Greinke's Exit: My Thoughts

Zack Greinke was one of the most popular Royals, especially after David DeJesus was sent to Oakland. So, when he was sent to Milwaukee with his (non-)buddy Yuniesky Betancourt, there was understandably a lot of resentment toward the deal. When a team trades away someone loved that much, it’s hard on everyone involved.

First, I want to comment on the return. Sending Yuni in any deal is instantly a positive. I cannot wait to see a Royals infield without Yuni, though seeing him on the team I grew up watching will be hard. Anyway, getting Yuni off of the roster immediately improves the infield defense. That’s a plus in my book.

Filling Yuni’s vacant crater will be Alcides Escobar, one of the most-hyped prospects of the last couple years. My friends that love the Brewers were pumped about this guy starting with the team and, I’ll have to admit, I bought into that, too. Well, Escobar had a rough year. Without going into stats, I can say that he didn’t get on base and definitely didn’t hit for any power. The bat just wasn’t there, which isn’t too much of a shock. We can only hope that it comes back. Otherwise, we’ll have a new Tony Pena Jr. on our hands.

What that means is that Escobar is a defense-oriented guy. His defensive stats were rough this season, but every scouting report you’ll see describes him as a plus defender. That’s why he’s an upgrade over Yuni. You lose some offense without Yuni in there (I never thought I’d say that) based off Escobar’s 2010, but the defense could offset that by allowing fewer balls to get by him. I really take it as a positive for two reasons: having a solid middle infield defense would be great and he has the potential to improve, as he’s only 24. Potential is something cynical Royals fans scoff at, but you have to admit when it’s there. Escobar has potential.

As for Lorenzo Cain, I’m not as enthused. He is a Jarrod Dyson or Derrick Robinson with a bit more pop in his bat. I’ve seen him play with the Brewers’ AAA affiliate Nashville Sounds a couple times and just wasn’t really impressed, though that’s admittedly not based on much. I’ve heard him compared to Rajai Davis and later to Joey Gathright, but it’s clear that he can be a better center fielder than some other options we have. The problem with it is that this trade could mean that two other outfielders on the team, which could be Mitch Maier, Gregor Blanco, or Alex Gordon, will likely be ousted. That’s sad because Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera aren’t an upgrade over them, but it’s the truth at this point.

Cain will most likely be a useful outfielder and could improve the outfield offense over what we’ve had lately. His injury-riddled past is a little troubling, but he had some good results from his time in Milwaukee in 2010 and, like Escobar, is young enough to have some potential left. I will still be a bit low on him until he proves himself better than what we already have, but having another guy that might be a solid future piece in the outfield is always good. We’ll see what happens in 2011.

Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi are two minor league pitchers in slightly different molds. Jeffress is set as a reliever and spent some time in Milwaukee in 2010 while Odorizzi is slotted as a starter and broke out at A-level Wisconsin. Jeffress is included in the Coleman and Collins camp as a solid young reliever that will likely see action in Kansas City this coming season. He failed two drug tests for marijuana use, suggesting that he really doesn’t care about his playing time, and Milwaukee was forced to put him on their 40-man roster to stop the drug tests. I really have a problem with guys that have character issues, which is why I’m unsure about Jeffress. Great talent, but he just doesn’t seem to really care.*

*Note: I asked around and found that there’s no word of Jeffress having issues as a guy off the field. I just personally am not keen on failing drug tests, especially twice. Like PJH does, call me crazy if you want. I just don’t like when guys can’t see when they are hurting their own development and the organization that drafted them.

I’m more optimistic about Odorizzi, a right-hander who further shores up the Royals’ system’s considerable pitching depth. Granted, one breakout season isn’t always useful information, but it’s basically what we’re looking at for both Moustakas and Hosmer, isn’t it? There’s a slight difference, but I like what Odorizzi projects as (2-3 starter, according to many) and the fact that he’ll be just after the first big wave of pitching talent. Keeping young guys coming is pretty important, and he’ll be needed to continue the youth movement. I don’t know enough about him to critically evaluate his skills, but everything I’ve read suggests he has some serious future upside with the Royals.

So, those are the guys. I couldn’t figure out what I thought at first, but I like the trade a bit more now than I did then. When Brewers fans are mad about what they lost and Royals fans mad about losing Greinke, it’s likely an even trade. There are tons of reactions out there across the spectrum, but, for me, adding one more high-upside, high-risk prospect to the return would’ve made it a clear solid get for me.

