It’s The Scouting, Stupid
In retrospect, the Zack Greinke trade showed how far the KC Royals scouting department had come since the days of Allard Baird.
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All four of the prospects they acquired for Greinke and Betancourt became successful major league players. Lorenzo Cain finished third in the A.L. MVP vote in 2015 for his 7.2 bWAR season. Alcides Escobar earned an All-Star nod and Gold Glove in 2015. Jake Odorizzi developed into a no.2/no. 3 starter. However, Odorizzi achieved that status for Tampa Bay after the Royals included him in a four-prospect package that brought back James Shields and Wade Davis. Unfortunately, the KC Royals gave up on Jeremy Jeffress before he learned to command his 100 mph heat. But, Jeffress notched 27 saves for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016 before a deadline deal sent him to Texas.
That’s a hell of a haul for two years of a disaffected pitcher.
The Washington Nationals
What makes that success even more impressive is that the Brewers package wasn’t the only winning trade that the Royals had cooked up for Greinke. Moore had cut a deal with the Nationals in return for pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, shortstop Danny Espinosa, reliever Drew Storen, and catcher Derek Norris. But Greinke, who held a no-trade clause, rejected the trade.
That’s another package where all four pieces became successful major-leaguers. Zimmermann made two All-Star teams in 2013-14 before tailing off with the Tigers in 2016. Drew Storen served as a closer in Washington for two seasons and has compiled a 3.31 ERA over a seven-year MLB career. Danny Espinosa became an above-average defender at short with good pop for a middle infielder (though he struggles to get on base). Meanwhile, Derek Norris earned an All-Star nod in 2014 with the A’s and enjoyed three seasons as a useful catcher before a bad 2016.
Overall, the Nationals package produced an impressive 41.3 bWAR since 2011. That’s comparable to the 42.5 bWAR that Cain, Escobar, Odorizzi, and Jeffress have provided since the Greinke trade.
It Took A Little Luck
However, Dayton Moore caught a break that he couldn’t agree with the Rangers and Yankees on a Greinke trade. Those rumored deals would have turned out very badly for Kansas City. Even so, both trades that Moore actually approved were winners. That’s what a successful front office does. Turning down Fool’s Gold in favor of the real thing is the mark of a winning general manager. Moore did it twice in one deal.
In the end, the Shields and Greinke trades give me hope that the KC Royals front office got it right by acquiring Jorge Soler in return for Wade Davis. Those successful moves also make me believe that deals to come will prevent a crash after the 2017 season, despite numerous core players headed for free-agency.
These aren’t your Dad’s KC Royals. The front office is much smarter.