Examining Why Kansas City Dealt Zack Greinke

The declarations on how Kansas City fared on the Zack Greinke return varies by expert. Kevin Goldstein tabbed himself a fan of the deal while Keith Law and our own Marc Hulet shared the sentiment of quantity over quality. Regardless of the opinions on the return, why did Kansas City feel the need to move Greinke now?

Rany Jazayeli reminds us on a daily basis that Dayton Moore’s – and therefore the Royals – modus operandi revolves around the 2012 season. The Royals’ farm system is universally considered as the best in baseball – even the stingy Martians give them high marks – with some estimating the system to be the finest in league history. A few of those talented prospects will begin flooding the big league roster as early as this season (possibly the Opening Day roster if Danny Duffy makes the Royals’ rotation out of spring) with the rest phasing in over the next season or two.

No fan wants to read about how meaningless this upcoming season is two months before pitchers and catchers report, but that’s the gist with the Royals’ 2011 season. Not to take anything away from them, but anytime Billy Butler and Joakim Soria are your best players then your team is likely heading for a losing season. There’s a high degree of difficulty in accepting the circumstances and still getting excited about the season for fans, so imagine how rough it is for the workers – in this case, the players – to entertain the thought of their work meaning nothing.

Murmurs already existed that Greinke lost his focus and mentally checked out this season. Whether that’s the truth or a convenient cover for a perceived down season depends on perspective; after all, Greinke still had a good season. No team knows Greinke as well as the Royals. The team has stood by his side during the highs and lows; with the highs being a Cy Young trophy and the lows being Greinke taking a break from baseball. That does not mean the Royals have perfect information about Greinke’s brain and motivation, but they should have the best idea of what makes him tick and when he’s not interested in pitching.

If Greinke did lose focus during the 2010 season, then nothing about the 2011 season would seemingly rekindle the interest. That’s a bit of a problem because Greinke would then enter the last season of his contract, forcing the Royals to weigh trading him or making a run with the young guns in place. Moore declined to reach that scenario and instead pulled ht trigger now. His thoughts – presumably – are to have it both ways: Making a run while benefitting from the bounty on a Greinke deal.

Multiple variables interfered with Moore’s efforts to move Greinke. The trade request going public may or may not have damaged Moore’s leverage, but Greinke having the ability to block trades to various teams – including the big market teams – probably dampened the potential return. Moore’s wishes to move Greinke to the National League sliced an already half-eaten pie down further. Then who knows how many teams were willing to pay a worthwhile bounty for Greinke given his personal demons and the attrition rate of pitchers.

With all of that considered, this was an atypical trade of an ace pitcher. This deal isn’t comparable to any of the Cliff Lee trades or even the most recent Scott Kazmir deal. Instead, the Greinke trade combines some of the most volatile elements of baseball players into one. Handling one or two of focus, pitcher attrition, and mental health creates a difficult analysis, combing all three leads to some potentially hazardous results. Even so, it’s understandable as to why the Brewers would yearn for Greinke (feeling they are near contention and wanting to make one more run with Prince Fielder) and why the Royals would cash Greinke in now. Whether the results matched the lucidity of the process depends on how you evaluate the prospects involved.



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pistol pete
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pistol pete
5 years 5 months ago

“With all of that considered, this was an atypical trade of an ace pitcher. This deal isn’t comparable to any of the Cliff Lee trades or even the most recent Scott Kazmir deal.”

It has been a little while now, but the Beckett deal and Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks are similar as well as the more recent Halladay deal.

It doesn’t look like any one piece of the Brewers prospect package is comparable to the centerpieces of those deals. IOW, today is another gray day for the KC fans.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

Agreed that this could be a grey day for KC fans, but 2011 was likely full of gray days … with or without Grienke. At some point competing for the “best pitcher on the worst team” is an insult to both the player and the team.

From a baseball fan standpoint, it’ll be nice to see a very good young pitcher get the chance to showcase his abilities on a decent team and in games that actually matter. Living in Illinois, this trade has united Cub and Cardinal fans in saying “this sucks”.

Grienke is not happy in KC, and I’m not going to get all judgemental on him, because (even when you’re paid) playing well on a horrible team just sucks, and staying mentally sharp is easier said than done. They won’t be ready to compete by the time his contract is up, and he’s as good as gone by then. The team can either “play it out”, wait for the trade demand, or try to add some pieces that they can combine with what they already have, and give it a shot in 2012-13.

They did get 2 reasonable starters (for 2011), got rid of the worst SS in MLB, and added 2 other pieces that will likely be MLB regulars in the next 2 years.

I don’t think teams are going to get the MLB equivalent of a “Herschel Walker” trade, where you receive 3-4 starters under team control for 1 very good player. We should probably stop looking for that kind of return by now.

