Zack Greinke is still trying to live up to expectations in Milwaukee.
We've reached the quarter pole in the MLB season and that means evaluating the off-season moves of our favorite teams. No move was more important to the Kansas City Royals than the trade of 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke (and much-maligned SS Yuniesky Betancourt) to the Milwaukee Brewers for SS Alcides Escobar, RP Jeremy Jeffress, OF Lorenzo Cain and prospect Jake Odorizzi.
The trade signaled an aggressive move towards youth by KC general manager Dayton Moore. A risk, sure, but a calculated one. Let's take a look at the trade results from both sides.
Kansas City Royals:
-Alcides Escobar: The young shortstop has been a defensive standout this season, flashing incredible range in making plays that Royals fans will assure you wouldn't have been met by Yuni. But his offense has been truly abysmal. Escobar is putting up a .525 OPS, which includes a .258 OBP. He's only had seven extra-base hits all year, all doubles.
Despite his Jason Kendall-esque offensive production, Escobar has been so good in the field that Royals fans can give him a pass for his performance at the plate. For now.
-Jeremy Jeffress: Despite Jeffress' early season success, he had a curious stretch at the beginning of May where he didn't pitch for 11 days. Manager Ned Yost finally put him into the 19-1 drubbing by the Cleveland Indians on May 16 and he predictably got shelled.
Jeffress throws high 90's heat, though, so he will have a spot in the rotation as long as he can get it over the plate. He still has a 3.60 ERA despite the tough performance Monday. He should be a valuable bullpen piece moving forward.
-Lorenzo Cain: Cain is on the verge of a big-league call-up and I feel like it will happen before the trade deadline. After that, he projects as a starting center fielder. Cain has put up an .830 OPS so far with AAA Omaha despite registering 31 strikeouts to just 10 walks. He's also stolen five bases without a caught stealing and has maintained a solid reputation in the field.
It's too early to tell long-term, but Cain looks like a keeper.
-Jake Odorizzi: As it turns out, Odorizzi has turned into the prize of the Greinke trade. He has been lights out in High-A Wilmington, where he's thrown 36.2 innings with 55 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. He is clearly ready for a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and may have pushed forward his timetable for getting to the big league squad.
Odorizzi is still at least a year from impacting the Royals rotation, but that is still an impressive feat for the 21-year old. His presence in the deal was a game-changer for the Royals, and general manager Dayton Moore deserves all sorts of credit for insisting upon Odorizzi.
Dayton Moore said at the time of the trade that Odorizzi "fits in with a young group of pitchers that, hopefully, we have coming with the next wave.”
Are The Royals Better Off Without Greinke?
It looks like that wave could be coming sooner rather than later.
And now for the Milwaukee Brewers:
-Yuniesky Betancourt: Royals fans were all ecstatic to see Betancourt go and their giddiness appears well-founded. Betancourt has been about as bad as Escobar, even sporting an OBP of .250, eight points worse than Alcides. Betancourt does have a bit more pop, but his .576 OPS does nothing to impress.
He will make an incredible play or two, but Betancourt's defense has long been his achilles heal. Go ask Brewers fans who they would rather have penciled into the shortstop slot every day, and I think you'll get all the answers you need about this aspect of the deal.
-Zack Greinke: Greinke missed the first month-plus of the season after injuring his ribs playing basketball. Not the best start in Milwaukee and it will not help Brewers fans forget his $13.5 million salary and multi-prospect price tag.
Even since his return, Greinke has been a bit hit and miss. His peripherals look good, however, as he's had 20 strikeouts and just two walks in 15 innings pitched so far. Not so good that fans will overlook his 6.60 ERA, but it should help to swallow that somewhat bitter pill.
Overall, Greinke needs to give the Brewers a long playoff run either this year or next to be worth his price tag and I'm not sold that that's is going to happen. He will be a well above average pitcher, however, and will most likely earn all of his $13.5 million salary.
The Royals have two major-leaguers out of the trade already, with arguably the two more valuable pieces still toiling in the minors. While it will ultimately depend on Odorizzi's continued development, I think it is safe to say that the Royals feel that they maximized the return on their former ace. And that's all a good fan can ask.