The rumors swirling around late last night turned out to be more than mere smoke and mirrors. Both teams are announcing today that 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke will be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers with Yuniesky Betancourt and $2 Million for Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.
Speculation about if Greinke would be traded turned into a question of when after he asked the Royals for a trade on Friday. Many teams had been interested in Greinke, but some were turned off by the Royals asking price or were on a no-trade list of 15 teams that Greinke had negotiated into his contract.
What this means for 2011 is simply this: the Royals are going to be pretty bad. We’ll be following a young team with an unproven pitching staff. Luke Hochevar is now the tentative opening day starter. Behind him, the Royals have Vin Mazzaro, Sean O’Sullivan and Kyle Davies. The fifth spot could go to Rob Tejeda or the Royals could sign a free agent. Theyhave been linked to Kevin Millwood in the past, though it’s been a while since any discussion of Millwood had bounced around.
I’m torn. Greinke has been my favorite Royal since coming back throwing heat in 2007. His 2009 wasn’t remarkable only because of his pitching record, but for the level of excitement and pride it gave Royals fans. Every fifth day, the best pitcher in the league was starting for our team, and he didn’t disappoint.
I had an article all ready to put together today that was going to reference an episode of the West Wing. In brief, President Bartlet was running for a second term where the Nobel winning economist, Notre Dame alumnus and Latin-quoting man who took his SAT a second time because he only got a 1590 was facing a folksy “I’d like to have a beer with him” candidate from Florida who was overmatched intellectually. The prevailing idea was that Governor Richie wasn’t expected to show any level of intelligence at all in the debates, and any kind of performance that didn’t involve him walking into walls would be a victory. It was all about expectations and if the Governor could refrain from a display of idiocy – if he could merely tie his shoes – it’d be seen as holding his own with the brilliant Bartlet. The expectations game was lost unless, in Bartlet’s case, he met his own expectations.
That’s kind of how it was for Greinke. Compare Greinke’s statistics and rates from his 2008 season, when many considered him an up and coming ace, and his 2010 numbers. Other than ERA (which isn’t entirely fair), they’re almost identical, even down to strikes thrown percentage in 3-2 counts. He was almost an identical pitcher to the Zack Greinke of 2010. Greinke of 2008 was a dynamo. One to watch. A force to be reckoned with, ready to ascend to the company of elite pitching talent. In 2010, he was a bust. A one year wonder. Unable to keep up with the hype.
What was the difference? His other-worldly 2009 where he posted career highs in everything.
Then there was all the discussion about his anxiety disorder and if he could hold up in a pennant race or under the lights of a blood-thirsty media.
I still don’t see that as an issue. The Brewers are getting a hell of a pitcher, and he’s going to be their ace. He’ll carve up NL batters like Bill the Butcher. He’ll probably lead them to the playoffs.
I’m disappointed that he would come out to demand a trade, then decline to go to a team where a deal is worked out. But it’s in the contract like that, and that’s how it has to go. If I had to rank a few teams in what they’d offer in a package for Greinke, I’d say the Brewers would be behind what the Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals could offer.
Dayton Moore had made it known that he wanted to get two players who were close to the majors, and he did that. Escobar was the everyday starter in Milwaukee at shortstop, playing in 145 games. He only hit .235/.288/.326 in 2010, but did fine in short duty in 2009. His main skills are going to be speed and incredible defense. As the Brewers top prospect in the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Escobar was credited with the organization’s infield arm and as the best infield defender. He has incredible range and a strong arm to make any thrown he needs to, and he’s a huge defensive upgrade from Betancourt. He turned 24 on Thursday.
Lorenzo Cain came to baseball late, playing first in high school and growing into a toolsy player out of community college. He’s a fierce competitor by all accounts, not afraid to dive for a ball to make a play. That’s gritty and tough and all, but he’s been hurt doing so in the past and missed a lot of time in 2009 after spraining his left knee on a dive. He also made an amazing catch while with the Brewers last summer, though he caught a lot more of the wall.
Jake Odorizzi will go to Wilmington in High A to start 2011 as the youngest player in the deal at 20 years old. He was the Brewers first round pick in 2008. Kevin Goldstein’s scouting report at Baseball Prospectus reminds me a bit of another young pitcher with easy mechanics who sits in the 92-93 range with his fastball but can hit the mid-90s (hint, he’s the guy we just traded). His secondary pitches need more refinement so he’s more of a #2 or #3 starter, but he has good stuff and an easy delivery and his best season as a professional in 2010 ended up with his being named the Brewers best minor league pitcher.
Jeremy Jeffress can hit triple digits with his fastball and has a wicked curveball, but command will be his main area of concern. If he can throw strikes he might be dominant. Otherwise, he’s the typical fireballer. Jeffress has twice been suspended for marijuana use in the minor leagues. He was a risky part of the trade, but as a member of the 40 man roster, he doesn’t get tested for marijuana, so his third strike (a lifetime ban) won’t be an issue. Goldstein ranks Jeffress #8 in his adjusted Royals top 11 prospects list, and Odorizzi #9 and mentions that the Royals are leaving the Brewers system “decimated”.
“Mizuno gave me a samurai sword for winning the Cy Young. It’s awesome. … I’m going to hang it up and maybe start a collection. Not a gun collection, but a samurai sword collection. If you can do it. I don’t know if you’re allowed.”
—Zack on letting his parents keep his Cy Young Award while he keeps the sword