - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      As a Red Sox fan, Melky used to irritate the crap out of me. I was elated and befuddled when they chose to keep Gardner over Cabrera. Though, I guess it’s really not that confusing. The Yanks preferred Gardner’s Defense over Cabrera’s Offense.

      But 4 teams in 4 years always leaves your head scratching.

      Overall, it seems as if something just clicked for Cabrera last year (his age 26 season). Also he may just be very comfortable hitting 3rd in the order – something he hasn’t done regularly until this season (and no doubt helped by having Posey typically batting 4th).

      It is worth noting that his numbers are noticeably better on the Road (366/.402/.559/.961 with 21 XBH) than at AT&T (.338/.378/.470/.848 with 12 XBH). Though who’s complaining about either?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:38 AM

      Where would he have played though? Swisher/Granderson/Gardner are all better OFs than Cabrera (who will drop off some when his BABIP normalizes a bit more). He’s way to young to be a full time DH.

      • bigleagues - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:14 AM

        Church . . . I saw that but BAbip, but I don’t think it’s what’s gonna normalize. I’d have to dig deeper but right off the bat, he’s .338/.374 for a +.36 at Home and .366/.400 for a + .34 on the Road.

        His BA will probably come down some, but it doesn’t seem to be his BAbip that’s holding it up.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        It’s been awhile, and I don’t have access to bref’s play index, but iirc only 4 players in MLB history have a .350 BABIP over 10,000 PA. Melky’s is currently .388. He may keep this up all season, but it’d be a baseball miracle if this is his new true talent.

        side note, there’s a post on fangraphs* that details a new xBABIP calc. In that they use the players ’09-’11 as constants, and Melky’s xBABIP comes out to .337** which is still really high, but not the .400+ he had the first few months.

        *http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/de-lucker-2-0-hot-fresh-new-xbabip/

        **[note SSS warning] He’s hitting a career high in LD% and GB%, which could explain his high BABIP as those two types of hits turn into hits more often than not. What’s interesting is he also has a career high in ISO.

      • spudchukar - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM

        Not sure I can agree that Swisher is a better outfielder than Cabrera. The 2012 All-Star MVP, may not be able to handle CF anymore, but Swisher could never be a middle outfield candidate.

    • lardin - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      Thats part of the story. The Yankees also traded Melkey because he was lazy and staying out partying all the time and it was rubbing off on Robinson Cano. They tried on many occaisons to get through to him. The message fell on deaf ears, so they traded him.

      • bigleagues - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM

        And the net result certainly paid off in spades for the Yanks. And whoever Melky happens to be playing for.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:02 AM

        Two best players from that trade are Boone Logan and Melky Cabrera, and if anyone laid a bet on that they’d be a millionaire.

    • yournuts - Jul 11, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Melky will be a free agent at the end of this year.

  7. Francisco (FC) - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Jonny 5 called it…

    • Jonny 5 - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      I was just pretty sure that Dirty Sanchez was going to be a stinker and Melky was going to be a +player on most teams. Matthew said as much in his write up but then said the Royals made a good move which I didn’t understand or agree with at the time. He makes the Royals better in 2012 if they keep him, giving fans something to cheer about, and it gets them comp draft picks when he walks. Those draft picks are essential for a team like the Royals imo. I never understood why they pulled the trigger on that one.

  8. b7p19 - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    He would have helped the Royals this season, but there is no way he makes a 9 1/2 game difference over half a year. Maybe a couple games. Melky wasn’t going to take the Royals to the playoffs this year and, like you said, would have walked after the season.

    • groundruledoublebourbon - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:13 AM

      I agree Melky doesn’t make a 9.5 game difference. But, subtracting Sancho would almost without question make a 4-6 game difference. Watching him pitch is the most futile thing ever – there is almost no chance to win when he throws. Adding in ANY other arm would have been an improvement over the first half.

  9. stoutfiles - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    People continually make the incorrect assumption that when a player puts up X stats once you trade him, he would have put the exact same stats had you kept him.

    He’s in a new environment with new coaches, trainers, and teammates. Had he been in the black hole Triple A franchise known as the Royals, he likely would have hit .270 with lower RBI totals.

    • jrd8523 - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:39 AM

      Yeah that’s true… except that Melky played just as well with the Royals. Doubt the new coaches, trainers, and teammates are why he is picking up exactly where he left off, but it’s a cute generalization.

      • stoutfiles - Jul 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM

        For a season. Who knows if that would have continued? He might be on the DL right now had he stayed, getting injured in a game that only happened if he stayed in KC. But hey, you keep on being Captain Hindsight and copy/paste his stats into the Royals lineup.

  10. baron30 - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    the Melk-Man is about to get PAID this winter! He is making himself a boat load of cash heading into free agency.

    • paperlions - Jul 11, 2012 at 8:41 AM

      …and any team that pays him like his 2012 first half is a new level of ability will regret it in short order.

