Zack Greinke to Milwaukee: the Royals Could Have Done Better
Wow, that was quick. Just a couple days after requesting a trade, Zack Greinke gets his wish. The Royals are sending Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers for four players: outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, right handed pitcherJeremy Jeffress, and another right handed pitcher in Jake Odorizzi, who is the key piece in this deal for the Royals. Also included in the deal is Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who will be a temporary replacement for Escobar until the Brewers can find a better replacement, which shouldn’t be too hard to do.
I have several questions for Royals management. Why not let this play out for another month, and let teams bid against each other a bit? I have to think they could have gotten a better package from Texas, which is why I’ll be very interested in seeing what other proposals were on the table at the time Greinke was traded.
Let’s do a quick rundown of the players headed to Kansas City:
Lorenzo Cain | OF – He’ll be 25 at the start of the 2011 season, so he’s just about entering his prime. He’s a very good athlete who can play any outfield position. He’s a plus defender in the corners of the outfield, but is merely good in center. Historically, he’s struggled to make consistent contact. And while he coupled those low contact rates with solid walk percentages, he did not hit for power. Despite his already being in the Majors, his long term outlook is still shaky. I’m seeing a best case scenario for Cain as an average everyday center fielder with a more like scenario of him being a fourth outfielder.
Alcides Escobar | SS – He was regarded by many to be the team’s top prospect the last couple of years. Personally, I’ve never been too high on him because of his lack of offensive versatility. He’s a one-trick pony with the bat. If he doesn’t hit for batting average, he’s an anchor for the rest of your line-up. He doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t walk much. Even his walk total from 2010 is inflated because he had the luxury of batting in front of the pitcher. He walked almost twice as much in the 8th hole as he did from anywhere else in the line-up.
He does make contact at a good rate and the number of line drives he hit last year should have netted him a higher BABIP, but that was offset by his lack of good contact, specifically the soft grounders and infield pop-ups that plauged him throughout the season.
Escobar does have speed, but he can’t use it unless he gets on base. His specialty is actually with the glove and last year he showed himself to be more of an above average defender rather than the plus one fans expected. His UZR/150 (not the be-all/end-all, but still a good baseline) was 4.7 (among the 21 qualifiers, Escobar placed 8th). Like Cain, Escobar is no guarantee for long-term success. His glove will give him a better chance at succeed, but I’m skeptical. I suspect Escobar is going to be a player that is good enough to hold down shortstop until a better replacement comes along. I don’t see him as a critical piece to a playoff-caliber club.
Jeremy Jeffress | RHP – Let’s put his drug issues and prior suspensions to the side for a moment. From a talent standpoint, Jeffress possesses some of baseball’s best arm strength and speed, which allows him to generate velocity as high as 101 mph. Prior to 2010, Jeffress was used primarily as a starter and he struggled with his control and command. After returning from his most recent suspension, the Brewers put Jeffress in the bullpen and he flourished. While I think he can make for an excellent reliever, the fact of the matter is that relievers — no matter how good they are — are limited, individually, in the amount of value they bring to a team.
Jake Odorizzi | RHP – No complaint here…I love Odorizzi and he’s a legit headline piece to this deal for the Royals.
I guess what bothers me most with this trade is that the Royals are taking on a tremendous amount of risk without the upside. Cain and Escobar are not potential stars. They are potentially solid complimentary players on a good team at best. Jeffress is a reliever — perhaps a very good one — but relievers can only have so much value. Odorizzi is the one player with true front line upside, and he’s still a guy who hasn’t pitched above Low-A ball yet. And the fact the Royals made this deal so soon after Greinke requested a trade suggests they could have gotten something better if they held out for just a little longer and had teams bid against each other. Believe me, this deal would have been on the table a month from now. Even if this carried on until Spring Training, this deal would likely still be on the table. There is nobody in this deal who the Brewers would have second thoughts about sending away for Greinke.
From Milwaukee’s and Greinke’s perspective, this is a fantastic deal. Greinke moves into an environment where there won’t be a tremendous amount of pressure on him to succeed. He moves to a League where outs are easier to come by and rather than face a DH every time through the order, now he’ll face the opposing team’s pitcher.
All of a sudden now, Milwaukee has an extremely formidable and deep starting rotation. In adding Greinke, the club now essentially has three front of the rotation starters (returnee Yovani Gallardo and new acquisition Shaun Marcumare the others) , all of whom should post sub-4 ERAs next year. Randy Wolf becomes the team’s No. 4 starter, which is a spot where he should outperform his competiton around the league. However, he has some red flags entering 2011, primarily regarding his significantly declining K-rate. Since 2007, Wolf’s K-rate has gone from the eights to the sevens to the sixes and most recently to the fives. That is a clear trend of decline.
The Brewers have a few options for the No. 5 spot in the rotation: Dave Bush, Manny Parra, and Chris Capuano. If that trio (and others) can collectively match the 4.54 ERA Bush posted last year, that would be better than most other teams.
The big question here is if Milwaukee has done enough to compete with Cincinnati and St. Louis for the NL Central crown. A quick glance at each team’s current roster suggests they have. Milwaukee may have decimated their farm system, but at least in return they are giving their fans a team with a very real shot of contention.