It’s not yet time to close the books on the Zack Greinke trade of a year and a half ago. That day won’t come for a long time.
But now is a great time to check the bottom line, to begin to gauge who is coming out better on the trade – the Royals or Brewers.
It will be years before we can judge just what the Royals let get away in Greinke, what they got in return in Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, and what the Brewers got in trading away Greinke on Sunday. But we can take a first look now that Greinke’s time in Milwaukee is finished.
By one standard, the Brewers came away from the trade as the decided victors. After all, they did reach the NL Championship series with Greinke, while the Royals haven’t sniffed the playoffs in a generation. After all, in the end, you play to win the World Series. The Brewers did what they could to make a run at it.
But taking a bit more of a long-term perspective, the balance tips currently in favor of the Royals.
While the Brewers have plummeted to fourth in the NL Central (nine games below .500 at the time of the trade), the Royals’ “process” sputters along. The Brewers found themselves in such need of help at a host of positions that it made sense to pack Greinke off rather than attempt to re-sign him.
Meanwhile the Royals are plugging into the process the pieces acquired a year and a half ago.
So the Greinke Adventure in Milwaukee lasted just a year and a half. But how good really was Greinke in Milwaukee?
At the time of the trade that sent him to Anaheim, his ERA of 3.44 this year was just 20th in the National League. His WHIP of 1.20 was also just 20th. His nine wins were tied for 16th. His WAR this year was 2.3, good for 15th among pitchers.
And while the Brewers made a run in the playoffs in 2011, you could argue Greinke was even worse that year than this. Last year his ERA, 3.83, was 34th in the NL. His WHIP of 1.20 was 15th. His WAR was just 1.4, 52nd in the league. His 16 wins did at least tie him for 6th in the NL.
But when the Brewers needed Greinke most, he was far from the star they traded for. His ERA in one playoff game against Arizona ? 7.20. And in two games, one a win and one a loss, in the NLCS versus St. Louis, his ERA was 6.17.
Greinke failed to make the All-Star Game in either season as a Brewer. He was not a fan favorite. He was not popular with teammates. He was not a leader.
In short, Greinke hasn’t been the Greinke of 2009 since, well, since 2009. That season stands out more and more as a statistical anomaly. A one-hit wonder who keeps cranking out tunes, but just can’t quite capture the sound of his Cy Young season.
The Brewers dealt away the shortstop of their future – Alcides Escobar – to get Greinke. So this year they were so in need of a shortstop that that’s essentially what they traded Greinke to get. They got Jean Segura, with a total of one game in the bigs to his credit. He’s currently getting his legs under him at Double A.
Meanwhile, Alcides Escobar may not be an All Star, but he should be. Just three years older than Segura, Escobar has established himself as one of the top fielders and hitters at the position in the American League.
Added recently to the Royals otherwise dismal lineup is Lorenzo Cain. The man who could soften the blow of the Melky Cabrera/Jonathan Sanchez disaster has rebounded from injury to flash some tremendous potential. So far he’s provided some pop with the bat. And when he’s fully healthy, he should be a dynamic fielder in center and a dangerous base runner too.
The Brewers also acquired from the Angels in Sunday’s trade two 23-year-old pitchers who were laboring unspectacularly in Double AA for the Angels.
In contrast, the Royals got in the 2010 Greinke trade 22-year-old Jake Odorizzi, who has asserted himself this year as one of the best pitching prospects in all the minor leagues.
And one final wild card in the equation is Jeremy Jeffress, who is still just 24 and is working to harness the talent that made him a first round draft choice in 2006.
Escobar and Cain are under team control through 2017. If “the process” is to finally succeed, they will be key components of it. Odorizzi will almost certainly be in the KC rotation next season. Jeffress might be back in KC before it’s all over too.
A year ago, the Brewers looked like they made the right move to get Greinke. But the more time passes, the more it looks like the Royals will come out the winners in that trade.
Check back in about a decade to see the final result. But right now, it looks like Dayton Moore is the winner in this trade.