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM

        He had over 200 hits last season and is on par for around 220 this one. I wouldn’t pull the small sample size card on this one PL. I think Melky is the real deal, for a few more years at least.

      • 18thstreet - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:05 AM

        Sounds like something the Mariners would do.

      • paperlions - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:45 AM

        I don’t think he’ll revert to his 2010 level, but he also won’t maintain a .388 BABIP (which is 80 pts above his career average, which is about league average). His LD% is up 2% this year, but his underlying performance hasn’t changed enough to suggest that he is this good. His walk rate is still low and his K rate is still the same (which is fine).

        I am not saying he will start sucking, but he won’t be a .350 hitter, put up a .380 OBP, or slug .500.

        In a couple years he’ll probably need to move to a corner OF position, and his bat won’t profile as plus there. A 2-3 year deal for $10M per would be reasonable, but if a team goes Adam Jones/Andre Ethier on him, they’ll be disappointed (just like fans will be for those contracts).

      • jrd8523 - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:45 AM

        Maybe. But when you start talking about career averages for a player in his 20s who appears to have turned the corner you might be missing the point.
        He’s has been playing corner outfield all year, and the bat plays. Even with a drop off the idea that his bat won’t play in LF is dumb, sorry, and it’s typical over analysis.

      • paperlions - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        No, it is just looking at the likelihood of future performances. There isn’t much reason to expect that he’ll have anything other than league average BABIP, and if he does, it will be much closer to .330 than to .380. This is probably going to be his career year from a production standpoint, paying a player like a career year is going to be his new level of performance is highly risky….because it is rare that such jumps in performance do represent new levels of ability.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        In other words not everyone is Jose Bautista?

      • paperlions - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM

        Yes, exactly those words. Most people are Vernon Wells, or Alex Rios, or Brady Anderson, or Roger Maris

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:53 AM

        Hey! Leave Rios Alone! lol…

        Rios has been a stud this first half.

      • yournuts - Jul 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM

        I think he want to go back to the Yankees, his best friend is Arod.

  11. powder29 - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    He has an unsustainably high .388 BABIP, while his career average is .308. He’s very likely to regress in the second half.

    • sportsdrenched.com - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      That’s what Dayton Moore said.

      • jrd8523 - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:49 AM

        Dont doubt his BABIP can/will drop, but citing career averages for players entering their prime that have clearly changed their game is an eye roller.
        Melky isn’t the first guy to take years to develop his game, obviously.

  12. butchhuskey - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    During the broadcast last night Joe Buck said that a Yankees player (I think it was Jeter) that Melky is a 6 tool player, with the 6th tool being that he can “play in New York.” Honestly, that quote was so stupid and mind numbing that I felt like punching someone through the tv screen

    • butchhuskey - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM

      *Jeter said that

      • yournuts - Jul 11, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        No Jeter did not say that.

    • mybrunoblog - Jul 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      Joe Buck just likes saying the word “tool”

      • giantola - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        It was A-Rod who said it. He knows a thing or two about tools I guess

  13. giantola - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I’m one of those who liked the deal when it was made. Foolish me! I thought we sold high on Melky and got an ace in Sanchez. I always forget that National League pitchers rarely have success when traded to the AL. Once agin Foolish Foolish me!

    Lorenzo Cain will be a stud in CF for the rest of the year, and Will Myers, who could have been the Futures Game MVP, will supplant Frenchy in RF by August.

    Here’s to hope and the future! That seems to be the mantra around KC since, umm well, since Ewing Kauffman died.

  14. bobulated - Jul 11, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Speaking as a Braves fan I can’t believe Melky is the same guy as the fat dude who stumbled around in the outfield and had a .670 OPS for the Braves in 2010.
    That being said he’s turned around his dedication to fitness and working on his game and it’s allowed his natural talent to come through. If he had worked as hard as Yankee he would probably still be a Yankee.

  15. goawaydog - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    I would like to see Pablo Sandoval move in with Melky and his Mom and have some of what ever got Melky motivated to rub off on the Panda.

  16. genericcommenter - Jul 12, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    I guess someone will overpay big time for him next year. I’ve always liked Melky, but prior to last season he had stopped progressing in 2006 and had over 2500 PAs at significantly less than 100 OPS+. Even with his increase in power in 2011, he was still getting on base at a poor clip- hitting .300 isn’t that special when you OBP in the .330s.

    Now he’s hitting .353. Is this for real? I mean is he really a .350 hitter? Can he keep that up? If not you are looking at a guy who doesn’t get on base much and has some decent doubles-hitting power and decent speed. He’s in his 7th full season and did not progress at all for 5 years. Who expected him to turn into a .350 hitter all of a sudden? I’m sure a lot of people figured they were selling him high after last year. I’m not a big stats guy, so I don’t know how to interpret his numbers as far as how much is “luck” and whether he really just became a great hitter somehow, but I’m sure someone does.

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