Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Greinke Trade

Brewers Get:

Zack Greinke (5.2 WAR)
Yuniesky Betancourt (0.6 WAR)

Royals Get:

Lorenzo Cain (1.5 WAR)
Alcides Escobar (0.6 WAR)
Jeremy Jeffress (0.1 WAR)
Jake Odorizzi (A-)

Much more after the break.

One of the difficult aspects of dealing with high profile player trades is that once the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, he's awfully difficult to put back in. The Padres successfully pushed down the Adrian Gonzalez deal for one season - and reaped a playoff push as a result - but like most situations when a team makes it known that their stars are for sale, it's just a matter of time before that trade gets made.

This off season it became quite obvious that Royals GM Dayton Moore was accepting offers for his star pitcher. Something that was largely forced upon him, probably earlier than he would've liked, by Greinke's comments during the season that suggested he would not sign another contract with the Royals. Moore's hand was further forced when, just days prior to the eventual trade, Greinke asked to be traded through the media.

The Royals by no means were forced to move Greinke, but the prospect of having your star player in camp in about two months, being hounded by the media while the rest of the team is forced to endure the constant distraction is obviously not beneficial. Furthermore, should Greinke's malcontent behavior have carried over to the mound, it's possible that his value - already eroded somewhat by a lackluster 2010 season - could've taken a further hit. Clearly I think Moore was in the right to get this deal done with sooner than later as he only stood to lose further ground by waiting.

Two frequent decisions that faces GMs in all sports, be it football, basketball, or baseball are, "best player vs positional need?" and "quality or quantity?"

In this case it would seem that Moore made the decision to try and satisfy positional needs, and favored a quantity of lower-upside players vs acquiring perhaps one much higher-upside player and a few lesser prospects.

Of course, the truth about these matters is always going to be shrouded in some degree of secrecy. We aren't privy to which teams were actually involved, the conversations that were had, the players made available, or many of the other factors involved. We can make some informed speculation that certain teams were in, or that others were not, but we'll never know for certain. With that on the table, I prefer to analyze the trade that happened, and not necessarily criticize the process.

What we do know is that in sending Greinke to the Brewers, the Royals likely dealt away at least five WAR, and given his 6.5 WAR average the past three seasons, likely quite a bit more. Including Betancourt in the deal on the other hand, was likely addition by subtraction. As someone who has averaged just 0.4 WAR per season throughout his career (and been worth -1.1 WAR during his Royals tenure). Beyond that, he was due 4m in salary in 2011, and held a 6m club option for 2012 with a 2m buyout that's likely to be exercised.

In total, the Royals managed to shed 17.5m from their 2011 payroll, and another 15.5m in 2012, and lost approximately 13-14 wins over the next two years. In return, they received a pair of young, Major League ready players with mediocre upside, and a pair of intriguing minor league arms. I'll profile them each individually.

Alcides Escobar

Long known as a slick fielding, light hitting shortstop, it was his performance with the bat that finally put him on the map. It's not that Escobar became an elite bat, but the .772 OPS he posted between AA and AAA was good enough to suggest that he could pair his well above average defense with league average offense. So far, that offense hasn't shown up, but as someone who will be just 25 to open to 2011, there is still plenty of reason to think he'll eventually bring a league average bat to the table. It helps of course that the league average in 2010 fell to just .690. Either way, I fully expect that Escobar is capable of making his combination of strong defense, above average speed on the bases, and league average offense work.

What's that package worth? Probably 2.0-3.0 WAR per year. That's nothing phenomenal, but league average shortstops aren't as easy to come by as one might assume, and Escobar has a strong chance of being somewhat above average for the next five years until he reaches free agency.

Lorenzo Cain

I'm not 100% certain what to make of Cain. He had a solid debut with the Brewers this year, but in the same way that Escobar's performance was held down in 2010 by a .264 BABIP, Cain's was bolstered significantly by a .370 mark. A career .291/.366/.416 hitter in the minors, Cain like Escobar is a player who's value is largely dependent upon what he can bring both defensively and on the bases because he's not likely to be more than a league average hitter.

Like Escobar, Cain is limited in his upside by his bat, but projectable because of what he can do in the field and on the bases with his legs. Unfortunately for Cain, speedy defense-first outfielders are significantly easier to come by than players of the same ilk at shortstop and that limits his value. He's probably more of a 1.0-2.0 WAR player and given the presence of Jarrod Dyson, somewhat redundant. That said, Cain who will turn 25 just after the beginning of the 2011 season does have a much better chance of having a league average bat and should get first crack at the Royals starting center field job in 2011.

Jake Odorizzi

Considered by many to be one of the best high school arms available in the 2008 draft, and by some to simply be the best, Odorizzi has managed to stay considerably under the radar until 2010 as the Brewers stashed him away in rookie ball for two seasons before promoting him to the Low A Midwest League. That proved to be Odorizzi's breakout party as he posted impressive peripherals with a 10.07 K rate, a 2.98 BB rate, and 46% ground ball rate as a 20 year old.

Odorizzi features a fastball in the 91-93mph range that can touch 95 with good sink, a slider, curve, and a developing changeup. There has also been some speculation that he could abandon the slider and focus on his curve, which projects as a plus pitch.

I see his upside as a solid #2 and with improvements to his changeup and command. More likely, he'll be a number #3. A valuable player, and in what is becoming a recurring theme in this trade, I think he's quite projectable. His raw stuff is good enough and he can afford to lose some ground on all his peripherals as he rises through the ranks and still be a solid Major Leaguer.

Jeremy Jeffress

One of baseball's most intriguing minor leaguers. Jeffress can throw as hard as anyone with a fastball that reaches 100mph and a plus power-curve. Unfortunately, Jeffress is also one of baseball's most troubled youngsters as he's battled substance abuse (not PEDs) for which he's already been suspended for 50, and 100 games. Another violation would see him banned for life.

If Jeffress can find a way to overcome his own personal issues off the field, and reign in his command somewhat, he's got the ability to be a high-leverage bullpen arm who can punch out hitters at a high rate while getting lots of ground balls. He could even be a closer of the Carlos Marmol ilk.

But all of that is really, really up in he air. As is, Jeffress' control is simply not nearly good enough. And of course, he's got to find a way to stay away from illicit drugs. Of all the players the Royals got back in this deal, none are more interesting, and none are more unprojectable.

No comments:

Post a Comment