Okay so Zack Greinke has been traded to Milwaukee along with Yunieskey Betancourt and 2 million dollars for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. But if you are reading this blog you already know that so I am going to jump right into my thoughts on the deal.
First off it seems that this deal is being viewed as a major disappointment among Royals fans across the blogosphere. This is also the group of people that are going to know the most about the rumors around the deal and the names of the top prospects in baseball. I like most of these fans have been salivating over the idea that the Royals would add an elite prospect via the Zack Greinke trade. Because the Royals did not acquire a big name blue chipper Royals fans are up in arms and most view the trade as a major disappointment.
I can't argue with Royals fans in saying that when I first read the names of the players going to Kansas City I was somewhat disappointed, because like most I had been daydreaming about prospects such as Kyle Drabek, Jesus Montero, or Jurickson Profar joining the current core that has been built. When the guys in the deal aren't the guys that you had been reading and daydreaming about over the last few weeks weren't involved it is a natural feeling to be disappointed.
When the players involved fit the exact desire of Dayton Moore it leads Royals fans to recall the nightmares of Allard Baird only fielding offers that included a near major league ready third baseman, catcher, and starting pitcher. This time though Moore wanted major league ready talent up the middle and two pitchers with frontline potential. The difference though is that Baird demanded certain players when he needed every kind of player, while Moore sought out certain positions because the other positions on the diamond have quality prospects that are near major league ready already.
Royals' fans are up in arms about the haul that Dayton Moore received, because the deal didn't include the guys that they had pinned as the guys other teams would give for Greinke. However, we only know of three other packages that had been discussed: Toronto, New York, and Washington. It is also well known that Texas coveted Greinke, however we have no inside sources that I can recall that gave specifics on the discussions.
*With Toronto it was rumored that the Royals sought a package beginning with Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider. However, the Blue Jays refused to include either Drabek or Snider. Even after this it was later reported that Kansas City liked a package offered by Toronto, but Greinke didn't want to take his services to Canada.
*With New York the Royals were seeking a package that included Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, and either Manuel Banuelos or Delin Betances. But the Yankees were concerned that Greinke wouldn't be able to handle New York.
*With Washington the Royals sought a package that included Jordan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, and Drew Storen. At one point Washington refused to include Zimmerman and at another Greinke vetoed a trade to Washington. (Both of these last points are speculation like all other deals are at this point.)
*Thanks to mlbtraderumors for this information.
In the end the Royals went with an offer from Milwaukee that their scouts and organization felt was the best option. Yes the Royals could have held Greinke but with as much as the organization talks about having a good atmosphere for the incoming prospects it wouldn't make much sense to hang on to a disgruntled superstar. Especially if the superstar isn't going to throw his slider because its too taxing on his arm and the year is a lost cause.
So let's analyze the players coming to Kansas City.
For those of you fans that are suggesting the Royals didn't acquire a top notch player realize that going into the 2010 season Escobar was considered a top 15 prospect and a prime rookie of the year candidate. Just because he posted a disappointing rookie season offensively doesn't mean that his potential is shot.
With Escobar is wasn't a secret that his offensive value would be batting average driven and when he hit .235 in his rookie year it was frustrating. But look deeper, because Escobar also posted a line drive percentage of 21.5%. Unfortunately for Escobar is that he also posted a *BABIP of .264. But wait! That doesn't make sense; typically BABIP is roughly .120 higher than line drive percentage. This would mean that his BABIP should have been .335. Well this is a crude estimate, but using an online translator we arrive at a BABIP of .315.
*BABIP= Batting average on balls in play
Take into account that Escobar also was in the 8-hole and you have to figure that he was probably getting pitched around the majority of the time he stepped into the box. If you couple that with the fact that he is a free swinging player then it would be expected that he isn't a guy that would take advantage of working the count. However, it is extremely reasonable to predict that he would be a player that could greatly benefit from hitting in front of a top notch hitter in the 2-hole for instance. (I realize that all players would but humor me for a second.)
A guy like Escobar could thrive being a 2-hole hitter in front of a threatening heart of the order. He should have above average contact skills, rack up steals and score runs just like he did in the minors. Also, by being in this spot his below average plate discipline could become less of a liability.
We haven't even mentioned Escobar's most appealing asset to the Royals: defense. Escobar has been called a defensive wiz and should be a top of the line defender for the next six seasons that he is in a Royals uniform. Because of this anything he does with that bat is gravy. Without Escobar the Royals projected infield for the future is Moustakas, Colon, Giavotella and Hosmer, defensively this could have been atrocious. But now Colon is able to shift to second with Escobar taking his place at short making the Royals' future infield defense look not just passable but even above average.
Escobar is an upgrade from Betancourt on day 1, but over the next several years his value could increase and he should become the first Royals fixture at shortstop in well... a very long time.
The other hitting prospect that the Royals received in the deal was Lorenzo Cain. To me Cain is the player with the lowest upside in the deal. However, scouts agree that he plays an above average centerfield and he has an arm that could play in right. This is a very good combination for a guy that could be the Royals starting centerfielder thru 2016.
