There has been a lot of speculation during the start of the Giants’ offseason. Will they make a bid for Jose Reyes or Coco Crisp? Will we say goodbye to Torres and Ross as they face an increasingly crowded outfield? Will a Tim Lincecum trade attract big bats?
Finally, we have something to sink our teeth in. Over the last two weeks, the Giants have re-signed Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt for a combined $13.5 M. Yesterday, they traded No. 5 starter Jonathan Sanchez and minor league LHP Ryan Verdugo for Kansas City’s OF Melky Cabrera.
It’s not much of a surprise that the two lefty relievers will return in 2012. Sabean and Bochy have made it clear from the get-go that locking down the pitching staff was top priority this winter. Both Lopez and Affeldt posted strong numbers in 2011, even with Jeremy’s busted hand in September.
It’s also not a big shock to see Jonathan Sanchez go, though I was intrigued by Hank Schulman’s tweet earlier today: “Source tells me Verdugo was a big key to deal. Royals wanted second pitcher. They first asked for Runzler, but Giants said no.” Sanchez has clearly played a big role in his years with the Giants after tossing a no-hitter in 2009 and locking down the division win in 2010. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad… well, they don’t call it torture for nothing.
This was a down year for Sanchez. Plagued by injuries, he pitched a total of 22 games and 114.3 innings. His number of bases on balls per 9 innings spiked to 5.74, the highest in his career to date. However, given time to recover and adjust to a new environment, I think Sanchez will prove a valuable addition to the Royals. And of course, adding Ryan Verdugo’s 4.35 ERA and 4.10 FIP doesn’t hurt, either.
In a way, their surplus of outfielders and the Giants’ surplus of pitchers almost makes this a balanced trade. Melky Cabrera is a 27-year-old center fielder with potential, as long as he keeps up his offseason conditioning (perhaps a workout buddy for Sandoval, unless you buy the whole “my uniform makes me look fat” spiel). His numbers are anything but stable, though he had a breakout year in 2011 batting .305/.339/.470 with 102 runs, 201 hits, and 20 stolen bases. In fact, he was even named the Royals’ “Breakout Player of the Year” by MLB.com. Perhaps the best thing about acquiring Cabrera? He becomes a free agent after 2012, so if his numbers drop significantly during the season, he won’t block prospect CF Gary Brown from advancing.
What concerns me is not the trade, but the implications that follow for Cody Ross, Andres Torres, and Eric Surkamp. About a month ago, Sabean and Bochy said they had no viable options in center field, leaving Torres on shaky ground. Now, with Melky a likely starter in the outfield (Bochy said he’s flexible in right and left field, as well as center), Torres will either be kept as a backup or simply let go.
At the time, they also dismissed the idea of Surkamp as a fifth starter, which makes me wonder whether they’ll retract that plan and make him compete with Zito for the slot, or simply shop around for a steadier arm.
As with most offseason moves, the answers we get only lead to more questions. Personally, I’m a little sad to see Sanchez go. I’d like to see Torres, Ross, and Beltran return in 2012, too, but I guess you can’t have it all.