Home > Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals, MLB, Zack Greinke > Zack Greinke Trade Makes the Brewers, but Does it Break the Royals?

Zack Greinke Trade Makes the Brewers, but Does it Break the Royals?

July 21, 2010: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke  of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 5-2.

The arms race is on in the National League, although the participants aren’t exactly numerous.  It’s the Phillies, it’s the Brewers, and it’s everyone else.

Just a week after Cliff Lee re-joined the Philadelphia Phillies for nine figures of charity, the Kansas City Royals traded their ace, Greinke, to the Brewers for a package of players including OF Lorenzo Cain, RP Jeremy Jeffress, and SS Alcedies Escobar.  Greinke will make $27 million from the Brewers over the next two seasons before becoming a free agent in November of 2012.

It’s a no-brainer trade for the Brewers.  Some may question the wisdom of acquiring SS Yuniesky Betancourt in the same deal to be their starting shortstop: you now have to find a way to generate last year’s run production with Carlos Gomez in CF and Betancourt at SS.  That’s not going to be easy.  But with Greinke, the Brewers sport a rotation that rivals the Phillies for the best rotation in the National League.  They already had an ace-type in Yovani Gallardo, and Greinke gives the Brewers a pair of aces.  When you talk about having Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, you certainly have to think you have the best front-of-the-rotation in baseball.  Greinke and Gallardo, if nothing else, have to be in the same discussion.  The acquisition of Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays gives Milwaukee another front-line starter who, in the opinion of this writer, is better than National League-lifer Roy Oswalt.  While Randy Wolf is not going to provide the quality of Cole Hamels at his best, he’d be a no. 3 pitcher anywhere else.

Only the A’s and Giants may feature a rotation stronger than either the Brewers or the Phillies.  I don’t think the Rays or Twins or Tigers or White Sox — who all have strong and deep pitching rotations — quite qualify.  The edge for the Phillies over the Brewers this year will come by way of an established offense.  The Brewers are looking strong on offense again this year, but it’s a lot of speculative value: Prince Fielder should rebound, Mat Gamel and Casey McGahee should continue to produce.  Maybe Betancourt will hit more like he did in 2010 instead of his 2009 disaster season.  Gomez could still develop into a competent bat-handler.  2-6, the Brewers can absolutely clobber the baseball.  But this is not a great defensive team, and the Phillies are almost certain to be healthier than last year, even once you account for the fact that their lineup is aging.  The Brewers should be considered the favorite to win the NL Central in 2011, and in a playoff field, we’ll get to see the strength of another young, top-loaded rotation in baseball.

The other part of this trade is from the Royals perspective, where the haul received might only partially off-set what Greinke put the Royals through over the last five months.  This isn’t a particularly strong group of prospects.

What can be said in defense of this trade for the Royals is that 1) I firmly believe the timing was right: Greinke couldn’t pitch for the Royals again unless they were willing to let him walk at the end of the 2012 season in free agency.  2) If the Royals were going to trade with the prospect-depleted Brewers, they could not have done better than they did.  One exception is if the Royals had acted sooner and were able to acquire 2B Brett Lawrie, prior to him being dealt to the Blue Jays for Marcum.  The Royals recouped some value in terms of salary relief from Betancourt, saving $4 million of the $6 million he was owed.  In total, the Royals paid Betancourt $3 million for a season and a half, roughly breaking even on their investment.

I think, though, that the Brewers only made sense as a Royals trading partner from the Brewers perspective.  The Royals could have done better.  The centerpiece of this trade, if you want to call it that, is Escobar for Betancourt.  Big upgrade for the Royals, no doubt, but this was a Zack Greinke trade after all.  If this trade is to be profitable for the Royals, they will need to be able to look down on their division in 2013, and say that Escobar is an equal or better player to the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus.  I’m not optimistic.  Lorenzo Cain was a trade-able piece that the Brewers didn’t value very much, but knew the timing was right to sell on him.  He fills a need for the Royals, but doesn’t provide much value.

The Royals were able to grab the top two pitching prospects in the Brewers system, but the Brew Crew might actually be happy to be rid of the Jeremy Jeffress headache.  His upside appears to be a major league closer, leaving the Royals to gauge the future value of their current closer, Joakim Soria, by far their best pitcher.  Jeffress has two substance-abuse positive tests, and suspensions.  What strikes me about him is that it’s not clear that the Royals really even want him or think they can turn him into a star, but he’s the only player that would help get the Royals value.  The final piece is a really nice pitching prospect named Jake Odorizzi, who is about three years away from major league action.

Again, Escobar is THE prospect in this deal, and he fills the biggest need, and has likely the best upside.  He had a .288 on-base percentage for the Brewers last year.  That’s why this trade is less than exciting for the Royals.  I don’t doubt Escobar can be great someday, and I don’t doubt that he’s going to on-base over .310 this year.  But what the Royals lost was much more significant.  They traded their best player for some up the middle help.

I think, in the short term, this does break the Royals.  Billy Butler has three years remaining as a Royal, pending a contract extension.  He’s likely to remain in Royal blue though 2011, and then all bets are off after that.  He could be the next piece to fall.  I don’t see the Royals moving Joakim Soria anytime soon, as his contract sheds some light on a potential move to replace Greinke in the Royals rotation: there are 2012 bonuses built in for innings pitched, as well as games finished.  Plus, in trading Greinke now, the Royals were also smartly selling off some injury risk, which reports are were a fear of GM Dayton Moore in light of a season-ending David DeJesus injury that cost him a midseason trade last year.  The Royals have no such risk with Soria: most of his contract is built in in the form of contract options.  He’s team controlled through 2014, but the Royals can really stretch Soria out this year as a front line starter with very limited financial risk.

At the conclusion of the 2011 season, the Kansas City Royals will go practically overnight from one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the most promising.  The total amount of prorated salary the Royals have committed to major league contracts after 2011 is $4.5 million.  That’s for three pitchers (Joakim Soria, Aaron Crow, Noel Arguelles).  They had $15.5 million more committed prior to this trade to Betancourt and Greinke.  A majority of the Royals roster in 2012 is expected to be of cheap, home-grown players.  This isn’t rebuilding: it’s starting from scratch.

Which is why Greinke wanted nothing to do with the Royals anymore.  Paraphrasing his own words, Greinke had already been through two Royals rebuildings (2004 under Allard Baird, and again in 2007 under Dayton Moore).  Both GMs gave it the old college try, but could not find improvement that would satisfy their ace.  It was the humane thing to trade him, and the Brewers are a great situation for Greinke.

The loser here is the Royals.  There would have been other trade partners who would have offered the Royals more value than Moore got from the Brewers.  I think the Braves had more to offer, and so did the Rangers, among others.  The Brewers gave Moore as much as he needed to be willing to deal his ace.  This won’t go down in history as an epically bad trade.  But the Royals didn’t need to avert a conflict with their star so much as they needed to finally win something.  They are not the winner in this deal.  Greinke is.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: