My first impression of the trade was that it was a bad move for the Giants. While the move addressed certain issues, I didn't see it solving the Giants' most pressing problem. Sure, they need a center fielder, but what the Giants really need is a leadoff hitter, and Melky Cabrera hit predominantly in the two-hole for the Kansas City Royals in 2011.
But, as it turns out, Cabrera has some value and experience as a leadoff hitter. While he may not be an ideal choice as the igniter, the 27-year-old can hypothetically fill both needs. Certainly he should at least be able to keep the leadoff spot warm until the young and talented Gary Brown is ready for the big leagues.
Speaking of Brown, this move doesn't block the speedster's path to the big leagues, as Cabrera will be a free agent at the end of 2012. Even a two-year deal for a player like Coco Crisp may well have proved to be an impediment to the top prospect in the organization. Throwing up roadblocks to Brown's development is the last thing the Giants need to do at this point.
I also felt that the Giants were buying high on a player coming off of a career year -- a move somewhat reminiscent of the Aaron Rowand deal. However, the major difference between this deal and Rowand's multi-year contract is that the Giants will not be locked in to a long-term deal that could potentially get ugly -- fast.
There is certainly reason to believe that Cabrera will be able to repeat, or even improve upon, his success in 2011. The outfielder attributes his strong numbers to a new-found commitment to fitness last offseason -- something we Panda-loving Giants fans are all too familiar with. Should Cabrera be able to maintain that work ethic, it seems likely he'll make for a substantial improvement in the Giants lineup. The motivation should certainly be there: Cabrera is in a contract year. He could earn himself a nice chunk of change with a big season in 2012.
What about the pitching staff?
I was also concerned about the #5 spot in the rotation for the Giants in 2012. Sanchez figured to be in the mix for the job, battling with Zito and Surkamp. At the very least the presence of Sanchez, and his undeniable upside, could have pushed the other two to work harder and get better. This remains a concern, one that the front office will need to address by bringing in another pitcher or two to compete for that fifth spot. If Zito or Surkamp don't earn the job though, it shouldn't be too difficult to get a decent free agent to fill the role.
The depth of quality pitching in the farm system is also quickly becoming an issue, especially considering the deal for Beltran last year. That trade saw former top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler become a member of the New York Mets. The Giants just do not have the arms coming through the pipeline that we as Giants fans have become accustomed to, and while Verdugo is not as high a prospect as Wheeler, he did have a very nice year with double-A Richmond in 2011.
Verdugo seems poised to make the jump to triple-A in 2012, and could possibly even see time in the big leagues before 2013. The Giants front office will also need to address this issue -- hopefully through the draft this summer and perhaps through additional trades this winter. On the bright side, if there's one thing the Giants organization has proven it can do in recent years, it's draft and develop quality young arms.
Overall, I would say this deal is a win for the Giants. They have filled one of the major holes they had coming into the offseason, and they've done so at a fairly reasonable price. There are still some issues that need to be addressed. There are still some loose ends that need tying up. But, on the whole, I feel this move makes sense on a lot of levels. The move makes the Giants a better team in 2012 without too heavily mortgaging the future. Bottom line: It satisfies short-term needs without creating too many long-term problems.
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