Milwaukee Brewers: Looking back on the Zack Greinke trade
By David Gasper
It has been exactly seven years since the Milwaukee Brewers shook the baseball world in acquiring Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals.
In trading for Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers then-GM Doug Melvin gave up a very large return package of Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. The Crew also acquired Yuniesky Betancourt to play shortstop in place of the departing Escobar.
Greinke led the Milwaukee Brewers rotation alongside Yovani Gallardo for that 2011 season, taking the Crew all the way to the NLCS. He pitched to a Game 1 victory in that series against the Cardinals.
In 2011, Greinke pitched to a 3.83 ERA in only 171 innings after an injury suffered playing basketball in Spring Training. He missed a little more than a month of the regular season. Greinke averaged a career high 10.5 K/9 during that season.
He dominated at Miller Park, going 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 2011. He followed his 2011 season with a successful half season in 2012.
Sadly, the Brewers fell off in 2012. He was traded in July to the Los Angeles Angels for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena, thus ending the Greinke era in Milwaukee.
“Yuni B,” as he was affectionately called, was a mediocre shortstop with the Brewers. In his two years here, he hit .235/.258/.371 with only 30 walks in just shy of a thousand plate appearances. His defense was passable and he did make the occasional behind the back flip for a double play. He was a placeholder because after trading Escobar, the Brewers had no one else to play the shortstop position and the job fell to him.
The Return Package
Lorenzo Cain has done pretty well. He’s hit over .300 in three of the last four seasons. Cain was the 2014 ALCS MVP. He also finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2015. He’s been a great center fielder for several years and is now a free agent. Cain was a vital part of the Royals World Series core that saw two straight Fall Classic appearances and one championship.
Another part of that core is Alcides Escobar. Escobar hasn’t been as talented with the bat as Cain, but he has won a Gold Glove at shortstop. He’s been consistent over several years, although he’s thought of as a liability on offense. Advanced metrics don’t like him, but he consistently hits above .250 every year. Escobar was the ALCS MVP in 2015 on the Royals way to winning the World Series that year.
Jake Odorizzi spent very little time in the Majors with Kansas City. He was traded to Tampa Bay, where he is currently on the trade block, for James Shields. Shields was a valuable part of the Royals World Series run in 2014 as well. Odorizzi has been a permanent member of the Rays rotation for four years now. He has struggled with home runs each year, but he has been an effective mid-rotation arm.
Jeremy Jeffress did not achieve much success in Kansas City. He then packed his bags for Toronto where he also didn’t succeed. Milwaukee finally picked him back up a few years after trading him.
Who won the trade?
Kansas City far and away won this trade. They turned Zack Greinke and a mediocre shortstop in Betancourt into three key members of their core, eventually winning them a title. The Brewers got a year and a half of Greinke and did not even make the World Series, let alone win it.
The Milwaukee Brewers gave up so much talent for Greinke and did not make the most of the opportunity presented to them. It depleted the farm system. When Greinke was traded away in July 2012, the Crew did not get enough in return. Segura was good for a half a season. However , Hellweg and Pena failed to have any impact on the Major League team.
Frankly, this trade is a cornerstone in Brewers history. It has set so many other things in motion. Selling the farm for Greinke while getting nothing in return for him two years later started the current rebuild. It was the reason the farm system was in such bad shape.
Greinke was a dominant force in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation while he was here, but he could not take this team to a title on his own. With the Brewers talking to the Royals about another potential deal for a Kansas City starting pitcher, it’s important that, this time, the Crew doesn’t sell the farm.
Next: What happened to the prospects in the Adam Lind trade?
The Milwaukee Brewers farm system is in much better shape than it was in 2010. GM David Stearns needs to remember this team’s history in making blockbuster trades. The Zack Greinke deal especially, needs to be remembered.