The word is that the Royals were in deep talks with the Nationals, but Greinke vetoed a trade there when asked. I personally preferred the potential return from the Nationals to the return the Royals did get, but it’s hard to completely analyze that without knowing what trade packages were offered. The Blue Jays weren’t giving up what Dayton wanted, the Yankees seemed to be falling out of talks, and the Rangers never seemed to match what the Royals were looking for. I think it was Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus that said he preferred the trade the Royals got to a comparable trade with the Rangers. For the record, Goldstein also really likes this trade for the Royals.

The word from Dayton Moore today in his press conference was that Greinke didn’t want to sign another extension with the Royals. He didn’t specifically say it, but did mention that you can’t get an extension without the other side of the deal signing on. In fact, he mentioned that twice. That’s about as clear as it gets that Greinke wants out and isn’t interested in sticking around for potentially great years in Kansas City. When a player doesn’t want to stick it out long-term, then you trade him or get the draft picks from him leaving. In this case, a trade is a better get.

Does Greinke pitch better in 2011? Quite possibly. I think he’ll be a lot more comfortable in the NL and especially in the NL Central, so that could help him pitch better. He’ll have a more solid rotation and arguably more offensive support, so that could help him to get closer to his 2009 performance. Would he have pitched better for Kansas City in 2011 than he did in 2010? Again, it’s possible, but less likely than a better performance with the Brewers. He seemed disenfranchised with the Royals and ready to leave, at least to me, so I’m not sure that would change. I would wager a bet that his trade value wouldn’t increase significantly in 2011 if he stayed with the Royals.

So, trading him now makes some sense to me. Given the pass that the baseball industry gave him for the less-than-desired 2010 performance, letting him add on to that rough performance would be a bad idea. I would personally rather trade him now than take a risk on him lowering his trade value in 2011, but I could be easily persuaded the other way. I’m not as sure about that as I would like. I’ll miss him (and his wonderful quotes), of course, but some things have their time.

Now, I know people are mad about losing Greinke. Like I said, it’s never fun losing a guy like him. It just flat-out isn’t. Being mad and angry about it won’t get you anywhere and neither will bad-mouthing Greinke’s integrity/character. The guy didn’t want to be a National. He wanted to compete. You really can’t be too mad with someone that wants what they feel is best for them, though wanting out of a contract you signed with the team that had faith in you isn’t admirable. Nonetheless, what’s done is done and it’s best to get on with life.

The ramifications of this trade on the team are going to be interesting. Three players will be added to the 40-man roster. Two were removed. I’m telling you now, you can all but kiss goodbye to Mitch Maier.* It’s as much of a guarantee as guarantees get that he’ll be gone by Opening Day 2011. And I wish the best to him.

*Joaquin Arias was DFA-ed. Sometimes I miss things. It happens.

Another candidate is Gregor Blanco. I’ll openly admit that I don’t particularly like Blanco for no real reason other than I was never quite sure why the Royals wanted him in the first place. Anyway, even without Maier, the potential center fielders for the Royals are these: Melky Cabrera, Jarrod Dyson, Gregor Blanco, and Lorenzo Cain. There are two other outfielders on the roster: Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur. Something has to give, and I do believe it will be Gregor Blanco if any of these guys.

Three other possibilities I want to throw out: Kevin Pucetas, Jesse Chavez, and Alex Gordon. Pucetas is young and far removed from Kansas City right now. Jesse Chavez is the second coming of Luis Mendoza. Alex Gordon is, well, the focus of trade talk yet again. I would still not be surprised if Gordon is traded. I like the guy and think he could still be useful to the club, but I just don’t think the Royals are really planning their future with him in the picture. Enough other teams would take a shot on him that it’s a definite possibility.

Oh, and one more long, long, long, long-shot move: Jason Kendall. Think about that one.

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Tags: AL Central Alcides Escobar Alex Gordon Baseball Brewers David DeJesus Dayton Moore Gregor Blanco Jake Odorizzi Jeremy Jeffress Jesse Chavez Kansas City Royals KC Kevin Pucetas Lorenzo Cain Milwaukee Milwaukee Brewers Mitch Maier MLB Royals Yuniesky Betancourt Zack Greinke

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