Milwaukee Brewers History of SP Additions: Are Starters Worth It?
Zack Greinke, Trade with Kansas City – Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi
Greinke had been somewhat inconsistent as a starter in Kansas City, but even on his off-years he was far better than Garza. Though he was coming off a 2010 with a losing record and a 4.17 ERA, that was held down by a 3.34 FIP and 181 strikeouts. That’s to say nothing of the phenomenal 2009 which saw him win the AL Cy Young Award on the strength of a 2.16 ERA.
Greinke helped propel the Crew to the NLCS in 2011, with 201 strikeouts in just 181.2 innings and a 16-6 record. But for all that the Brewers gave up, Greinke didn’t last two seasons in Milwaukee before the steeply declining Crew traded him to the Angels for Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Peña. Hellweg and Peña were below replacement players in brief stints for Milwaukee. Segura accumulated 5.2 WAR and a 2013 All-Star nod before departing after two harsh drop off years.
The issue with this acquisition is not money or poor performances from Greinke, it is what the Brewers gave up in prospects to get him. Jeffress returned to the Crew after some unremarkable time in Kansas City and Toronto, but as for the rest, they have accumulated far more than Greinke’s 3.9 WAR in Milwaukee.
Odorizzi sports career marks of a 3.95 ERA and 4.22 FIP. While he has a career 47-48 record, that’s largely attributable to his having played for a series of poor Rays and Twins teams. He’s accumulated 9.6 career WAR since leaving the Brewers system, including two seasons of more than 3 WAR.
Escobar would not have fixed the 2018 Brewers offensive struggles at shortstop, but he’s shown some brilliance in eight up and down years for the Royals accumulating 9.3 WAR, a Gold Glove and an All Star appearance (both in 2015).
Cain, of course, should be the focal point of any deconstruction of the Greinke trade. Known for his glove as much, if not more than, his hitting, Cain pulled down a 2015 All-Star appearance and 25.1 WAR in Kansas City. This by itself vastly outpaces the totals both for Greinke’s tenure in Milwaukee, and the production of what the Crew got for the pitcher in the Angels trade. Cain’s per 162 game averages for parts of seven years with the Royals were 174 hits and 28 stolen bases, to go with a .289/.342/.421 slash line.
The cautionary tale here is evident in the Royals success. This trade built the team that got the Royals to two World Series, winning one in 2015