How will Sanchez, Cabrera + others help?

US Presswire

Melky Cabrera (left) and Jonathan Sanchez (right) will be swapping uniforms next season.

The Hot Stove heated up this week with our first major free-agent signing of the winter, when the Phillies agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with Jonathan Papelbon (pending a physical). We covered that signing in detail on Friday.

Here's a closer look at some other notable transactions from the past week, including a potentially significant trade and a few under-the-radar signings.

Jonathan Sanchez Traded by Giants to Royals for Melky Cabrera

This was a classic trade where both teams dealt from a strength while looking to improve a weakness. The San Francisco Giants last year had the second-best ERA and the fourth-worst OPS in the majors, while the Kansas City Royals had the fourth-worst ERA and seventh-best OPS.

In Sanchez, the Royals receive a hard-throwing left-hander who has the third-highest strikeout rate since 2008 (minimum, 500 innings pitched). He also struggles with his command, never averaging fewer than four walks per nine innings in a season, including last year’s league-high rate of 5.9.

Jonathan Sanchez Last 3 seasons

One concern for the Royals is Sanchez’s diminishing strikeout rate and fastball velocity over the past three seasons. Last year, when Sanchez missed more than a month with a biceps injury, his fastball averaged below 90 mph for the first time in his career.

Sanchez should help a Royals rotation that struck out just 621 batters, fifth-fewest in the majors last year. But he’ll need to improve his efficiency if he is going to make an impact on a Royals rotation that ranked 24th in innings pitched. His average of 5.3 innings per start was second-worst in the majors (minimum, 100 innings).

Melky Cabrera Career

The Giants hope that Cabrera, who had a breakout season with 18 homers and a .305 batting average in 2011, can help improve an offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the majors last year.

Cabrera's career-best numbers were partly fueled by a .332 BABIP that was well above his career mark of .299. Cabrera also posted the lowest walk rate (5.0 percent) and highest strikeout rate (13.3 percent) of his career.

Pirates Sign Rod Barajas

The Pittsburgh Pirates inked Barajas to a one-year, $4 million deal following his 16-homer season with the Dodgers. Barajas will bring some much-needed power behind the plate to the Pirates. Since 2004, only three catchers have hit more homers than Barajas’ 111.

Pirates catchers hit just 13 homers (23rd in MLB) and had a .382 slugging percentage last year (18th in MLB). The last Pirates catcher to hit more than 15 homers in a season was Jim Pagliaroni, who had 17 in 1965.

Diamondbacks Sign Willie Bloomquist

Twins Agree to Terms with Jamey Carroll

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Bloomquist to a two-year, $3.8 million contract. On a positive note, Bloomquist is a versatile defender, having played at least 100 innings at every position except catcher in his 10-season career.

But he is also the definition of a replacement-level player. Bloomquist has never posted a season with a WAR of at least 1.0. His career OPS of .654 is the ninth-worst among active players (min. 2,000 PA), and his .073 Isolated Power is seventh-worst.

The Minnesota Twins also found a utility man to their liking with the addition of Jamey Carroll, who has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal. The Twins had a rough go last season at second base and shortstop. The metric Defensive Runs Saved, which measures a middle infielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs and turn double plays, showed that Twins middle infielders went from saving the team 27 runs in 2010 to costing them 39 runs in 2011.

Though Carroll contributed positive value defensively at second base as recently as 2009, last season was his worst in that regard. Carroll's defense was viewed by that metric as costing his team 14 runs.