Kansas City Royals: Six Years After Trading Zack Greinke

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Dayton Moore processing. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE
Dayton Moore processing. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE /

KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore dealt former Cy Young winning pitcher Zack Greinke to the Milwauke Brewers six years ago today. The move proved to be the first milestone along the path that led to the 2015 World Championship.

On Dec. 19, 2010, the Kansas City Royals swapped Zack Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. Moore pulled off one of the best trades in KC Royals history when faced with Greinke’s demand to get out of Kansas City.

In short, Moore made the very best out of what was a terrible situation. At the time, it felt like another symbol of a failed franchise. The Royals finally developed a truly elite pitcher while helping him overcome social anxiety, only to see Greinke get fed up with losing. I wondered how KC could ever win if they couldn’t keep a homegrown star that they had gone the extra mile to help succeed.

If Zack Greinke wasn’t loyal to the organization, then who would be?

The other problem with the trade was that it pushed the long-awaited turnaround further into the future. In 2009, Dayton Moore believed he could win in Kansas City after a surprisingly strong 75-87 finish in 2008. Yeah. After losing 100 games in three of the previous four seasons, and dropping 93 games in 2007, 87 losses didn’t look too bad.

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A Futile Attempt To Win

That winter, he somehow managed to extend Zack Greinke’s contract by two years. Securing Greinke to pair with free-agent success Gil Meche, Moore had locked in a formidable duo to headline his rotation for years to come. Rule 5 find Joakim Soria had developed into one of the best closers in the American League. And, second year players Billy Butler and Alex Gordon promised to boost the KC Royals offense.

Moore believed Kansas City could compete if he filled in some holes. Thus he acquired rangy center-fielder Coco Crisp from Boston in return for reliever Ramon Ramirez. Moore then dealt reliever Leo Nunez to Miami for first baseman Mike Jacobs. Jacobs struck out a lot, but he had slammed 32 home runs for the Marlins in 2008. Moore felt he had solved his team’s power problem.

He added utility player Willie Bloomquist as his multi-position sub off the bench. Moore went on to sign free-agent reliever Juan Cruz to replace the departed Ramirez and Nunez. He expected Cruz would become Soria’s set-up man.

It Sorta Worked—For A Little While

For 24 glorious games, Moore’s plan appeared to work. The 2009 Kansas City Royals opened the season 17-7. That start felt like a turnaround for a team that usually fell out of contention by May. Zack Greinke and Gil Meche came out of the gate dominating opponents from the mound. Greinke even scored a Sports Illustrated cover story due to his overwhelming start.

Then everything fell apart.