The Brewers said this offseason they were looking to add two starters after a dismal 2010. After acquiring Shaun Marcum less than two weeks ago, the Brewers made a huge splash today in reeling in Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. Along with Greinke, Yunieski Bentancourt heads to Milwaukee in exchange for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.
My first reaction to this trade was skepticism. There is no question Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but at what cost was he coming to Milwaukee. A lot of young talent was shipped in this trade. Young talent that also was very cheap and could have helped for a longtime. It's very difficult to analyse this trade considering just how many variables go into it.
In Greinke, the Brewers have landed an absolute ace and now have one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Placing Greinke with Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson, the Brewers rotation really only trails the Philadelphia Phillies compilation of studs. If this season can tell us anything, pitching wins games in baseball. With the staff the Brewers have assembled this offseason, winning games should happen pretty often in Milwaukee. At least for the next two years.
Greinke, 27, is locked up through the 2012, making $13.5 million each of the next two seasons. With a contract extension with Greinke being very tough, this essentially is the window for the Brewers to win. Over the past three seasons, Greinke has racked up an average WAR of 6.5 a season. That was highlighted by his 2009 season, where after posting a 9.4 WAR, he was awarded the American League Cy Young award. He regressed a little bit last season and saw his ERA raise from 2.16 in 2009, to 4.17 in 2010. While a drop in strikeouts could have been to blame, I would say his numbers were a little skewed by a low LOB% (runners left on base). His career average was 76.3% before last season, but he saw that fall to 65.3%. His FIP of 3.34 last season is a much better representation of where his numbers should have been. Coming over to the NL Central, Greinke should thrive. There is no question he could be a Cy Young candidate again in 2011.
It was really tough to see Lorenzo Cain go in this deal. He has been a pleasant surprise during his time in Milwaukee. Couple that with him playing meant Carlos Gomez wasn't, and many will understand just why Cain quickly became a fan favorite here. But, by all accounts, this was the right time to sell Cain. High. There's no question Cain posted good numbers while in Milwaukee, but he had two things working against him.
Cain's BABIP was one of the main reasons he was excelling. During his three stints in different levels last year, Cain had BABIP's of .402, .371 and .370. There is no doubt those numbers are unsustainable and will come down. If Cain is going to be a good major league player, his strikeout numbers need to come down from the 20% range. If he continues to strikeout at that pace, his value will be limited.
Yunieski Bentancourt. Yikes. In trading for Bentancourt the Brewers have acquired one of the worst shortstops in baseball. He can't hit. He doesn't walk. He's not fast. He doesn't play defense. That about sums up Bentancourt's game. His career line of .272/.296/.393 is not inspiring. He does have some power, which should only improve after trading in the very large ballparks in Seattle and KC for Miller Park. He was able to post a career high 16 home runs last season. Even though, if you are expecting a good hitter in return, keep dreaming.
But wait, Alcides Escobar couldn't hit either. While that may be true, Escobar was at least capable with the glove. Bentancourt isn't. Over the past three seasons, his UZR of -37.6 ranks at the bottom for major league shortstops. In 2009, Bentancourt had a -16.7 UZR, the same season where he had an incredibly bad -1.7 WAR. Yes you read that correctly: a -1.7 WAR. The more playing time Bentancourt gets, if any, hurts the Brewers and the value of this trade. He has one year left on his contract, where the Brewers will need to pick up $3 million and a $2 million buyout the Royals will pick up next year in the trade. I really wonder if acquiring Greinke and Bentancourt together was the only way. My guess is it was.
The Brewers parted with a lot of cheap, young talent in this trade. The key to creating a successful franchise is building a good farm system and utilizing them before they are eligible to cash in big. By trading players like Escobar, Cain, Odorizzi and Jeffress, the Brewers forfeited that. The player I'm most worried about giving up in this trade is Odorizzi. Yes he is years away from the bigs, but he has all the tools to be a good front line starter. Parting with him and Jeffress, two pitching prospects, in the same trade is tough to swallow. Especially considering the lack of pitching prospect the Brewers have.
After the trade was first announced, I was disappointed. I'm starting to come around to it however. The Brewers did give up a lot, but really didn't part with proven major league talent, or top tier prospects (other than Odorizzi). In order to acquire a pitcher like Greinke, you are going to have to give up talent. I think the Brewers gave up their share of that in this trade, but have set themselves up for a really good team for the next two years. What worries me is what happens after that. A trade that wipes out a good portion of your farm system can be very tough to cope with over the long haul. It's trades like that that can set up teams for prolonged periods of losing. I'm beyond excited for the next couple of seasons, but worried to say the least for what happens after that.