Posted by Steve
“Mizuno gave me a samurai sword for winning the Cy Young. It’s awesome. … I’m going to hang it up and maybe start a collection. Not a gun collection, but a samurai sword collection. If you can do it. I don’t know if you’re allowed.”
-Zack Greinke, on letting his parents keep his Cy Young Award while he keeps the sword.
Wow. What a day.
I heard about the Greinke trade this morning, yet I’m just getting around to posting now because I was checking for updates and reading about it for much of the day. My immediate reaction was that of over-the-top excitement that bordered on embarrassing. After a day to let everything settle, I can say that I’m at least as excited about this deal as I was for the CC Sabathia trade. To be honest, this is likely to have a bigger impact baseball-wise than that deal.
Before I really get into this, I just want to say that I will once again be wearing my “Melvin: The Man, the Myth, the Mustache” t-shirt with pride once again. After the past couple seasons, I said that I at least wanted to see some creativity from Doug. No more free agent signings of over-the-hill pitchers as their main off-season move.
“I feel like I’ve acquired a CC Sabathia except for two years and maybe longer. It feels good. It was a costly trade. We gave up a lot of good, young players. This is a credit to our scouting and player development people to have the kind of young players it takes to make a trade like this.”
Kudos to you, Doug. This was an incredible move.
I’ll see how much I cover here, because there’s A LOT to get through. First, I might as well talk about what the Brewers gave up.
SI’s Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite baseball journalists, called the players the Brewers gave up “interesting.” I think that’s a great way to describe them. Interesting, not great or sure things. No prospect in this group was elite. If I had to rank them in order of my disappointment in losing them, it would look like this:
1. Lorenzo Cain
Cain is number one for me because he is the most developed and therefore most ready to contribute right away. If there’s one thing I’ve concluded since I became a baseball nut, it’s that prospects are not worth nearly as much as proven big leaguers. Cain has proven himself in the minors, and he’s ready to get his shot as a starting center fielder. Losing Cain hurts the Brewers more in 2011 than any of the other three players they lost.
2. Jake Odorizzi
Odorizzi probably had the highest ceiling of any Brewers pitching prospect. He has a good chance to be their best drafted starting pitcher since Yovani Gallardo. Yet, he is only 20 years old and hasn’t touched AA yet. There is still plenty left to do before he can become a good big league starter. The saying “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect” comes to mind here, as it will take at least two seasons in all likelihood until he really contributes at the major league level.
3. Alcides Escobar
How his star has fallen in a year or two. If you visited this blog at all last season, you know I was not very high on Escobar. He was never a good hitter at any level of the minors, which is why I didn’t understand the rush to get him to the majors. All we heard about was his incredible defense, yet I was mostly underwhelmed by his glove last season–especially when compared to the steady glove of J.J. Hardy. It certainly wasn’t enough to make up for his terrible offense and poor plate discipline.
He’s still young, and he could certainly develop into a capable offensive shortstop. Still, the Brewers aren’t likely to get worse production in 2011 from the shortstop position than last season, no matter who they throw out there. It’s why I don’t mind losing him.
4. Jeremy Jeffress
I loved following Jeffress in the minors. Love his high k rates and his high velocity. I also felt he was the most ready to contribute to the Brewers next season out of all their prospects. Yet, most scouting reports I read on him have him eventually ending up in the bullpen because of the lack of a third effective pitch. No matter how much I like a pitcher, his value is severely lessened if he ends up in the bullpen.
I don’t mean to make it seem like I don’t think the Brewers paid very much. They gave up a lot. All four players are highly regarded, and three of them are likely to be big leaguers next season. Thing is, while all four of these players could end up as good major leaguers, none project to have anywhere near the value that Greinke has right now. In fact, none are even close to the level of prospect that Greinke was as a minor leaguer. This is very much a quantity for quality deal, and a general rule of thumb is that quality trumps quantity.
