|What IS this thing in my hand? And where am I supposed to throw it?|
What we always heard from Sanchez was "Upside Upside Upside!" and that there was no viable replacement, so a number 2/3/4/eventually 5 starter that walked everyone in the park but threw a no-hitter every 32 months was all we got.
Heck, a lot people have upside. At one point, Eugenio Velez had upside. And then he went 0-for-2011 and was exposed. Sanchez was certainly more valuable to the Giants than Velez, but when it came to frustration, to "YOU HAVE ALL THE ABILITY WHY CAN'T YOU JUST STOP HURTING OUR FEELINGS AND START THROWING STRIKES," Sanchez was in a league of his own. Strike out the side, walk four in a row. Lead the team in punchouts but also lead the MAJORS in walks. Strike out Ryan Howard, hit Chase Utley. That got old.
It got to the point where it was no longer helpful or cost-effective for the Giants to wait for Sanchez to turn a corner and magically become the top of the rotation starter that he was expected to be. He earned $4.8 million last year to be skipped, demoted, "injured" and ineffective. He was a non-tender candidate for sure. And the Giants now have someone who had great minors numbers, middle rotation upside, and iffy control. His name is Eric Surkamp. And he costs about 10 percent of what Sanchez made in 2011.
The comparison with Velez will stop here, but I do want to point out that, at some point, the Giants had to stop hoping that Sanchez would get better. The lefty will turn 29 this year (Surkamp is 24), and simply is past the point of hoping he can change his ways. Velez had all the physical tools, but could just never flip that switch to actually be productive.
The Giants also filled a need with the trade, by getting an outfielder that can hit. Melky Cabrera isn't exactly Andrew McCutchen, but he did pop off for 18 HR and 44 doubles, posting a respectable (although career outlier) batting slash line (.305/.339/.470). He also comes with no long term commitment, something that could not be said for the other options in centerfield on the open market.
Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, Carlos Beltran...all options that would have cost the team a pretty penny but also added to a long-term commitment backlog that still carries Aaron Rowand's salary. Cabrera only earned $1.25 million last year, and although he projects to earn $4.4M this year, the Giants will probably sign him to a multi-year deal, against my wishes, but I can guarantee that he won't cost $100M.
Dealing Sanchez, who was more of a pain than a plus in 2011, means that the Giants
1) will not trade Tim Lincecum
2) have faith in Barry Zito making a return
3) have faith that Surkamp can be at least as effective as Sanchez was
4) probably will not acquire that big bat in the outfield (Carlos Beltran) that some fans were looking at.
With Sanchez gone, the rotation will be Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Vogelsong/Zito-Surkamp combo. With Cabrera in center, Nate Schierholtz will most likely stay in right, Burrell is probably done, and Ross and Torres are on the ropes for fourth/fifth outfielder. Both of them have valuable versatility, and have ability to play all three positions. Assuming Belt/Huff stay in left it'll be interesting to see how the rest of the off-season shakes out.
This was a typical Sabean trade, one that nobody saw coming but when thought about, makes a lot of sense. If Cabrera's 2012 is like his 2011, and Sanchez's 2012 looks like anything but his 2009, Sabean again proves why he's the longest-tenured GM in the game. Now Sanchez will be someone else's headache.