Monday, December 20, 2010

Grienke Gets Traded

It was reported yesterday by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a trade between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Kansas City Royals had been completed. The centerpiece of that deal was the 27-year old 2009 American League Cy Young Award Winner Zack Grienke who had to waive his no-trade option to complete the deal. The Brewers receive Grienke and SS Yuniesky Betancourt. In exchange the Royals get SS Alcides Escobar, CF Lorenzo Cain and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Jeffress and $2 million in cash. So what does this trade mean to the two teams.

While the Brewers rotation doesn't have the success of the San Francisco Giants' group of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Johnathan Sanchez and the golden allure of the Philadelphia Phillies rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, I believe the trade puts the Brewers as the third best rotation in the league. Some Cardinal fans will disagree with me. Granted, do I think that Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter are a better and proved combination compared to Grienke and Yovani Gallardo (who are believed to be the one-two punch for the Milwaukee rotation) but the Brewers signed Shawn Marcum who pitched in the AL East against some of the toughest lineups game in and game out and Randy Wolf is a veteran pitcher that has pitched in many different situations. I believe the trade gives the Milwaukee Brewers a chance to make a serious run on the National League Central Division title with their core group of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks. Betancourt is another situation. (GRAPH COURTESY of Anthony Witrado of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

This is his third team in three years (Seattle Mariners 2008-2009, Kansas City Royals 2009-2010) and he has not lived up to the potential take Will McDonald's comments from his article Could 2011 Be Yuniesky Betancourt's Last Year With the Royals? from dated November 28, 2010:

Yuniesky Betancourt's "breakout" year in 2010 took some heat off of the embattled Royals shortstop. I mean, anytime you get a .288 OBP out of a guy over 588 PAs, with horrible defense, you take it. No questions asked. And with a monstrous .400 slugging percentage fueled by a career spike in HR/FB %, you've got a true cornerstone.

Nevertheless, might 2011 be the final year Yuni-bomb spends with the Royals?

Well, we know that he will never get the chance to play in Kansas City for the 2011 season but the projections don't look good. For McDonald to settle for Bentancourt's numbers as a scenario of the "lesser of two evils" says something about Betancourt's playing abilities. Mind you, he was playing for the Royals and McDonald was comparing Betancourt with the rest of the talent at SS with the Royals. The Brewers also re-signed Craig Counsell who provides a dependable security blanket for the team in case Betancourt doesn't work out.

In terms of the Royals, I refer to the wisdom of Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated. In his blog post from December 19th simply named The Greinke Trade Posanski had the following to say about the trade:

The Royals got prospects from Milwaukee, but that in and of itself means nothing. See: Prospects mean nothing. Every team has them. The question from Kansas City’s perspective is this: Did they get PLAYERS who can help them win? I have spent the day asking baseball friends that very question. The answers are mixed. This trade, from Kansas City’s perspective, is complicated and foggy and, in the end, probably pretty unsatisfying (if you’re a Royals fan). We’ll get to all that in a minute.

The trade from Milwaukee’s perspective, I think, is easy to categorize. It is glorious. Yes, they did deal four interesting young players — 24-year-old shortstop Alcides Escobar , 25-year-old (in April) centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, 23-year-old reliever Jeremy Jeffress and 21-year-old (in March) pitcher Jake Odorizzi — and yes, they now appear stuck with Yuni Betancourt as their everyday shortstop, and yes, their farm system is now utterly depleted (though I’ll bet they still have 30 prospects in the Baseball America book).

We see what side of the trade Posanski feels benefited from the deal and it is the team from the AL Central. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea who these players are that the Royals received in exchange for Grienke and Betancourt and I'll post Posnanski's review of the players to give you some information on them:

- SS Alcides Escobar: He’s by all accounts a gifted athlete with above-average speed and brilliant defensive ability. There are even those who think that he will eventually hit. He was a good enough prospect last year that the Brewers dealt away J.J. Hardy and made him their everyday shortstop. But in his first year, he did not hit a lick (.235/.288/.326). His 67 OPS+ — well, not many hitters in baseball history have rebounded from that to have a good offensive career. Ozzie Smith did. Terry Pendleton did. Not many others. Escobar also did not put up especially good defensive numbers, if you put any stock in those. The upside for Escobar is as a superior defensive shortstop who will get on base enough to steal bases and be an offensive plus. But that’s certainly no guarantee, and his future is further clouded as numerous scouts question his work ethic and motivation.

- CF Lorenzo Cain: Nobody questions Cain’s motivation; he seems to be a terrific athlete with even better makeup. The two names I heard most often in comparison are Denard Span and Torii Hunter, a couple of Twins centerfielders whom the Royals have jealously gawked at the last few years. Cain, though, turns 25 in April, and his minor league march has been slow and uneven and injury-plagued. He has only played 22 games in Triple-A. He has shown absolutely no power and only average plate discipline. He has the speed and instincts to be a fabulous defensive center fielder, which he could really show off in the enormous outfield at Kauffman Stadium.

- RHP Jeremy Jeffress: has a great arm — he has been clocked at 100, and he works at 94-to-98 mph. His problem has been control — both on and off the field. He has twice been suspended for testing positive for marijuana. You can pass your own judgments on that, but at the very least the second positive test suggests a player who has not taken his career very seriously. One more positive test, and he’s banned for life. And in the minors he walked 188 batters in 306 innings, though his command came on enough in 2010 that one baseball executive said it “improved dramatically.” He appears to be a reliever now — especially because he has not found an effective third pitch. You never know exactly how relievers with great stuff and questionable command will do.

- RHP Jake Odorizzi: is probably not worth spending too much time on right now — he’s still years away. He pitched well in Low A ball, and some of the people I spoke with like him, think he projects as a No. 3 starter. Others aren’t excited by his stuff and think he will struggle as he moves up in competition. There’s no telling for sure with a pitcher in Class A.

So there you go. It seems that in the short term the Brewers are the clear winners in the Grienke trade. They help their team tremendously in trying to win now before they might lose some young hitting due to salary increases. Give credit to Milwaukee's ownership for stepping up and showing its fanbase that it will do what is necessary (within means) to put a winning team on the field. For Kansas City, well lets say that the team is not only far removed from the 83-win season of 2003 but it seems like it is light-years away from the glory years of the mid 1970's to the mid 1980's. We'll see if the additions of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer can at least help keep the Royals competitive this upcoming season.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Zack Grienke's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for Yuniesky Betancourt's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for Alcides Betancourt's career statistics from
- Click Here for Lorenzo Cain's career statistics from
- Click Here for Jeremy Jeffress' career statistics from
- Click Here for Jake Odorizzi's career statistics from
- Click Here to access Tom Haudricourt's article Brewers pay high price to nab pitcher Greinke from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website dated December 19, 2010
- Click Here to access Tom Rosiak's transcript of the interview given by Zack Grienke on meeting the local press dated December 20, 2010
- Click Here to access Joe Posnanski's blogpost The Greinke Trade from dated December 19, 2010
- Click Here to access Joe Posnanski's follow-up to his article on the Grienke trade called Uh-Oh from dated December 20, 2010
- Click Here to access Bob Dutton's article Royals trade Grienke to Brewers from the Kansas City Star website dated December 19, 2010

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