Fired Up: Giants Land Cabrera For Sanchez

This week, Fired Up evaluates the Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez trade, Jim Thome’s return to the Phillies and Chien-Ming Wang re-signing with the Nats.

Earlier this week the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals completed a trade involving OF Melky Cabrera and SP Jonathan Sanchez. Giants GM Brian Sabean makes his first move to bolster an anemic lineup and Royals GM Dayton Moore hopes that Sanchez can anchor a team of young pitchers. Who got the better of the deal?

Cabrera was an integral part of the New York Yankees 2009 World Championship team. The Yankees felt they could do without Cabrera. He was part of a deal with the Atlanta Braves that brought Javier Vazquez to the Yankees in 2010. Cabrera had a poor 2010 season and was released by the Braves. The Royals looking for a one year filler took a flyer on Cabrera. He responded with a breakout season.  See Cabrera’s stats for the last three seasons below.

2009 24 154 485 66 133 28 1 13 68 10 2 .274 .336 .416 .752
2010 25 147 458 50 117 27 3 4 42 7 1 .255 .317 .354 .671
2011 26 155 658 102 201 44 5 18 87 20 10 .305 .339 .470 .809
7 Seasons 871 3039 402 836 161 20 58 357 71 25 .275 .331 .398 .729

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011

Undoubtedly, Cabrera outperformed his one-year/$1.25 million deal with the Royals. He set career highs in every hitting category and his 201 hits ranked 4th in the American League. He also provided steady play in center field. The Giants will have him for at least one season as he is set to become a free agent in 2012. He’ll receive a substantial increase in arbitration, but will still be a bargain if he can perform to the standard he set last season. Of concern to the Giants would be Cabrera’s worst season was in the National League. Cabrera suggests this was due to poor preparation and swears that is behind him. The Giants are banking on it.

The Royals received inconsistent lefty starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and minor league lefty Ryan Verdugo in the deal. Sanchez, who will turn 29 later this month has a no-hitter to his credit. Sanchez is set to earn an increase to his 2011 salary of $4.8 million in arbitration. The Giants are deep in starting pitching and felt they would be better served with some offense so Sanchez became expendable. Here are Sanchez’s stats.

2008 25 9 12 5.01 29 158.0 1.449 0.8 4.3 8.9 2.09
2009 26 8 12 4.24 29 163.1 1.365 1.0 4.8 9.8 2.01
2010 27 13 9 3.07 33 193.1 1.231 1.0 4.5 9.5 2.14
2011 28 4 7 4.26 19 101.1 1.441 0.8 5.9 9.1 1.55
6 Seasons 38 46 4.26 118 708.0 1.388 0.9 4.8 9.4 1.96
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

Three rather run of the mill seasons wrapped around one fine season. He has always been erratic averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings for his career. Even in his best season (2010) he walked 4.5 per nine innings suggesting he was able to work around the walks sufficiently. Sanchez is particularly good at striking out batters averaging 9.4 per nine innings for his career. This is the reason Sanchez remains intriguing. I’m not certain how a move to Kansas City helps Sanchez other than hoping the change of scenery does him some good. A move to the American League could spark a swell in an already bloated ERA. Kaufmann Stadium has played very neutral the last few seasons. In 2011 it registered a 100 factor for pitchers and 99 for hitters with 100 being neutral. AT&T Park in San Francisco was more of a pitcher’s park in 2011 (93 for pitchers and 94 for hitters). Despite the reputation of Kaufmann Stadium being a pitcher’s park, Sanchez is actually moving to a more difficult park than he is used to.

Dayton Moore may feel this was a chance for the Royals to get something out of Cabrera while he is a commodity. He hopes that Sanchez has a change of fortune with a new club and more importantly the trade frees up CF for highly touted prospect Lorenzo Cain. In my opinion Sanchez is not all of a sudden going to figure out how to keep walks down and in a league with a DH it will hurt him more. The other piece of the deal, Ryan Verdugo projects to be a reliever according to Moore. He pitched in Double A in 2011 going 8-6 with a 4.36 ERA. The salary differences between Cabrera and Sanchez works in favor of the Giants even with the assumed raises for both players. The Giants needed someone who could jumpstart a tepid offense and had grown sour on Sanchez. The Giants are only committed to Cabrera for 2012 so if he reverts back to his 2010 season it is not a huge loss. Cabrera is heading into his peak and provides more upside having turned in more good than bad seasons in a young career. Sanchez’s inconsistency makes him a risk for the money the Royals will pay him this season.

Jim Thome Lands Back In Philly

Jim Thome signed a $1.25 million deal to return to the Philadelphia Phillies. It is expected that Thome will mostly be used as a left-handed pinch-hitter, though he could see some time at first base due to Ryan Howard’s achilles injury. He’ll also get some at-bats during inter-league play as the Phillies DH. The idea of him playing in the field after such a long time as a DH is interesting. I think the chances will be few and far between where Thome has a glove on but he vows to work diligently over the winter to get into field shape. Here are his splits as a hitter through his career.

as 1B 1091 4733 1206 .282 .412 .587 .999
as 3B 479 1958 413 .289 .404 .533 .937
as DH 781 3296 816 .264 .392 .534 .926
as PH 144 144 52 .233 .354 .408 .762
as PH for DH 4 4 0 .667 .750 1.667 2.417
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/10/2011.

In limited chances as a pinch-hitter Thome doesn’t exactly turn in the same results as he showed as a full-time player. Not many full-time players are able to perform the same off the bench. Thome no doubt supplies plenty of power. In 2011 he hit 15 home runs in 324 plate appearances and compiled a .838 OPS. The Phillies add a respected and familiar face to an already tight clubhouse. Thome has stated that he is ready to contribute in whatever way manager Charlie Manuel asks.

Maybe Thome can acclimate quickly to the pinch-hitter and sub role like Jason Giambi has with the Colorado Rockies? Giambi has taken well to his position in Colorado. He and the Rockies recently exercised the one-year/$1 million mutual option to stay with the Rockies in 2012. He has 7 HR and 29 RBI in 152 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter. He has filled in for Todd Helton at 1st base the past couple seasons with some success. In 2011 he had a .958 OPS in 152 plate appearances showing guys in their 40s can still be productive. The Phillies would be grateful for a similar season from Thome. Thome will have some issues initially acclimating to the new role but he is a hard worker. In the end this could prove to be a good signing for Thome and the Phillies.

Chien-Ming Wang Signs With Nationals

The Washington Nationals agreed to a one-year/$4 million contract with right hander Chien-Ming Wang. Wang had shoulder surgery in 2009 and the Nationals have stuck by him through his recuperation. Wang proved at the end of the season that he may well be operating at 100%. In his final nine starts he went 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA. Wang is a former two-time 19 game winner with the New York Yankees so the potential is certainly there. Wang is still a ground ball producing machine. His ratio of ground ball outs to fly outs was 1.45 last season. He turned in years with well over a 2 to 1 ratio while with the Yankees. He should be able to get back to that rate since he is healthy and will get consistent work in. Should Wang provide 25-30 starts it should be a very good return on investment for the Nationals.

Christopher Carelli writes for TheFanManifesto. He can be followed on twitter at @BaseballStance. The entire FanMan team can be followed on twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on facebook by clicking here.

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