Dirty Deal Done Dirt Cheap: Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera

Outfielder Melky Cabrera was acquired Monday by the Giants in a trade for Jonathan Sanchez

MoreSplashHits has emerged from a self-imposed blogging blackout.

That’s because there is news to report.

On Monday, the Giants traded pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and minor-league pitcher Ryan Verdugo to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

Both principals in the trade are in the final year of arbitration and will be eligible for free agency in 2013.

In Cabrera, the Giants pick up a player who is two years younger than Sanchez, and could save the Giants $2-3 million in salary. Cabrera earned $1.25 million last year. Sanchez earned $4.8 million. That’s why the Giants threw in the minor league in the deal.

Cabrera set career highs with 18 HRs, 87 RBI, 44 doubles, 102 runs, 201 hits, .20 SBs, 305 average, .470 slugging and .809 OPS last year. In seven big league seasons, his 162-game average season would look like this: 11 HRs, 66 RBI, .275 avg, 30 2Bs, 13 SBs.

Cabrera will be the Giants everyday center fielder. It would take the Giants out of the market for free agent Coco Crisp and may lead the team to non-tender Andres Torres.

The trade ends the enigmatic Giants career of Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez pitched his way out of the rotation in June 2009, only to return and throw a no-hitter against the Padres in his first start back in the rotation. He finished the year strong, going 8-12 for the season.

Success carried over into 2010, when he went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He was especially strong down the stretch and pitched the Giants to the NL West Division title by outdueling the Padres’ Mat Latos in the regular-season finale.

Sanchez continued strong in the NL Division series against the Braves, giving up one run on two hits in 7.1 innings. But the wheels started to come off in the NLCS (0-1, 4.50 ERA in two starts), and he started the only game the Giants lost in the World Series (4 ER in 4.2 IP).

After leading the NL in walks in 2010 (96), he saw his walk rate jump from 4.5 walks per 9 innings in 2010 to 5.9 in 2011, when he was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts. He went on the DL in June with “strained biceps,” came off in August, but ended with a sprained ankle in August.

Overall, MoreSplashHits likes this trade. When we heard Brian Sabean said that Sanchez would head into spring as the Giants No. 5 starter, we had hoped he was blowing smoke. Turns out, he was. Given his inconsistency, Sanchez wasn’t worth the $5-6 million he would make in 2011. And Cabrera is a better option than the free agent Crisp or the arbitration-eligible Torres.

Bottom line, he’s a vast improvement over Giants CFs in 2010. Compare:

Cabrera (2011): .305 avg, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 102 runs, 201 hits, 44 2B, 5 3B, 20 SB.

SF CFs (2011): .228, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 90 runs, 150 hits, 45 2B, 3 3B, 21 SB.

Cabrera hit mostly in the No. 2 hole in Kansas City, but he moves to the Giants’ best option to leadoff in 2011. That is unless the Giants don’t find a better option to fill hole at shortstop, like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal or even Willie Bloomquist.

Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News reports that the Giants are strongly considering handing the starting shortstop job to Brandon Crawford, if they feel they have made enough improvements to the rest of the lineup.

I read that to mean if the Giants can re-sign Carlos Beltran in the outfield, they’ll give the SS job to Crawford. I also read that to mean the Giants won’t be pursuers of shorstops seeking multi-year deals (i.e. Reyes and Rollins).

If that happened, the 2011 lineup could look like this:

CF Melky Cabrera
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Carlos Beltran
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Brandon Crawford

Is that good enough?

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