The choice for KC is to either do something like this, or bring in FA’s and “go for it” in 2011 and 2012. Given the salaries being thrown around by every team not in the Bay Area, KC would likely have to break the bank just to come within 10 games of MIN and CWS. Even then, the players they need to be competitive may not even be available.

The reasons for keping a disgrunteled (and reasonably so) Grienke on the team for the next 1-2 years make less sense to me, than does trading him. Regardless, it’s a tough situation for a team to be in.

cliff.ly
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cliff.ly
5 years 5 months ago

Nickel Prozac Night

Jeff K
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Jeff K
5 years 5 months ago

Read Joe P’s article on Greinke lost focus because of all the losing. I am sure most players would care less when playing for terrible teams year after year. That is a huge difference this year for him if the Brewers can be in a playoff race. If the Brewers stay in content, Greinke has his best year ever. I’m calling it.

Greg
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Greg
5 years 5 months ago

Agree with the sentiment, but I doubt Greinke does 2009 again. How about 2nd best?

Sal Bando
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Sal Bando
5 years 5 months ago

@Greg: Why do you doubt it? The last two pitchers to have 9+ WAR seasons in the last few decades were Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, and they both repeated it. Interestingly, they both had “down” years right after their first huge seasons too. And all three were roughly the same age.

Jeff K
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Jeff K
5 years 5 months ago

* on how he believes Greinke…

Ned
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Ned
5 years 5 months ago

Time for the Brewers to re-aquire Mike Cameron and put out a 3-year offer to Rafael Soriano!

Cidron
Member
Cidron
5 years 5 months ago

analyze it all you want, from any angle you wish, but in my opinion it is an unqualified success of a trade for the simple fact that the Royals got rid of Yuck-nasty Betencourt in the same trade !! That alone makes it a success, no matter who else is involved.

joser
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joser
5 years 5 months ago

As someone who follows the Mariners, I pretty much look at it this way: one of the best pitchers in baseball was required to make a deal for Yuni palatable. Greinke is the sugar that allows the Betancourt to go down. That’s a remarkable amount of suck.

(It also makes the deal that sent Yuni to KC all the more remarkable. Does KC know/project Greinke as well now as the M’s knew/projected Yuni then?)

pounded clown
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pounded clown
5 years 5 months ago

For stat geeks and prospect watchers this might be reasonable but for the average Royals fan this could easily be the final straw.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

That very well could be.

The big knock on the Royals from sites like this is that they made bad FA signings thinking they were contenders, and proceeding without a plan. Now, at least, they are well aware of where they’re at, and they do at least seemingly have a plan.

In 2011, they likely finish in the same place with or without Grienke, all the while having him grow more and more frustrated with his situation … perhaps leading to a “must trade” situation, where they get even less due to the situation. At least now, 2011 is a showcase (so to speak) for what they’re building toward in 2011. *Shrugs*

The 2 off-seasons I have been at FG, non-competitive tems have been ripped for signing FA’s that don’t push them toward competitive or giving multi-year deals to players such as middle-relievers or closers. So, at least they aren’t going backwards in that regard.

Not sure of Soria’s contract, but he could be the next piece to hit the market, if it brings multiple pieces the Royals can use for “their plan”.

joser
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joser
5 years 5 months ago

Though in your alternate scenario where it became a “must trade” situation in season, it’s possible that teams at that time would be willing to give up more for Greinke, and/or he would be more flexible about the teams he was willing to be traded to. That’s a big gamble, however. I don’t fault Moore for pulling the trigger now: there are plenty of reasons (starting with injury and “focus”) — indeed, probably more reasons on balance — why waiting could cause his value to go down rather than up.

Socrates
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Socrates
5 years 5 months ago

Soria’s contract is unreal. It pays him $4M in ’11, $6M in ’12, $8M in ’13, and $8.75M in ’14. Each year is an option with a $750k buy out. They could trade him for a ton or keep him. Strictly from a $$ management perspective it is probably smarter to trade him (NYY or Boston will both need a closer in the next couple of years). His trade value and skills with a contract like this could yeld another few STRONG prospects.

Paul
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Paul
5 years 5 months ago

It has been the final straw for Royals fans for 25 years. During that time attendance has been better than some contenders, until late summer when they are well on track for 90+ losses and it’s 90 at night with 95% humidity. During that time it was mostly fans who approved the renovation.

You could argue that Royals fans are just gluttons for punishment. Or that they are really good fans. If you live in Portland, it’s easy to write self-serving columns about ditching your team. If you live in KC, you’re a Royals fan or you’re a traitor. Arguments can be made about the relative value of blind loyalty.

Maybe this is the final straw, but we’ve seen it before.

shthar
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shthar
5 years 5 months ago

I’m probably going to be burned at the stake for this, but I can’t see any improvement at SS for KC, other than salary.