This year in the majors Cain posted a very reasonable triple slash of .306/.348/.415. But if we are going to use the BABIP analysis in order to make Escobar sound better I should mention that Cain's BABIP was .370 even though he had a line drive percentage of 20.5%. Nonetheless if Cain continues to post a slash like the one he posted in his rookie year and his career minor league slash of .291/.366/.416 he is going to be an extremely productive Royal. Not to mention that Cain also stole 124 bases in his minor league career and was 7 for 8 in his rookie debut.
Even if Cain doesn't become a future star he could be the type of player that is consistently overlooked by other teams' fans but consistently praised by Royals fans. He fits the speedy mold that Dayton Moore is looking for in his future centerfielder and there is no doubt that he is a better prospect then both Derrick Robinson and Jarrod Dyson. Cain should be a good fit for Kauffman Stadium the speed that he brings to the table.
So Moore got the up the middle talent that he sought, but it was also rumored that Moore was seeking to pitchers with front of the rotation potential. He didn't receive a sure thing in this department by any means, but he definitely got two guys with frontline starter stuff.
Let's start with Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is a 19 year old righty that heading into the 2008 draft was viewed by some as the top high school pitcher available. He fell to 32nd overall and was nabbed by the Milwaukee Brewers and since has become their top starting pitcher prospect.
Over the course 188 professional innings Odorizzi has produced a 3.43 ERA and a 1.152 WHIP while averaging over 10 Ks per 9 innings to just 3 walks per 9 innings. This past season in the start after his worst of the season he threw 8 no hit innings... against the same team that had shelled him just a few days before. Odorizzi possesses a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a potential plus curveball, a slider and change that are works in progress and a smooth repeatable delivery.
Odorizzi should begin the season at the front of Wilmington's rotation with Tim Melville and with a strong start could be in Northwest Arkansas midway thru the season as roster adjustments trickle down throughout the system.
The other pitcher that the Royals acquired was Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress has had a bit of trouble laying off the wacky tobacky as a professional but after his second positive drug test, Milwaukee oddly enough decided to place him on the 40 man roster. Interestingly enough Marijuana is not tested for if you are on the 40-man, and three drug suspensions in the minors result in a lifetime ban. I don't want to jump to any conclusions so I am positive that this is totally, without a doubt, 100 percent a coincidence.
Like Odorizzi there is a possibility that Jeffress is ranked in Baseball America's top 100 prospect list, although the drug suspension and the fact that the Royals will already have such strong representation could hurt him. Jeffress is a hard thrower that touched 100 at several points last season, with a curveball that at times has also been a plus offering. Jeffress also has a change-up that needs work. With an easy repeatable motion and such a great fastball the potential is there for Jeffress to be a front end guy or a closer in the future. However, this past season all of his innings came out of the pen.
Jeffress is under team control through 2016, while Joakim Soria is under team control through 2014. Because of this I believe that one of the two should make a transition to the rotation. If the decision is made for Soria to do this, Jeffress becomes the closer of the future and there is a good chance that Soria becomes the righty cog that is needed among the flow of lefty prospects on the way. If the decision is made to leave Soria in the pen, then it is my opinion that Jeffress should begin the year in Omaha and pitch as a starter.
If by chance Jeffress can't handle it, then he should be a set up man for a couple of years under Soria and then when the Royals feel as though Jeffress is ready to be the closer in either 2013 or 2014 then Soria can be moved. Ideally with both players under control for so long, a solution can be found that enables both pitchers to maximize their value as members of the Kansas City Royals.
The other aspect of the Greinke trade that has not yet been discussed is the unloading of Yunieskey Betancourt. Now I have already had one Brewers fan try to tell me that he was simply a throw in and that the Brewers are considering cutting him now. Well I can tell you right now that this is optimistic thinking on his part and simply isn't the case.
I know the Royals are kicking in 2 million on this deal, but why would the Brewers acquire Betancourt too if they were just planning on cutting him. This simply isn't what is going on. The Brewers are going to start Betancourt at shortstop on Opening Day mark my words, and when Greinke steps on the mound and looks over his shoulder to the left of second base he is going to feel as though he has stepped into the twilight zone as Betancourt stares back at him.
A Major League executive said early today that any value gained by Greinke will be negated by Betancourt. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration but for the Brewers sake let's hope they wise up sooner rather than later.
For Royals' fans the departure of Betancourt means that they can devote their entire frustration on the plate discipline of Jeff Francouer. For the Royals they also save some money by unloading Betancourt. In fact over the next two seasons this trade saves the Royals about $28 million. It'd probably be unwise to spend much of that at this point in the 2011 offseason, but next offseason they will also have $11 million more coming off the books as Gil Meche becomes a free agent and the Royals could add a big name talent. Systems are go for Operation:2012.
The worst case scenario for Royals fans is that the players received don't pan out and the Brewers fall out of contention in 2011 and net a better haul for Greinke at the deadline. But the best case scenario is that this moves speeds up the countdown to contention and provides the Royals with multiple pieces for a contending team in the future. Wouldn't it be the ultimate irony if Milwaukee misses their one year window in 2011 and then the Royals contend in the 2012 season. The thought is so sweet that I can almost taste it.