Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brewers Land Greinke

Late last night, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Brewers and Royals have agreed to a trade that would send 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke to the Brewers for SS Aclides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, and starting pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.

To quote Jon Malkovich from the movie Rounders, "Like a young man coming from a quickie, I feel so unsatisfied."  That pretty much sums up my reaction to the Brewers landing ace Zach Greinke from the Royals.  I'm not upset that the Brewers won the Greinke sweepstakes, but I'm not thrilled either.  Sure, it's not sexy, but that's not really an issue for me.  Most moves aren't sexy.  My bone of contention stems from the fact a trade occurred so quickly.  Now that Jeter and Lee have made their decisions, I was really hoping the Greinke trade talks would spur conversation, rumors, and innuendos for a couple of weeks.  Instead, it ends just as things were starting to were really starting to heat up. 

What does this mean for the Brewers?
It's pretty clear what the Brewers get out of this trade.  In Greinke, they have the top of the rotation starter that they've been missing since C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets left town via free agency after the 2008 season.  Greinke has excellent command of four pitches.  His fastball and sliders are both plus pitches (registering at least +10 runs on Fangraphs' pitch type value scale), and his curveball and change-up are right around league average.  Greinke has great control (career BB/9 rate of 2.27), and has excellent movement on each of his four pitches.  While he saw a drop in his both his K/9 and swinging strike rates from 2009 to 2010, he should see a bounce back next season as he moves to the National League. With Greinke, the Brewers now have a starting rotation that can compete with the Reds and Cardinals in the NL Central.  Yovanni Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, and Randy Wolf will, more comfortably, slot into the two, three, and four spots in the rotation.  Without Greinke, they would've been out of place in the top three spots.

This trade leaves a couple of holes on the field for the Brewers.  As a result of the trade, the Brewers are without their projected starting shortstop and center fielder.  While they have options to replace Cain in center with either defensive whiz Carlos Gomez and former Red Chris Dickerson, neither are long term solutions.  They could look to the free agent market, but that's looking pretty thin right now at the outfield position.  Available players include the veritable pu pu platter that is Kevin Mench, Andruw Jones, Brad Hawpe, Xavier Nady, Manny Ramirez, and Randy Winn.  None of those players are good options to either play CF, or accumulate 600 plate appearances.  They could look to trade for an outfielder (perhaps with Oakland who has a surplus of outfielders?), but the Brewers aren't in a position to trade away any more prospects in the aftermath of the Greinke and Marcum trades.  The free agent shortstop situation is just as bleak with Cesar Izturis and Edgar Renteria remaining as the best of what's still available.  Yikes!

What does this mean for the Royals?

Aclides Escobar - Well, for starters, the Royals finally have a decent defensive shortstop in Aclides Escobar.  (Adios, Yuniesky Betancourt.)  At 23, Escobar looks like he could be best described as a poor man's Rey Ordonez.  While he should provide plenty of value on the defensive side of the ball, he'll be a black hole on offense.  He doesn't hit for average, has no power, and has poor on base skills.  In his first full major league season, he put up a putrid .270 wOBA (-22.5 wRAA), which was good for third worst in the majors among qualified players.  He doesn't project to get that much better offensively as he enters his prime (around a replacement level .300 wOBA).  Still, Escobar should stabilize a defense that's been consistently poor over the past decade. 

Lorenzo Cain - Cain, a former 17th round pick in the 2004 amateur draft, has long been considered one of the Brewers top prospects.  He's been described as a "very toolsy" player whose bat is a "boom or bust investment."  In layman's terms, he's still pretty raw.  Cain was an excellent defensive right fielder before the Brewers moved to center because he didn't fit the offensive profile of a corner outfielder.  He has above average speed and good range in center, so he profiles to be average to above average at the position.  Offensively, Cain still strikes out too much.  His patience and plate discipline has improved in recent seasons, which has resulted in an increased walk rate.  While he has quick wrists and raw power, it's unknown whether his raw power will ever translate into "in game" power.  The Royals desperately needed a young center fielder, and Cain fits the bill. 

Jake Odorizzi - The Royals already have a treasure trove of top pitching prospects.  With Odorizzi, it just got deeper.  You can never have too much young pitching.  Odorozzi has four pitches, which includes a four seam fastball that registers between 90-94 MPH; a two seam sinker that registers between 88-92 MPH; a plus-curve ball; and an average slider that has late movement.  Most scouting reports that I've read state he has "smooth" or "clean" mechanics, good command of all of his pitches, and mixes them up well.  Should he reach his potential, he projects to be a number two or three starter in the majors.  This is a very solid pick-up by the Royals.

Jeremy Jeffress - Jeffress is one of those great stuff, terrible command prospects.  If he puts it all together, he could be a top of the rotation guy.  If not, he'll probably end up as a fringe back of the rotation starter or run of the mill relief pitcher.  Add in his substance abuse problems (two suspensions for testing positive for "a drug of abuse"), and his future is even cloudier.  That said, Jeffress, 23, has the kind of potential that most teams can't turn their backs on.  The Royals, who already have a system full of high potential pitching prospects, can afford to take a chance on the troubled right-hander.  Jeffress's fastball is farily straight, but has plus plus velocity, registering between 95-98 MPH.   His 11-6 curve ball has the potential to be above average, but his command with the pitch is very inconsistent.  His change-up is a fringe-average show pitch at best.  Unless he can both develop his change up and harness his command, it's likely Jeffress will be moved to the bullpen where he could be very effective as a late inning set-up man or a second tier closer. 

All things considered, it's a pretty solid trade for both sides.  Personally, I think the Royals could have gotten more for Greinke had they been a little more deliberate in their negotiating tactics.  The package they reportedly requested from the Nationals (RP Drew Storen, SP Jordan Zimmerman, and 2B prospect Danny Espinoza) was potentially a better deal.  Apparently, that deal was very close to coming to fruition.  According to SI's, Jon Heyman Greinke put the kibosh on the deal by invoking his no trade clause.  Either way, both teams got what they needed.  The Brewers acquired an ace, and the Royals received the help up the middle they desperately needed.

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