The AL Central cellar stirs

I will miss watching Melky Cabrera on the basepaths.

Summing up an eventful day at the bottom of the AL Central...

After amassing a bushel of prospects to build baseball's most enviable farm system, the Kansas City Royals finally began to reap the rewards last season with the promotions of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.

On Monday, Dayton Moore began the team-shaping stage by trading White Sox killer Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for enigmatic lefty Jonathan Sanchez. It's a trade that makes as much sense as you want it to make. After all, the Royals sold high to buy low, which is kinda weird.

On paper for 2012, it's fine. The two teams swapped unnecessary parts. The Giants didn't need Sanchez, but they did need a hitter. The Royals didn't need Cabrera, but they needed a starting pitcher who had a chance of being good. So both teams found a likely upgrade their weakest facets.

I'm not a big fan of Sanchez, though. He'll turn 29 in a fortnight, and walk problems have limited him to just one good year out of five. He's always been pegged as somebody with more potential than his current back-of-the-rotation profile would suggest, but time is running out, if it hasn't already. And even if he puts it all together, he'll be a free agent after the 2012 season unless the Royals act with an extension.

So this move doesn't register on the Richter scale for me like I thought it might. The Royals get the added bonus of opening up a spot for Lorenzo Cain, which is valuable in its own right. But I don't think Sanchez is one of the pitchers the Royals ultimately need, unlike, say, the way I thought Doug Fister was a great fit for Detroit.

Plus, Melky won't be around to batter Mark Buehrle anymore. Unless Buehrle isn't around to be battered. He's going to meet with the Marlins.

Reaction: Royals Review on the trade | Royals Review on Cain | McCovey Chronicles

And up in Minnesota, the Twins fired Bill Smith, their GM of the last four years. Over his tenure, the Twins went to the postseason twice, and just missed by the margin of a one-game playoff in 2008. Contrast that to Kenny Williams, who has been to the postseason twice in his 11 years on the job, and man, Jerry Reinsdorf's patience seems endless.

Williams can at least point to his pitching staff, which is a contending-quality group from top to bottom. At this time, the Twins really have nothing to build around, and Smith has to accept most of the blame.

Granted, some of the circumstances are beyond his control. Justin Morneau's six-year, $80 million deal looked like a smart move until he took John McDonald's knee to his head. And while Joe Mauer's contract won't end well, Smith was under intense pressure to retain the local-boy-made-good.

But he compounded those situations with some total head-scratchers. Trading Joe Mauer Insurance Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps. Trading J.J. Hardy for nothing and replacing him with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Trading Johan Santana at his peak and having nothing to show for it. Trading Matt Garza and Jason Barlett for Delmon Young. None of those trades even looked good on paper, and when throwing those unfavorable deals on top of Mauer and Morneau's dead weight, the system couldn't handle it.

In his defense, Smith had to deal with some pretty difficult decisions in his tenure. I don't think many GMs would want to have a Santana or Mauer situation on their hands, and he also had to decide on Torii Hunter shortly after taking the job.

Williams, on the other hand, has driven the team in the wrong direction without the pressure of these "damned-if-you-do-or-don't" situations. Paul Konerko's two contracts had their own complications, but Konerko did Williams a favor by earning his money (to date). Otherwise, as Hawk Harrelson might say, every wrong turn made by Williams has been self-induced. I'm not sure which is worse.

Reaction: Twinkie Town

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