Brian Sabean is a cobbler.
He can cobble together a major league roster as well as anybody in the game. Unfortunately, there’s not much romance in cobbling.
Sabean’s trade for Melky Cabrera earlier this week was simply his first pass at chiseling out the most competitive team possible for 2012. On paper, he added a .305 hitter who hit 18 homers and drove in 87 runs. Few Giants fans jumped up and down.
And after years of being told the Giants’ pitching was so valuable it was untouchable, the first time Sabean reached in and touched it, many a Giants fan wondered openly if this was all the sometimes-electric, always-eccentric Jonathan Sanchez could bring in return.
I don’t think there was a single Giants fan out there who had his or her fingers crossed that the Giants would land Cabrera, but there are few who maintain the Giants aren’t a better team today than they were a week ago. Sabean loves trades like this.
The unfortunate thing about this trade is that both sides had to make it. The Giants had to trade Sanchez before he proved 2011 wasn’t a fluke. The Royals had to trade Cabrera before he proved 2011 was a fluke.
Let’s admit it. Sanchez had been on shaky ground with the Giants ever since he tipped over last year’s National League Championship Series by hitting Chase Utley with a pitch. I’m still convinced his I’m-not-hurt trip to the disabled list last year was punishment for pitching like he had no idea what he was doing.
Despite holding enemy hitters to a .220 average, he walked 66 batters in 101 1/3 innings. By the time he was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA after 19 starts, the Giants were threw pulling their hair out over one frustrating start after another.
There’s nothing that drives a crafty baseball executive like Sabean to trading a pitcher — a talented, left-handed pitcher no less — than one who is averaging nearly six walks per nine innings. Sabean’s beard was gray enough.
Meanwhile there was a different story coming out of Kansas City. Going into 2011, it looked as if the Royals would be the last chance for Cabrera to prove he deserved to be an everyday player. The Yankees didn’t think so. Neither did the Braves.
Despite two teams putting Cabrera in their rearview mirrors, the 27-year-old had the best year of his six-year career. If Cabrera — in a Giants uniform — puts together another year like last year, Sabean will be one happy cobbler.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at email@example.com.