Could the Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke?

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.

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Tags: Brett Lawrie Doug Melvin Jeremy Jeffress Kansas City Royals Mark Rogers Mat Gamel Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder Zack Greinke

  • warboss74

    A couple points on the topic.

    1) Brett Lawrie’s bat isn’t major league ready yet. Although his .285/.346/.451/.797 was impressive for a 20 year old in the pitching friendly Southern League, his MLE line for the season is .242/.290/.371/.661. It’s not like 20 year old Mike Stanton hitting .313/.442/.729/1.171 in the same league. (MLE line of .256/.362/.562/.924 actual line of .259/.326/.507/.833)

    2) Jake Odorizzi is the Brewers’ top pitching prospect. You write like he’s just a nice arm sitting in the system.

    3) Mat Gamel, Jeremy Jeffress, Eric Farris, and Kyle Heckathorn for Zack Greinke is not at all a fair trade for both sides. That would be highway robbery for the Brewers. A realistic trade would be centered around Brett Lawrie and Jake Odorizzi plus additional pieces. (Gamel, Cain, Lucroy, Escobar, Jeffress, Rogers, Heckathorn, Peralta, Scarpetta, etc.)

    With Greinke only being controlled one season longer than Prince and the high probability the Brewers would be unable to afford an extension, it just doesn’t make sense to empty the farm for him.

  • Jesse Motiff

    Jake Odorizzi was the team’s Minor League pitcher of the year, but I don’t know if I’d call him the team’s top pitching prospect. Sure, you could make that argument, but there are several players with as much, if not more potential than Odorizzi. If Jeffress wasn’t one strike away from a lifetime ban, few would argue with him as the team’s top pitching prospect.

    A realistic trade would not be giving up the team’s top hitting and pitching (in your words) pitching prospect. That would be lunacy on the Brewers’ part. Getting a two-year return on Greinke for 4 top 15 prospects, including two in the top 5 is more than fair. Obviously the names could be changed, but giving up so much isn’t needed after such a down year for Greinke. Yes, the price will still be high, just not as high as you think it would be.

    Why wouldn’t the Brewers be able to afford an extension? Braun, Gallardo, and Hart are all locked into long-term deals. Wolf’s contract comes off the books in two more years, so the Brewers would have more than enough money to afford Greinke, assuming his value continues upwards. Now if the Brewers sign Weeks long-term and McGehee gets a large raise in arby in 2012, that will certainly lessen the team’s ability to sign a big money contract, but the Brewers are quickly filling up their roster with youngsters at a very low cost over the next few years that should give them the ability to sign a “Greinke-like” player to add to what they already have.

  • ecp

    “Throw in” Mike Moustakas??? The Royals are not going to “throw in” the #1 prospect in the best farm system in baseball with Zack Greinke (a Cy Young Award winner) to get Brett Lawrie (another prospect who isn’t ranked as highly as Moustakas). Have you lost your marbles?

    Mat Gamel is a non-starter for the Royals. See: Moustakas. And for those that believe Gamel is best suited to first base anyway, see: Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Kila Ka’aihue, and Clint Robinson.

    And warboss is right in the first place: Your proposal is highway robbery.

    • Jesse Motiff

      The best farm system in baseball? Says who? Yeah, the Royals do have a very good system, no doubt about it, but I’m not sure it’s the best.

      Honestly, if there system was so good, they would have already begun showing signs of a turnaround or at least inserting more of the younger players than what they have. Many still may not be ready for full-time duty in 2011. Sure, I like Billy Butler as much as anyone, but he may become a victim of that depth you talk about. With Moustakas, Hosmer, Ka’aihue, and others, Butler may find himself being sent out of KC as well.

      And no where did I say my proposed deal was any sort of a concrete package. Obviously things can always be jumbled or changed for specific needs of either team. The main point is that the Brewers have the organizational depth to put together a package that would satisfy the type of return KC is hoping to get for Greinke.

      And to say Lawrie isn’t ranked as high as Moustakas is a bit misleading. It’s not like Moustakas is the best prospect in the game and Lawrie is a nobody. Baseball America had Moustakas ranked 12th and Lawrie ranked 15th in all of baseball this past July (Hosmer came in at 13th).

      To think, however, that each highly-ranked prospect is guaranteed success at the Major League-level is foolish. Many Brewer fans thought that same thing with its batch of young prospects 5 years ago. If I were the Royals, I’d want a player like Casey McGehee in the trade before Gamel because McGehee has proven himself and is still under team control for several more seasons.

      Also, with the deal I proposed, I picked a majority of players that were Major League-ready right now. Gamel and Jeffress both have big league experience and Farris had a very good year at Triple A. The Royals could choose lower-level prospects but that’s just prolonging their problem more, instead of trying to step up a bit and produce winning baseball immediately.

