A little over a year ago, a rumor quickly spread around the internet and through the Milwaukee media that the Brewers had a deal in place to trade for Kansas City Royals’ ace, Zack Greinke. The story was quickly shot down by many sites as nothing more than a blogger trying to get noticed. One year later, the Brewers and Royals should give serious consideration to making this one-time rumor a reality.
Although the Royals seem to be heading in the right direction, they still need several pieces added to their puzzle to become contenders in the ultra-competitive AL Central. Conversely, the Brewers must upgrade their starting pitching this winter if they want to compete in 2011 with the Cardinals and Reds. Adding the former Cy Young award winner would give the Brewers a top of the rotation tandem every bit as good as Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.
The optimum time for the Royals to have traded Greinke would have been last winter coming off his Cy Young season. 2010 was a down year compared to his previous season, but it was on par with his 2008 season, with the exception of his ERA. Many blame Greinke’s regression on catcher Jason Kendall. Brewer fans know all too well the negative effect Kendall can have on a pitching staff.
Even with a down season, the Royals will be seeking quite a large return for two year’s worth of Greinke. The Brewers have more than enough in their farm system and the Major League level to satisfy the Royals’ desires and still field a very competitive team.
As I said, the Royals have many good young players and a great farm system, but they could use help at just about any position.
The quickest way to finalize a deal with the Royals would be to include super-prospect, Brett Lawrie. The 20-year-old Canadian had a banner year at Double A Hunstville, but trading him would mean the Brewers need to lock up Rickie Weeks with a long-term contract. Lawrie started his career as a catcher but has since shifted to second base. He also has prior experience in the outfield and other infield positions. The Royals could insert him at any number of positions, as his bat is already Major League-ready.
The Brewers could also add one of their top pitching prospects, either Jeremy Jeffress or Mark Rogers. Each, however, comes with major risks attached. Jeffress has been suspended twice in his very young career for marijuana use, and one more failed test will result in a lifetime suspension. He has impressed scouts and fans in the Arizona Fall League with his fastball, which reached 101 mph in the Rising Stars game last week. Although he started his career as a starter, most feel Jeffress will find his niche in the pros as a closer.
Rogers was the Brewers first round draft choice in 2004, but his career has be derailed time and again by arm injuries. He finally stayed healthy at the end of 2009 and throughout 2010 to show what he is capable of. He was a good starter in the minors before splitting time as both a starter and reliever in Milwaukee. He pitched a total of 10 innings for the Brewers after a September call-up and allowed only two hits and two earned runs, while striking out 11. He appears to be a very legitimate candidate for the fifth starter in 2011.
Lorenzo Cain would likely be on the Royals’ wish list as well, but I can’t imagine the Brewers parting with him, especially after seeing the torrid hitting streak he went on to end the season. Carlos Gomez is still a great defensive player, but he struggled at the plate in Milwaukee. 2011 could be the last year for David DeJesus in Kansas City, and Gomez could be a good addition in center field.
The Brewers also have several very good young pitchers in their system, but the Royals may not want to wait the two or three years it may take for many of them to be ready for the Majors. Players like Jake Odorizzi, Cody Scarpetta, Wily Peralta, and Kyle Heckathorn all project to be Major League starters in a few years.
Personally, I would love to see the Brewers add Greinke, but not at the expense of giving up Lawrie. He’s very similar to Ryan Braun both at the plate and in the field. Unless the Royals are willing to throw in third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Kila Ka’aihue, I can’t see Lawrie being included in the deal.
I think a package of Mat Gamel, Jeremy Jeffress, Eric Farris, and Kyle Heckathorn for Greinke is a fair deal for both sides. The Royals get four of the Brewers top 15 prospects, while the Brewers get a very good, potentially dominant pitcher to add to Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf. Add in whichever starter GM Doug Melvin obtains in the Prince Fielder trade and suddenly the Milwaukee Brewers have gone from a below average starting rotation, to one of the top rotations in the National League.
Is Zach Greinke likely to come to Milwaukee? Even if the Brewers are on the list of teams he’d accept a trade to, the answer is almost certainly a “no”, but Melvin and the rest of the Brewers’ front office must do their due diligence to see if it’s a possibility. Losing Fielder will be a public relations nightmare for the team, but adding Greinke could quickly ease the pain of losing the slugging first baseman.
The Brewers made a major splash in 2008 by adding CC Sabathia, and they could make an even bigger splash this winter by acquiring Greinke—a move that would pay dividends much more than the three months that the Sabathia deal did.
To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here or follow him on Twitter @jessemotiff.