Going beyond a simple rule of thumb, this deal makes a ton of sense for the Brewers. Their hand for 2011 was forced by the lack of a decent trade market for Prince Fielder. Once they realized they weren’t likely to get a good return for Prince, they went into win-now mode. This was definitely reflected in the Marcum deal. You can argue that the farm system is gutted, that they may have given up good players, and that their defense is a mess. One thing you can’t argue, though, is that they suddenly have a great rotation to go along with a good offense.
I could look closely at the numbers to explain why Greinke is a huge addition, but I’m not really sure that’s necessary. It’s widely accepted that Greinke is on the very short list of the best starting pitchers in baseball, is only 27, and is under contract for two more years (with a possible extension looming?). Plus, I’m not really going to say much here that you can’t find in 20 other articles/posts that analyze Greinke’s impact. Instead, I’ll just add some of my own observations.
- Greinke reminds me so much of my favorite Brewer ever, one Ben Sheets, that it’s crazy. They are/were awesome right handed starting pitchers with great stuff and command, but more specifically, they’re both funny people who are extremely quotable. Not to mention, I did a comparison of them a while back. Finally, Greinke’s most similar player through age 26 according to Baseball Reference is… You guessed it: Ben Sheets.
- What is Ken Macha thinking right now? He must feel like he’s taken a swift kick to the groin. He was fired largely because the Brewers’ pitching was terrible, but that wasn’t his fault. Now as soon as he gets canned, this happens. On the other hand, congrats Ron Roenicke on turning the Brewers around! You know people will be saying it next year; you just know it.
- The Brewers really gave up five pieces in this deal: the four players to get Greinke, and then having to take back Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt is gawdawful. Not only is his defense bad, but he has absolutely miserable plate discipline. He has a career on-base percentage of .288 and a career walk rate of… Brace yourself… 3.4 percent! The Brewers cannot allow Betancourt to be their main shortstop. I’d rather sign someone like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera. I’d even prefer Craig Counsell over Betancourt, except Counsell can’t handle a full season at this point. They need to find another option at shortstop somewhow.
- What about center field now that Cain is gone? It sure looks like a Dickerson/Gomez platoon. One idea: check in with Boston on Mike Cameron. They just signed Crawford and now have an outfield of Ellsbury, Crawford and Bay. Might as well check on shortstop Marco Scutaro, too.
- Even though they’re downgrading at center field and shortstop, their production next season really can’t be much worse than what it was last season. Cain is a better option than Gomez for sure, but remember that Cain wasn’t up until the season had pretty much gotten away from the Brewers. In other words, most of their center field production came from Gomez. And even though Betancourt is a bad player, he and Escobar had an identical WAR of 0.6 last season.
- Fun fact: the leader in WAR over the last two years is Zack Greinke with 14.7. The player with the worst WAR over the last two years? That’d be Yuniesky Betancourt with -1.2. In other words, you could say the Brewers acquired the best player and the worst player in baseball.
- I’m still very concerned about the Brewers’ defense, in fact, probably even more than I was before this trade. Their infield defense in particular looks very bad. While its impact may be lessoned with more strikeout pitchers than last season, it’s still ugly. Doug’s signature move of the off-season is complete, but I’d still like to see him explore options to improve the club defensively. Maybe try dangling either McGehee or Gamel along with Betancourt (or heck, just DFA Betancourt) to see about a shortstop/bullpen/center field upgrade.
- Even though it hurts to give up Jefress and Odorizzi, the Brewers suddenly don’t have as big of an immediate need for pitching. Their top four in their rotation is set for the next two seasons. Plus, they still have some young, cheap impact arms in the form of Zach Braddock, Mark Rogers, and John Axford.
- The Brewers’ farm system may now be the worst in baseball, but they’ll have some chances to restock it soon. They have two first rounders next season due to the Dylan Covey fiasco, and they’ll have some comp picks when Fielder walks in a year (hopefully they won’t have additional comp picks from Rickie Weeks).
All things considered, this was a great day to be a Brewer fan. They went from a mediocre team to probably the division favorite in the span of a couple short weeks. The only downside to this is that we still have to wait more than three months for Opening Day.