Watch Out for Zack Greinke and the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011

Thomas BallingerContributor IDecember 27, 2010

MILWAUKEE - SEPTEMBER 28:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers congratulates teammate Ryan Braun #8 as they celebrate clinching the National League Wild Card after the game against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on September 28, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Cubs 3-1.  (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

With the acquisition of Zack Greinke, the Milwaukee Brewers are telling the rest of the National League they are a team to be reckoned with in 2011.

With Prince Fielder being a free agent after the 2011 season, the team could look a lot different in 2012. So why not go for it?

Outside of the Bronx, Boston and now seemingly Philadelphia, getting a chance to assemble a team to make a serious run does not happen every year. Especially in Milwaukee where the Brewers have been to the postseason only once since their World Series appearance in 1982.

The Brewers have assembled a modern day version of Harvey’s Wallbangers with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks. But current baseball economics will probably make this the last season to have this core of five hitters together.

The animosity between Fielder and the Brewers was well publicized when the Brewers signed Ryan Braun to a long term extension in 2008 after denying Fielder an extension. When Fielder hits the free agent market following the 2011 season, his agent Scott Boras figures to be looking for a deal in the Ryan Howard range. Howard signed a five year $125 million extension in April of 2010 and Fielder is four-and-a-half years younger than Howard.

The Brewers will almost certainly not pay that type of money, and Fielder almost assuredly will not be offering a "hometown discount."

Rickie Weeks could also walk after the 2011 season.

Weeks had a breakout season in 2010 with 29 homers and 83 RBI. He will be a free-agent after the 2011 season and will certainly command a big raise over the $2.75 million he earned in 2010. If he can come close to repeating his 2010 production, it would not be a stretch to see Weeks get a deal in the range of the five years and $60 million extension reportedly being offered to Dan Uggla who is two-and-a-half years older then Weeks.

The starting pitching staff is arguably the best ever assembled by the Brewers.

The addition of Greinke definitely gives them the potential to be force in 2011. The big question is how effective will they be?  At 27, Greinke will be entering his prime years very motivated. There is no argument he has number one stuff. But he has to prove he has the mental makeup to be a consistent number one starter for a playoff caliber team.

Yovani Gallardo should feel less pressure in 2011 by not having to be the number one. He has had a nice start to his career posting a sub 3.70 ERA in his first 500 career innings and at just 25 years old going into 2011 still looks to have upside.

Shaun Marcum looks to be fully recovered after missing 2009 with Tommy John surgery. He quietly put together two very respectable years in Toronto in 2008 and 2010. His combined ERA in those two years was under 3.65 and his WHIP was under 1.20. That is very impressive when you consider the number of games the Blue Jays play against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees If he adjusts to the National League he could be a huge addition to the Brewers rotation.

Randy Wolf  should be able to log 30 starts and 200 innings. If he can keep his ERA around 4.00 and get decent run support he should be in the range of the 13 wins he posted in 2010.

Chris Narveson looks to have the inside track for the fifth spot in the rotation. He was homer prone in 2010 allowing 21 in 167.2 innings. If he can keep the homers down in 2011 he has the potential to be decent number five starter.

The key for the Brewers is to find a way to get to the playoffs in a National League Central that has a resurgent Reds team, an always dangerous Cardinals team, a Cubs team that will spend year in and year out to try to contend.

With Greinke at the top of the rotation, and a lineup that has the potential to score runs off of anybody, the Brewers are definitely a team you would not want to see in a short series in the 2011 postseason.