The New York chapter of the BBWAA had its annual postseason meeting today, and thanks to traffic, I just got back to my apartment. I could write an entire blog post about the experience, but I won’t. Instead, let’s focus on Melky Cabrera.
If you haven’t heard, Melky was traded today. The Royals used his outstanding 2011 season to swing a deal with the Giants for left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez. The Giants needed a hitter, the Royals needed pitching, and so the deal makes sense. Of course, it also begs the question:
If Cabrera is worth this — a straight-up swap for a 28-year-old left-hander with good stuff — why didn’t the Yankees get that for him? Did the Yankees miss out?
The trade to Atlanta
When the Yankees got rid of Cabrera, he was part of the package that brought Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan from the Braves. The Yankees also lost a legitimate pitching prospect (Arodys Vizcaino) and a good young lefty (Mike Dunn) in that deal, so it’s hard to pinpoint the return value of Cabrera alone, but it’s important to remember that it’s still too early to fully evaluate that deal. Logan for Dunn was something of a wash — L0gan’s slightly older and more expensive, but ultimately it’s lefty for lefty — and although Vazquez was a massive disappointment, it’s important to remember two things about him: 1. He had considerable trade value at the time, and 2. As a Type B free agent, he netted the Yankees the draft pick they used on Dante Bichette Jr. Have to consider Bichette part of that haul as well.
The value of Cabrera
In his five years with the Yankees, Cabrera hit .269/.331/.385, and his value was slightly diminished when the Yankees no longer needed him to play center field. He was good enough, but rarely great, and the Braves didn’t want him back after he hit just .255/.317/.354 during his lone season in Atlanta. Suddenly, he showed up in Kansas City and hit .305/.339/.470 in a breakout, age-26 season. Cabrera is young enough that there might be more of this to come, but I’m not sure the Yankees did a bad job by selling low on him. I think the Royals might have done a good job of selling high.
The value of Sanchez
Sanchez is a nice pitcher who should be just entering his prime, but let’s not build him into Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum. After a terrific 2010 season, Sanchez had a 1.44 WHIP and was limited to just 19 starts this season. He was considered a non-tender candidate before the Giants traded him to the Royals. He made $4.8 million this year, and he’s due for a raise through arbitration. None of that is to knock Sanchez — obviously the Yankees would be happy to have him — but he’s not cheap and he doesn’t have a clean health record, so there’s some risk involved. The Giants and Royals simply matched up, swapping two players they could each afford to lose.
Associated Press photo