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Greinke Traded To Brewers

Zack Greinke
There have been whispers all off season about Zack Greinke potentially getting traded. None of those circled around the Brewers, but nonetheless that's where he is going in a six-player swap. Milwaukee receives Greinke, old friend Yuniesky Betancourt, and the cash to buy out Betancourt's contract option next year.

Both Greinke and Betancourt are pretty well-known commodities, so I'll skip straight to the players that the Royals receieved. Judging from early reactions to the trade, there are mixed opinions on who Kansas City got. Here is the quartet in question:
  • SS Alcides Escobar - Ironically enough, the Brewers traded JJ Hardy last year because the deemed that Escobar was ready to be their shortstop of the future. Now, the Royals have finally filled a gaping hole on their roster. Alcides wasn't as good offensively or defensively as advertised in his rookie campaign, but it was his rookie campaign. I think his hitting will come around, and the Royals have a good starting shortstop that they can count on for the next five to six years.
  • OF Lorenzo Cain - At 24 years old with only 87 at-bats in AAA, I'm not that high on Cain. He has some power and some speed, but has an established track of being good yet not great every level he has played at. He looks like a reserve outfielder at best to me.
  • RHP Jeremy Jeffress - While just 23 years old, Jeremy's ascent through the minors was slowed considerably by a couple suspensions for drugs. It is something to keep in mind as he reaches the majors in the near future, if not by opening day 2011. Jeffress throws in the upper 90s, and at this point is effectively wild. Against lower competition, he is unhittable. Better competition has shown an ability to wait him out and work walks though. Bottom line, Jeffres is a little control away from being a great reliever.
  • RHP Jake Odorizzi - This 20-year-old is they key to the deal. He has a chance to be another Zack Greinke, but it is too early to tell. He was a first-round draft pick out of high school in 2008, and had a very promising 2010 season in low-A ball. He was a fast riser on draft boards in 2008, as is often the case with good pitchers from the midwest, like him (the high school baseball season is shorter in northern states, due to colder weather). Jake is tending towards a fly ball pitcher, but as his fly ball rate has increased, so has his strikeout rate.
This is an interesting trade from so many angles. To start with, from a national perspective, how about the Brewers beating out teams like the Yankees and Rangers for  a premier pitcher? How about a small market team like Milwaukee deciding to go after a marquee name like Greinke?

Maybe this will be known as the offseason of competitive balance, given this trade, Jayson Werth signing with the Nationals, and Cliff Lee rejecting the Yankees best offer. Granted, the Red Sox have done their thing, but there is some refreshing variety in who has legitimately pursued the premier players available this offseason.

From Milwaukee's perspective, this is a very bold move. There have been rumblings for a few years that they will eventually trade Prince Fielder because of money, yet here they are adding a huge piece. There is absolutely no way that they can afford both Fielder and Greinke long-term, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the situation.

My guess is that the Brewers will let Fielder walk when he becomes a free agent, and sink their resources into keeping Greinke. He did wave his no-trade clause to join the Brewers, and reportedly invoked it to stay off the Nationals. There is something about Milwaukee that Zack likes, and if the team wins, he will probably only like the franchise even more.

For now though, Milwaukee has both Prince and Zack, and I think they will do whatever they can to take advantage of the window they have. In other words, they are very much in a win-now mode.

For Kansas City, this is a surprisingly good deal. I actually like their end of the trade more than Milwaukee's. The Royals have been throwing out replacement level talent (at best) at shortstop for several years, and Alcides Escobar will be better than that. He could develop into a borderline All Star, but even if he doesn't, he will be a major upgrade. Even better, he is young, and under team control for five more years.

On top of Escobar, the Royals got two pitchers with upside, one with enough to potentially replace Greinke all on his own. While it would be foolish to orchestrate a trade where you expect Odorizzi to develop into the next Zack Greinke, Kansas City did not do that. If Jake becomes a reliable starter, this is a fair deal.

The key to successfully trading away a star is to get a return that has upside which, if fully reached, surpasses what was given up. Kansas City did that, though the real reason I think they are the clear winners of this deal is because Milwaukee now has a glaring hole at shortstop that they didn't before.