The Milwaukee Brewers acquired ace Zack Greinke and SS Yuniesky Betancourt from the Kansas City Royals on Sunday for a package of prospects including SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, and P's Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.
While there have been many critics speaking out on the deal and claiming that Kansas City did not receive enough in return for their number one starter, this deal is really the epitome of a win-win for both sides.
In truth, Greinke has only had one truly stellar year. That came in '09 when he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA with 242 K's and a WHIP of 1.073. However before that, his lowest ERA stood at 3.47 and he only had one year with a record over .500. He had never broken the 185 K level before his explosion in '09. And last year Greinke sank back down to normalcy, seeing his K numbers dip down to 181 while going 10-14 with a 1.245 WHIP for KC.
Many have argued that Greinke would have been a better fit with the Washington Nationals or the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Kansas City's enormous asking price from both of those franchises was the tipping point in those deals falling apart.
From Toronto, the Royals were asking for both Travis Snider and top level pitching prospect Kyle Drabek who they acquired in the Cliff Lee three-team deal as the starting point of any Greinke deal. This package would have been enough on its own, if not an overpayment by Toronto.
Kansas City's asking price from the Nationals was ridiculously higher. Reports state that it would have taken a package of P Jordan Zimmermann, SS Ian Desmond, OF Michael Burgess and P Drew Storen for the Royals to even consider making a deal with Washington. If true, the Nationals made the best move of their offseason by backing out of the Greinke sweepstakes, and keeping four quality young players.
Which now brings us to the Milwaukee Brewers. The package of Escobar, Cain, Jeffress, and Odorizzi Milwaukee surrendered for Greinke was a hefty price for the Brewers to pay. But judging on the previous packages demanded from KC, it was one that had to be offered up. While this deal doesn't quite match the quality of overall prospects from the Nationals, and doesn't provide quite the name power of the youngsters from Toronto, it is just about the right level of quality young players needed to pry Greinke off of the Royals hands.
In Escobar, the Royals get a young, quality SS who could very well start for them this season and who was Milwaukee's number one prospect at age 24. While he doesn't hit for power, he has hit for a career average of .293 with peripherals of a .298 OBP, .335 Slugging Pct., and a .634 OPS to go along with 176 SB in the minors. These numbers make him a solid lead-off type hitter with power potential down the road and stolen base potential now. But his true value lies in his glove where he has been called a "defensive wizard". He has the potential to be one of the league's elite fielding shortstops if the Royals give him a shot to be their starting shortstop out of the gate.
In Cain, the Royals get a speedy young outfield prospect who had a tremendous 2010 campaign at the plate. Cain, also 24, hit .317/.402/.432 in the minor leagues last season and had a successful call up to the big league squad hitting .306/.348/.415 in just 148 plate appearances for the Brewers. Scouting reports on Cain have stated that while he does have some raw power, his true potential lies as a gap hitter Like Escobar, Cain also provides speed on the bases. Across the majors and minors last season Cain stole 33 bases successfully out of 37 attempts. He has the speed to turn those gap hits into doubles easily, possibly even triples playing in some big AL Central parks in Detroit, Minnesota, and Cleveland 27 times a year.
And finally in Jeffress and Odorizzi, the Royals get two former first round picks who have the potential to be quality starters at the Major League level.
In Jeffress, the Royals get a young pitcher with tremendous potential. While has has a top level arm, hitting 100 on the radar gun with ease, he has had some control problems; both on and off the mound. His career BB to K ratio in the minors sits at 5.5, a number he must bring down significantly in order to become a regular starter in the AL. If not for repeated off the field incidents, Jeffress might already have seen extensive time in the majors for Milwaukee. However, his problems with substance abuse have caused him to miss a combined 100 games between 2009 and 2010 and he has only had a small stint at the Major League level. While he has the talent to come into KC and immediately become one of their top arms, he'll need to calm down just a bit. Hopefully a change in scenery can provide him with that.
Finally in Odorizzi, the Royals get yet another top level arm. Rated as the number one high school pitcher in America before the 2008 season, he has not yet reached the Major League level, but has the potential to be one of KC's better young arms along with Jeffress. At Class A last season, Odorizzi recorded a BB/K ratio of 10.1 per nine innings and had a respectable ERA of 3.43 in 120 2/3 innings.
In Greinke, the Brewers now have the potential to have one of the better 1-2 top of the rotation punches in the NL behind Philadelphia, San Francisco, and St. Louis. That is, of course, if Greinke can return somewhat to his '09 form. Pitching in the NL and a favorable ballpark may just allow him to do so. The Brewers had stated throughout the offseason that their main goal was to improve pitching wise, and with Greinke and newly acquired Shaun Marcum , they have done just that. Greinke and a healthy Marcum should be able to assist greatly in improving a Brewers staff who had an ugly combined ERA of 4.65 in the '09-'10 season.
For KC, if these young players reach fruition, the Royals will have a great core of young players under their control for a long time. Escobar and Cain are players who can come up to M.L. level immediately and help out greatly. Jeffress and Odorizzi only help to build on an already impressive list of young arms in the KC system that already includes Mike Montgomery, Aaron Crow, and Tim Melville. Lefties Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer have boatloads of potential as well. Position wise, KC is also stacked with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers and Kila Ka'aihue, who has already seen some major league action. The Royals were able to move Yuniesky Betancourt out to Milwaukee in the deal as well, dumping some salary and opening a slot at SS for Escobar to step in.
Overall, both sides were able to fill a need with this deal. Kansas City was able to cut the $27 million owed to Greinke over the next two years, after which Greinke was sure to test the free agent market. In return, they get four solid young players who have the potential to see big league time sooner than later. From the Brewers standpoint, they are able to correct the area of which they have been the weakest over the last few years. New additions Greinke and Marcum allow the Brewers to start a formidable rotation of Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and one of Chris Narveson or Chris Capuano. Along with returning sluggers Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and a breakout year from Rickie Weeks, the Brewers should be able to compete for a playoff spot out of the NL Central, if not a Wild Card Run.