After all of the posturing that was coming out about what the Royals were looking for in return for 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, it appears that a trade came together pretty quickly. Jim Breen over at Bernie’s Crew broke the story last evening, and the trade that appears to have been finalized was Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2 M going to the Brewers in exchange for SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, SP Jake Odorizzi, and SP Jeremy Jeffress.
The Brewers have really improved their starting pitching with both the acquisition of Shaun Marcum and now Zack Greinke. Their rotation now consists of Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson most likely, which could well be the top starting rotation in the NL Central, and probably 3rd in the NL behind the Phillies and the Giants.
This trade clearly signals a win-now shift for the Brewers, and with their rotation and lineup they now have to be one of the favorites in the NL Central, along with the Reds and Cardinals. With Prince Fielder likely to leave after the 2011 season as a free agent, their window may be closing very soon.
The part that should be interesting to see will be how the Brewers will fill any gaps they may run into after this season. In addition to Fielder, Rickie Weeks will be a free agent in 2011. But they do have quite a few core players signed past 2012 (Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo, among others), and should be able to plug in players to fill any gaps that are created.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals bring in 2 players who are Major League ready in Escobar and Cain, both of whom will be plugged into their starting lineup immediately in my opinion. The two pitching prospects also bring a lot of upside as well, with Jake Odorizzi viewed by many as the top pitching prospect in the Brewers system.
Escobar was the starting shortstop for the Brewers last season, but had a disappointing season. He hit .235/.288/.326 with 4 HR, 10 SB, 57 runs scored, and 41 RBI, but was still considered a solid defensive player in 2010 (3.8 UZR at SS last season). 2010 wasn’t really a reflection of what he appears capable of, as he looks like more a base-stealing threat and a better hitter than those numbers show. I could see him being a 30-SB type in the Majors if he hits enough to get on base.
Lorenzo Cain profiles as a center fielder in the Majors, and is another speedster. In 84 minor league games last year between AA and AAA, he stole 26 bases and hit .317/.402/.432. He was the #8 prospect in the Brewers system according to Baseball America coming into 2010 season, and did get some time in the Majors last year as well. I have to imagine that he’s going to be the starting CF for the Royals to start 2011.
Jake Odorizzi was the #9 prospect according to BA, and had a very good season in the Midwest League last year. In 20 starts (120 2/3 innings pitched), he went 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA and 135 strikeouts to just 40 walks.
Jeremy Jeffress has had a checkered past with the Brewers, but had shown promise recently. He had previously been suspended for 100 games for multiple positive drug tests for marijuana, but finished the 2010 season in the Brewers’ bullpen. He looks like a solid back end of the bullpen type now, as he pitched there for all of 2010, and sounds like he may have finally put the marijuana problems behind him.
Clearly, for the Brewers, this is a win-now move, and with a division that really is not that strong, they have a very good chance to get into the postseason. Once they are in, their pitching could be strong enough to help carry them very far into the postseason as well. Hopefully the lack of depth in their system will not come back to haunt them after this season.
For the Royals, they had to get back a lot to move Greinke. While none of the players they received back are proven major leaguers, they did extremely well. They managed to get players who will fill holes both now and in the future, as they could have one of the great young lineups by as early as 2012. With top prospects Wil Myers (C or OF), Eric Hosmer (1B), Mike Moustakas (3B), and Christian Colon (IF), the team could have an amazing lineup to go along with top starting prospects Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb, and Jake Odorizzi. It remains to be seen whether or not the Royals will be able to translate these top prospects into success at the Major League level, but it definitely seems likely that at least a few of them will have success in the Majors.