Given the chance to let the dust settle on the Sanchez-Verdugo for Cabrera trade, I’ve shaped my thoughts into concise bullet points based on pluses and minuses.
First, the pluses:
- Probably the best thing about Cabrera right now is his age; at 27-years-old he’s (theoretically) in his prime baseball years, and that’s always a nice thing to have in a player coming off a 121 OPS+ season.
- Melky gets the bat on the ball. From 2006-2011 (minimum of 3,000 PAs), Melky ranks 14th in baseball in contact percentage (88%).
- He appears to be an average-to-above average defender in the corner outfield. Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) has Cabrera at +18 runs over his career in LF; Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has him at a more average -0.4 runs. In RF, DRS has Cabrera at +3 career runs; UZR has him at 1.5 runs. However, he’s only played 514 career innings in RF vs. 1,907.1 in LF.
- ZiPS has Melky at a 103 OPS+ in 2012. When defense is included (projected -6 runs), Melky projects as a 2.7 WAR player. That’s a really nice component to have on your team, actually.
- Melky sports a career OBP (.331) that’s essentially league average. For a Giants team that made outs left and right, that’s sadly an improvement.
- The Giants are probably going to save $2M-ish in the deal.
Now, the minuses:
- He’s really appears to be stretched in CF. DRS has Melky at -16 career runs in CF; UZR at -23.8 runs; The Fan Scouting Report at -8 runs (data only goes back 2009 and 2010 on FanGraphs).
- Despite an excellent 2011, Melky’s career batting line (.275/.331/.398) paints the picture of a below league average hitter.
- Cabrera’s .332 BABIP this past season with the Royals was a career high, nearly 30 points over his career average. Expect things to even out a little more in 2012.
- It’s not Cabrera’s fault, but removing Sanchez from the team means more Zito starts, and that’s not good.
- Cabrera stole 20 bags last year, but his baserunning numbers make him look more average than above. If the Giants swap Torres out in CF with Cabrera, they’ve downgraded their defense and running game in a single move.
Melky Cabrera isn’t the antichrist, and while I agree that the team did well to get some offensive competency in the mix, I think this deal has a real chance to go sideways depending on how the Giants utilize Cabrera. If the team sticks him in LF — where admittedly the bat doesn’t play as well — I think the deal ends up being a C+/B- type of move. However, if the team runs Cabrera out in CF for 1,000 innings on defense, I’ll move my grade down to D+. Cabrera just doesn’t have the legs to play CF for the Giants, and I still think Andres Torres has a real shot of being a comparable player to Cabrera.