  • warboss74

    Jeffress is the only one in the system that you can say has more potential if he can stick in the rotation. Few people believe he’s anything more than a reliever going forward with his control problems which really isn’t all that valuable. (hopefully he transition well to the rotation in 2011) Odorizzi right now projects as a #2 starter, and with a breakout season could move into that potential #1/ace range much like Gallardo did with his 2006 breakout season.

    Greinke had a much better season than his ERA suggests. It was certainly going to be hard to maintain a 229.1 IP 2.33 FIP 9.2 WAR (1) season he had in 2009, but he posted a 220.0 IP 3.34 FIP 5.2 WAR (11) season in 2010. Look at what Arizona gave up for Dan Haren. (Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith, and Dana Eveland.) Gonzalez (1), Anderson (3), Carter (4), Cunningham (8), and Smith (14) ranked in Oakland’s top 15 prospects in 2008 after the trade.

    He’d likely get $20 M/ year if he continues to pitch like he has the last 3 seasons. Maybe he’s willing to sign a more team friendly contract, but we have to look at his production and how much money teams pay for that type of production. He’s not a guy that would be overlooked come FA.

    • Jesse Motiff

      I wouldn’t say that about our pitchers in the system. I don’t see Jeffress as a starter, I think he would be best utilized in the pen. Rogers obviously has talent as shown by his draft position and the way he shot through the minors when healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I think the world of Odorizzi, but he’s still very young and a long way away from the Majors, so a lot could still go wrong.

      I think Scarpetta, Heckathorn, and Peralta could all end up in the rotation some day. Sure, they may not have the upside of Odorizzi, but if they can be solid middle to low rotation guys, I’ll take it. The Brewers pitching problems haven’t come from Gallardo or Wolf at the top as from the low rotation guys like Narveson, Bush, Mike Burns, McClung, and so on.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE Greinke fan, but his numbers were down significantly compared to 2009. I’m curious where you got his WAR of 5.2 for 2010? I looked on Baseball Reference and it showed his WAR for 2010 at 2.4. Granted, that doesn’t mean much to me, I’m not one of those guys into stats like WAR and VORP, just a personal preference on my part. But looking at other numbers like K’s/9 innings dropped significantly while his hits/9 innings rose back to his 2008 level.

      So depending on which way his production goes the next 2 years, $20 million a year is far from a sure thing. It’s definitely obtainable, but not a guarantee.

      • warboss74

        I’m confused? I wasn’t saying anything bad about the rest of the pitchers in the system. I was just saying Jeffress was the only guy you could say had more potential than Odorizzi, and that was if he stuck in the rotation. His developing change up in the AFL is an interesting new development. Rogers didn’t really shoot up through the minors once he became healthy either. He made it to Brevard County before his last injury. When he came back in 2009, he started there. He spent all of 2010 in Huntsville, outside of a spot start in Nashville, and a cup of coffee in September. The chances of him sticking in the rotation are pretty slim with his command problems in the minors. (5.6 BB/9)

        I got Greinke’s WAR from fangraphs. They use FIP instead of ERA when they calculate their WAR. I’m not saying he didn’t regress because he did, but he was still a #1 pitcher, who had poor defensive support.

  • Jesse Motiff

    And now with David DeJesus getting traded, it really opens up a spot for a potential trade or a reshuffling of positions for some of the prospects.

  • warboss74

    Jayson Stark on Zack Greinke

    • Zack exchange: Are the Royals serious about trading Zack Greinke?
    Well, they’re serious about listening. But according to clubs that have
    spoken with them, they’re telling bidders up front that (A) they would
    need to “win” the deal, (B) they would have to get the kind of four-for-
    one haul the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira to pull the trigger, (C) they
    need a bunch of “front-line, winning, quality players” in return, and (D)
    at least one of those players has to be a pitcher capable of turning into
    the next Zack Greinke in a couple of years. So unless a team like
    Texas were to lose Cliff Lee and decide it needs to trade for Greinke at
    all costs, we’re betting this doesn’t happen — not this winter, anyway.

  • ecp

    “The best farm system in baseball? Says who?”

    Baseball America. Baseball Prospectus. Keith Law. John Sickels. Jonathan Mayo. Kevin Goldstein. Frankie Piliere. Jason Grey. That’s just a few; perhaps you’ve heard of some of them? If you haven’t, then you have no business talking prospects.

    Your comments that if this were true the Royals would be showing signs of turnaround or some of the young prospects in the major leagues already are short-sighted. It does take a little time, you know. None of the big names is older than 22. You will start seeing a few of them next year.

    And actually, they did bring up some of their kids this year. If you don’t realize this, you are not informed enough to pass judgment on the Royals farm system.