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Breaking down the Royals' trade

The Kansas City Royals have made their first serious move of the postseason, and it rightly addresses pitching.Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was acquired Monday by the Royals in exhcange for outfielder Melky Cabrera.Getting left-hander Jonathan Sanchez from the San Francisco Giants for center fielder Melky Cabrera is a good move.

How can I write that?

Cabrera, after all, had a fantastic season in 2011, batting .305 with 18 homers, 87 RBI, 102 runs scored, 201 hits, 20 stolen bases, 44 doubles, a .407 on-base percentage and an .809 OPS.

And he’s pretty good defensive player, having made only three errors.

Sanchez, meanwhile, was just 4-7 with the Giants in 2011 and had a 4.26 ERA. An injured ankle sidelined him during the final month of the season and Sanchez is just 38-46 during his career with a 4.26 ERA. He walks way too many hitters – 376 in 708 career innings.

But, look at it this way: Cabrera had a career year. His offensive numbers far exceeded anything he had put up previously and his trading value probably will never be higher. There’s a chance that Cabrera, who will still be only 27 when the 2012 season begins, will be as productive in future years with the Giants.

The Royals, though, are banking on Sanchez’s upside. And on the notion that center field prospect Lorenzo Cain, who batted .312 with 16 homers and 81 RBI at Triple-A Omaha this season, will be able to step in for Cabrera.

Two of Sanchez’s career numbers stand out positively: He has given up only 607 hits in those 708 innings and has struck out 736. When he’s right, as he was during the last half of the 2010 season when he helped the Giants get to and win a World Series, Sanchez can be a load.

I don’t think he’s a top of the rotation guy, but he could be a stretch for a No. 2 and a solid No. 3 in a top-flight rotation. And the Royals are addressing a need here while trading from a strength. This might not be a great value-for-value trade, but it’s one the Royals couldn’t turn down.