At some point in the 2011 season, I started telling a joke about how a player's lackluster performance could land him a trade to Kansas City.
I don't exactly remember why I chose the Royals as the butt of the joke, but their team certainly qualifies over the last few years as a kind of baseball purgatory (not unlike the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Washington Nationals), although I do get the feeling that it had something to do with Jeremy Affeldt's cromulent month of May, which was reinforced by his season-ending incident with those frozen hamburgers.
The Melky Cabrera trade, then, surprised me because I hadn't quite imagined that Jonathan Sanchez would end up there. It always seemed like the destination for somebody else...aside from Affeldt, if you could put aside the payroll factors, the Aaron Rowands and Barry Zitos of the world. Somebody like Sanchez, I thought, could shape up. Sure, that walk ratio is horrendous, but his strikeout rate (9.355 per 9 innings since 2006) surely means something. But as I've mentioned before, who the Giants will put on offer to trade does not take place in a vacuum. They've got four solid starters, and two or three fifth starters, with one who has a contract that means he can't be traded and he can't be kept on the bench.
That meant Sanchez was going to be moved to address the Giants' weaknesses on offense. Say whatever you want (especially about that 2010 season), but I think that Melky Cabrera's 2011 numbers show that he will be a good addition to the team: the 201 hits, the 18 home runs, the 44 doubles, the .305/.339/.809 AVG/OBP/OPS line, certainly outpace most of the 2011 Giants, and especially whoever happened to be the first guy standing in the batter's box--although his walk/strikeout ratio (35/94) leaves something to be desired.
If I had to forecast the 2012 season, I'd say that Cabrera is not quite Carlos Beltran, but he's not Coco Crisp either (and if you read the McCovey Chronicles, Grant Brisbee seemed to think that Crisp's acquisition was a fait accompli). The trade also makes me wonder how the Giants' perceive the free agent market. If I had to guess, maybe they think Beltran will find that his talents fit with an American League team as a designated hitter, and they weren't ready to make an expensive "lateral move" (in Brisbee's words) for Crisp. In this case, acquiring Cabrera makes a lot of sense--no matter how much I wanted to see, for different reasons, an improved Andres Torres or Cody Ross out in center field.
What about the so-called purgatory? I'd like to think that if the Royals turn things around and become contenders, that Sanchez would have an important part to play there. Then I would have to make jokes at another team's expense.