Sunday, December 19, 2010
Greinke to Brewers, vetoes Nats?
The Royals agreed this morning to trade their ace right-hander (plus shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and $2 million) to Milwaukee for four players: center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and a pitcher-to-be-named (believed to be Jeremy Jeffress). That ends months of speculation about Greinke trade rumors, and whether the Nationals could find a way to land the 27-year-old former Cy Young Award winner.
The Nats most certainly made a legitimate effort to acquire Greinke. And, according to SI.com's Jon Heyman, they were even close to striking a deal that would have sent Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa and others to Kansas City. Greinke, though, vetoed that potential deal, as was his right since the Nationals were one of 15 clubs in his no-trade clause.
That, of course, was a major reason why Greinke-to-D.C. was always a long shot. After seven seasons toiling away for a Royals club that surpassed 70 wins only once, Greinke wanted a chance to contend now. Whether Milwaukee has the talent now to overtake the Reds and Cardinals in the NL Central remains to be seen. But the Brewers have a better chance of winning in 2011 and 2012 than the Nationals, at least in Greinke's mind, so that's why he'll be wearing blue and gold on Opening Day and not red, white and blue.
So what did Milwaukee give up to get two years of Greinke? Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Baseball America hasn't released its 2011 top 10 prospects ranking for the Brewers yet, but Escobar ranked No. 1 in their system (12th overall in baseball) last year, with Cain eighth and Odorizzi ninth. Cain, after putting up big numbers at Class AA, Class AAA and briefly in the majors, was expected to challenge for the starting center field job next spring. Odorizzi, a supplemental round pick in the 2008 draft, dominated Class A this year, striking out 135 batters in 120 innings. And Jeffress, a first-round pick in 2006, is a hard-throwing reliever with a 100 mph fastball who reached the majors this year.
Essentially, the Brewers traded what for the Nats would have been the equivalent of Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann and Storen. It's not a perfect comparison, because Cain is an outfielder and Odorizzi is still in the low minors while Zimmermann has reached the majors. But that's as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as I can come up with.
The Nats, of course, weren't offering all four of those guys. If Heyman's report is accurate, Mike Rizzo was willing to give up Espinosa, Storen and at least one more player (probably two). In my opinion, if Zimmermann was also in the package, that would have been too much to give up. A franchise in the Nationals' position needs all the young starting pitchers it can get. Trading away one promising young starter for another young (though obviously more accomplished) starter doesn't solve the long-term problem.
Had that deal gone down, the Nationals would have been looking at a 2011 rotation of Greinke, Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Yunesky Maya. Is that better than the same rotation with Zimmermann replacing Greinke? Of course. But it's still not a good enough rotation to contend for a postseason berth in 2011 and beyond. A rotation with both Greinke and Zimmermann (and eventually Stephen Strasburg) would have the potential to be something special.
But that's not going to happen. Greinke is on his way to Milwaukee, and the Nats are back to square one in their continuing search for more pitching.
Posted by Mark Zuckerman at 11:21 AM