The Kansas City Royals have traded star right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Alcides Escobar, centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, minor league pitcher Jake Odorizzi, and the famous PTBNL. Royals shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt will also be going to Milwaukee as part of the deal, along with $2 million.
Before we dig deep into the analysis, let's start with what we do know. SB Nation Kansas City has been following the Greinke trade watch since the Winter Meetings earlier this month. The 2009 Cy Young winner was often associated with rumors to the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and recently the Washington Nationals. Things really started to heat up last night when a blogger at Bernie's Crew first reported a deal was in the works to send Greinke to Milwaukee. As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, more reports came out that in fact Kansas City and Milwaukee worked out a deal.
As more information comes in, we have found out from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman that Zack vetoed a trade to the Nationals that was centered around right-hander Drew Storen, shorthstop Danny Espinosa and others. This likely means the Royals were also unable to pry pitcher Jordan Zimmermann from the Nats. The focus then shifted to the Brewers whom Zack also could veto a trade to, but was open to waving his no-trade clause.
Now looking at what the Royals receive in return, they obtain a new starting shortstop in Escobar, a likely new starting centerfielder in Cain, and a dominant young right-handed starter in Odorizzi to go with an already stable full of quality left-handed pitchers in the minor league system. The trio of new Royals were ranked first, eighth, and ninth by Baseball America in the Brewers system heading into the 2010 season. Escobar was the 12th rated prospect in all of baseball at this time last year.
The thing that is initially noticed from this trade is the Royals vastly improve their defense and athleticism in the field. Betancourt was the furthest thing from a fan favorite in Kansas City, due to his lack of athleticism. Thought Yuny put up 16 homeruns and 78 RBI last season, he also posted a .288 OBP in addition to a -9.5 UZR, which was actually an improvement over his 2009 season. UZR is basically the number of runs you are accounted for verses the average fielder at your position (0 being average).
Though he had a poor rookie season, Alcides Escobar is certainly an upgrade defensively over Yuny. The 24 year-old Venezuelan will not have the power of Yuny, but will post a higher .OBP than Betancourt, has speed on the base paths and has the upside to be a plus-plus defensive shortstop.
Lorenzo Cain, now 24, was a 17th round selection by Milwaukee in 2004 out of high school in Georgia. Cain immediately becomes the Royals centerfielder of the future and reduces newly signed Melky Cabrera's role, along with the speedy Jarrod Dyson. Cain is not a power hitter at this stage, and will likely bat lead off for the Royals. To benefit the team, he will need to learn over time how to draw more walks. However he has good speed stealing bases and also playing a good centerfield. The word "toolsy" is often thrown around for these types of players. In just 43 games last year with Milwaukee he put up a .306 batting average, with .348 OBP which has the chance to go up as he continues to improve at the plate. Defensively he put up a solid 2.5 UZR in the short sample period.
20 year-old Jake Odorizzi probably has the most upside of the players Kansas City obtained, though he is the farther from the major leagues. He was a 1st round selection out of high school in 2008 and has been very consistent in his short time in the Brewers system. He most likely becomes the best right-handed pitcher in the Royals farm system and should be someone who can contribute in 2013, a year after the wave of prospects is expected to first hit Kansas City. He features a 3.68 ERA in 188.1 minor league inning with 197 strikeouts to 58 walks. For those of you that aren't great at math that is over a strikeout an inning. All of this is without any pitch really standing out above the others. He features a consistent repertoire of pitches. He probably falls nears Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, and Aaron Crow is terms of his rating in the Royals system.
The PTBNL is also something to keep an eye on. I believe the Royals make be taking a longer look at pitcher Jeremy Jeffress, a dominating 23 year old flamethrower who has a history of drug problems. The 2006 1st rounder has hit 101 mph on the radar gun in games. Think another late inning relief like our own Joakim Soria. There are other possible players we could look at, but it's not really worth writing about until we find out more information. I will toss out one conspiracy theory though. I know the Brewers are owed a PTBNL for sending Carlos Villanueva to the Blue Jays, who have plenty of catching prospects. I doubt this is the case, but I sure would love to see Kansas City obtaining a catching prospect by way of Milwaukee (teams in the same league are not allowed to include PTBNL in trades).
Cain brings an interesting situation to follow in the 2011 Royals outfield. Dyson is probably coming back to Omaha, and Mitch Maier seems to be on his way out as well. The same could be said for Gregor Blanco. For now Cabrera is likely the new 4th outfielder unless Alex Gordon is to be moved before the season starts. The Toronto Blue Jays have been rumored to be interested in trying to acquire Gordon.
I am starting to warm to this trade the more I think about it, though a lot if it depends on who the PTBNL is and if Escobar can have a breakout sophomore season showing flashes of what made everyone go gaga over him during his rise in the Brewers system. I would have liked to seen more offense come back in the trade, but it will be a breath of fresh air to potentially see great defenders at short and in center next season at The K. I also have not read one bad thing about Odorizzi and am looking forward to following him more in depth.
We may have lost Greinke, but if you can look past 2011, the future still looks very bright. Ken Rosenthal explains why here. What do you think?