Monday, December 20, 2010

Brew Crew Lands Greinke

I was a little [read: a lot] surprised to read on Saturday that the Brewers landed Zack Greinke in a 4-for-2 trade that saw Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi go to the Royals in exchange for the right-hander, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM cash. Escobar and Cain both played at the Major League level last year while Jeffress and Odorizzi fall solidly into the prospect category. I can't help but feel a little sad for Royals fans, this is the umpteenth good player to leave the organization in the last 10 years, not many people attend Royals games anyway, but they may have even less reason to now.

In examining the trade, it actually looks pretty good, and even has the potential to benefit the Royals more than the Brewers long-term; let's go player-by-player: 

1.) Alcides Escobar - SS
Escobar was considered a 5-Star prospect (their highest rating) by Baseball Prospectus and was also considered the Brewers top prospect by Baseball America prior to last season. He spent the entire year up with the Major League club after a spot opened up following the JJ Hardy trade. Escobar was underwhelming at the plate with a .235/.288/.326 hitting line. However, he was above-average defensively and he is only 24. Not only that, his Minor League track record (.293/.333/.377) suggests he's likely to become a much more consistent hitter at the plate. If that were to happen and his defense was to continue to be above-average, he would quickly become one of the more valuable shortstops in the game. 

2.) Lorenzo Cain - CF/OF
Cain also got Major League experience last year and showed off quite a bat (.306/.348/.415 in 158PAs). Cain was drafted by the Brewers in the 17th round of the 2004 draft and though he spent parts of 6 years in the Minors, he is still only 24 years old and has not only proven he can hit, he has also flashed some excellent speed and base-stealing abilities. Between 2 minor league levels and the Majors last year, he stole 33 bases while only being caught 4 times. Cain figures to be an everyday CFer for the Royals and if he can keep that hitting up, could be a superstar in a short time. 

3.) Jeremy Jeffress - RP/SP (maybe)
Jeffress was selected by the Brewers with the 16th pick in the 2006 Amateur Draft. To say the Royals are taking a major gamble on Jeffress is an understatement. Jeremy has had numerous substance abuse problems and that resulted in a 100-game suspension in 2009 causing him to miss most of 2009 and half of the 2010 season. When Jeffress has been pitching, he's been great at times, highlighted best by this past season which saw him pitch in 24 games and compile a 2.23ERA and 0.92WHIP in 32.1 innings while striking out batters to the tune of 12.0 per 9-innings pitched. Jeffress' best pitch is his fastball which averaged 96-mph this past year. That is some rare-company, only 2 starting pitchers and 6 relievers averaged a faster fastball this past season. If Jeffress can stay away from drugs and stay on a straight-line, he could be incredibly valuable, but again, considering his track record, it's quite a gamble. 

4.) Jake Odorizzi - SP
Odorizzi was taken in the 1st round (32nd pick) of the 2008 Amateur draft and is easily the most unpolished prospect in the deal having only reached Single-A this past year. That said, he probably has the most upside and is an pretty intriguing prospect having compiled a 3.43ERA, 1.15WHIP and 10.1 K/9 in 120.2 innings as a starter last season. As impressive as those stats is the fact that he's just a kid at 20-years-old. More than a few articles have used the words "sensation" and "phenom" when talking about Jake and considering he was drafted in the 1st round right out of high school, there may be something to that. More than likely we will see Odorizzi pitching in the Majors within the next two years and he has the potential to be the Royals next Greinke.

So I couldn't help but compare the Brewers offer to what the Twins could have offered...let's just say, the comparison isn't much of a comparison at all. Even if the Twins had given up their two best prospects which is generally thought of to be some combination of Revere, Hicks and Gibson it wouldn't really approach the potential of Odorizzi and Jeffress, and then you throw two young talents like Cain and Escobar,, the Brewers really "gave away the farm" to get Greinke and that's no understatement. If they don't win a World Series title within the next couple of years (or this year for that matter), they will toil in mediocrity for awhile because unless they raise payroll substantially they will lose Prince Fielder and possibly Ryan Braun as well leaving them with a tattered infield and outfield and no decent prospects to replace them. Good luck Brewers!

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