Don’t count the Melky Cabrera trade as a wash for the Royals just yet.
Sure, Cabrera has been one of the best players in all of baseball through the first two months of the season. The switch-hitting left fielder has done it all for the Giants – he has even swiftly earned his own fan club – while on the early track for his second consecutive 200-hit season.
But even if Jonathan Sanchez doesn’t return to the form of his 2009 no-hitter, there is still hope for the Royals to recoup the loss of Cabrera. In Sanchez’s defense, he has been plagued by biceps tendinitis this season, and hasn’t pitched since May 7. But, there is another component to the Nov. 7, 2011 trade that brought Cabrera to San Francisco in left-hander Ryan Verdugo.
Verdugo was called up by the Royals on Tuesday, after going 3-1 in 11 starts at Triple-A Omaha. The left-hander has been tabbed as a reliever for the big club, though with the rotation troubles they are having in KC – 10 different pitchers have made starts for the Royals this season – Verdugo is liable to get a shot at a rotation spot at some point.
However, if the Royals are going to equalize the trade, it’s looking like Verdugo will have to contend for an ERA title or something. Cabrera has been an amazing addition to the Giants offense. Not only does he aptly lead the majors in hits with 86, he has been a catalyzing force in a lineup that is hitting nearly 20 points better than last season, and appears to be getting more potent by the day.
The is no question as to whether Cabrera is deserving of an All-Star nod. He’s going back to Kansas City, we just don’t know if it’s as a starter or not. Although left field is traditionally considered a power position at the All-Star Game, consider this: Cabrera enters into play Thursday tied for the major league lead with a .366 batting average.
And, while he has hit just four home runs this season, he is currently 10th in the NL with a .942 OPS, not far behind other NL corner outfield candidates: Carlos Gonzalez (14 home runs, .991 OPS), Ryan Braun (14 home runs, .991 OPS), and Giancarlo Stanton (13 home runs, .950 OPS).
Stanton earned NL Player of the Month honors for the month of May because of an epic power display. The Marlins slugger hit 12 home runs in May, which, while impressive, was not historic. In the AL, Jeff Hamilton matched the feat with 12 home runs of his own throughout May. Meanwhile, the last player to reach the 50-hit plateau prior to Cabrera was Carl Crawford, when he had 50 hits for Tampa Bay in Aug. 2007.
But hey, que sera sera. A month is a month, and a tip of the cap to Stanton on a fine one. However, if the major league leader in hits doesn’t deserve to start the All-Star game – and keep in mind, second to Cabrera’s 86 hits is Derek Jeter’s 75 – then I don’t know who deserves a starting a nod.