Melky Cabrera, Outdated Metrics, and Mismanagement
As many of you may know by now, the big news today was Giants’ acquisition of outfielder Melky Cabrera in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez and minor leaguer Ryan Verdugo. Upon the announcement, the Twitterverse exploded with fan rage, as detractors across the internet prepared to throw themselves down the proverbial staircase. I find myself inclined to agree with the predominant negativity surrounding this trade, especially when you look at a few factors.
First and foremost, Melky Cabrera is coming off a career year of sorts following five seasons ranging from mediocre to God-awful. He’s the stereotypical “sell high” kind of candidate, and the Giants’ front office ate it up. With Jonathan Sanchez, they sold low on a pitcher who, between frustrating bouts of not being able to find the strike zone, can be a pretty good 3-4 starter. We sold low and bought high; from a business standpoint, we failed miserably.
From a personnel standpoint, we have Cabrera, who plays below average in center field, coming off a “career year” where he had the lowest BB% and highest K% of his career. Essentially, he’s Andres Torres without the defense, giving us quite the redundancy in the outfield. To top it all off, we now have Barry Zito occupying the fifth spot in the rotation which is a loss in and of itself. But hey, it’s OK, since Bruce Bochy says “(Cabrera) scores runs and has the ability to knock in runs,” so that’s good. At the very least that tells us that our manager bases his strategy off of completely bogus and outdated statistics that tell you nothing of a player’s value.
Following the announcement, Brian Sabean hinted that because of financial restrictions, the Giants would be hard-pressed to afford even Carlos Beltran. Given that the he just spent almost $10 million on two redundant left-handed relievers, this announcement is just a little frustrating. Then you also have to take into consideration that since there’s no salary cap in baseball, the $125 million estimated payroll is self-imposed. If they have more money to spend, they don’t have to spend it, despite selling out every game, vast quantities of World Series merchandise sold last year, and a loyal season-ticket holder base.
We have yet to reach the Winter Meetings, and already this offseason is shaping up to be a disaster. The front office’s idea of improving the offense is to bring in a player who’s been kind of good for one-sixth of his career. Their idea of smart spending is to splurge on left-handed relievers they don’t need. And now we’re out of money to spend, having used our best trading chip on an outfield redundancy. Following a season wrought with management failure (see Belt, Brandon and Huff, Aubrey), this is becoming a disturbing trend. We’re in the age of advanced statistics, and our management is stuck in the stone age, still judging a player’s effectiveness off of things like RBI’s and runs scored.
At this point, the best-case scenario has Carlos Beltran re-signing and Brandon Crawford playing shortstop, which wouldn’t be terrible. We’d still have Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval. Gary Brown is still only a year away from the Majors. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner are still around. So why do I get the feeling that the front office is running this franchise straight into the ground? Maybe it’s the default “doom and gloom” setting that comes with every Giants fan, but I can’t help but feel that in terms of player evaluation, the Giants are miles behind the competition.