As most of us know (but perhaps have forgotten with more interesting stories brewing), the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals kicked off the 2011-2012 Hot Stove season by swapping a few players. The Giants sent erratic LHSP Jonathan Sanchez and minor leaguer Ryan Verdugo - also a lefty, but probably a future reliever according to Keith Law. In return, the Giants received Melky Cabrera off of a career year in which he hit 18 HR and OPS'd .809.
Law is a bit puzzled by this trade in general, but says that if he had to pick a winner, he would go with the Kansas City Royals. Maybe it would be more appropriate wording if I said that if he had to pick a loser, he'd pick the Giants. He makes it pretty clear that he doesn't really like either team's return, but in his eyes the Giants got the short end.
Law's main beef is that Cabrera is a fourth outfielder in his eyes - not good enough defensively to handle one of the league's tougher center fields and not good enough with the stick to profile as a corner outfielder.
While Law makes some good points, I have to disagree with him here. At worst I think the deal is a wash. I don't like Jonathan Sanchez, his declining velocity or his unbearable walk rates. The Giants will now have to turn to Barry Zito or youngster Eric Surkamp as their fifth starter, but the front four that they have in the rotation (even if Ryan Vogelsong comes back to earth) is strong enough to absorb whatever slop pulls up in the rear.
As far as Melky Cabrera in the outfield, Law says himself that he's just a stopgap until 2010 draft pick Gary Brown is ready to take over. The final factor to consider is that the Giants skim off a little payroll. Even if all things are equal and each package is as horrible as the other, the Giants will pay about $3 million less.
There is no clear cut winner here, but to me it seems as if the San Francisco Giants might actually have come away with the slightly better return.