Escobar’s one half a season away from being a utility no-hit pinch runner type who’ll bounce from one team to another never getting arbitration or a multi-year deal.

Betancourt wasn’t much better, but managers are alot more forgiving of a guy who can get at least 40 extra base hits in a season.

Escobar couldn’t even do that in the minors and he had six years to try.

joser
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joser
5 years 5 months ago

But when Escobar is on the field, does it at least look like he’s trying?

Tom
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Tom
5 years 5 months ago

Joakim Soria would be one of the best players on a lot of contending teams. Yes, it’s not good to have your most talented player be a relief pitcher, but Joakim is as good as it gets when it comes to relief pitching.

Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
5 years 5 months ago

Whatever you may think about this trade one has to admit that the Brewers did provide good minor leaguers to KC, and because of that, KC has now assembled an astounding amount of talent at the minor league level. Writers at Fangraphs have consistently advocated exactly this kind of approach to building a team within the confines of a small market budget so, if nothing else, it will be very interesting to see if it actually brings a championship (instead of just getting close ala the Rays).

Luke in MN
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Luke in MN
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, and I’m not sure why everyone is so down on quantity over quality. Would a trade with one great prospect plus throw-ins really be better than one with 4 good prospects?

blackout
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blackout
5 years 5 months ago

How are these guys prospects? Escobar was the starter at SS, and Cain and Jeffress ended the year as major leaguers who were likely to stick? Odorizzi is the only “prospect” here, and maybe Jeffress if you’re one who believes he was bound for Triple-A out of ST.

Bradley Woodrum
Member
Member
5 years 5 months ago

Did the Royals force the Brewers to take Yuni? I would hope both teams recognize his negative utility.

Josh
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Josh
5 years 5 months ago

The best comparison has to be the Bedard trade. Personally, I think the Orioles got the better haul at the time than the Royals did just now. That said, we’ve all seen the limits of Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. George Sherrill was flipped for Josh Bell and we don’t know if he’s a major leaguer yet.

joser
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joser
5 years 5 months ago

But at the time, many observers (including, especially, some of the prominent ones here at Frangraphs) asserted that the M’s significantly overpaid for Bedard. It’s possible that didn’t turn out to be true, but right now, at the time of this trade, I don’t see anyone claiming the Brewers overpaid for Greinke. If anything, mostly the arguments have run towards the opposite.

Socrates
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Socrates
5 years 5 months ago

I agree. I think the Brewers paid a fair price.

grandbranyan
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grandbranyan
5 years 5 months ago

Granted he hs yet to pitch above A ball but Odorizzi did put up comparable if not better numbers than Yo at the same age in the MWL. I think he is getting a little undersold in all this. Very curious how he’ll do next year.

blackout
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blackout
5 years 5 months ago

Odorizzi is the clear centerpiece, which is, I think, the problem for most detractors of this deal. He looks extremely promising but is yet to pitch above Low-A. A lot can happen in the next three years where he’s concerned.

Socrates
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Socrates
5 years 5 months ago

KC got two players who can be major leaguers, one guy who has a special arm but some “character questions” (he likes weed), and a 4th player who projects as a solid 2. This deal is better than what Toronto got for Halladay.

DownwiththeDH
Member
DownwiththeDH
5 years 5 months ago

The Yankees made it a point to come out and say they wouldn’t pursue Zach even if he wanted to come to them. I can see why NYY wouldn’t be very interested in him. He’s not a winner. He’d crack under the pressure in NY, and on an overachieving Brewers squad would(will) crack in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if you have emotional issues or not, if you aren’t driven to be the best at all times you’re not a championship competitor.

What Zach has shown us through his career is that he is not driven to give his best. Any organization will be better off with a slightly lesser talent giving more effort and thus more consistent result. This guy would start getting bashed early in games by Bos, TB and Tor and just melt down, eventually to the DL, minors or another absence from baseball. Sure he might shut out my Cubbies or the Astros more than once next year, but he’ll be no #1 in a series against StL.

Kansas City was smart about him. They babied him, got him out of there and got something valuable in return, versus extreme negative risk.

As a background, I despise the Yankees, but think it’s important to take notice on what they value and how they act. Cashman is not a fool and is doing well considering these circumstance were many would crack.

blackout
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blackout
5 years 5 months ago

“What Zach has shown us through his career is that he is not driven to give his best.”

This displays a stunning lack of knowledge regarding Greinke, right down to the misspelling of his given name’s abbreviation.

Paul
Guest
Paul
5 years 5 months ago

I just want to note that the storyline about Zack not giving his best effort is wildly overstated at best. It was based on a quote by him, and if you know about Zack and quotes, it’s best to rely on something else. How relevant do you think his Chipotle protest was? Or a number of other things that the NY media never keyed on because they didn’t think it would help them get him on the cheap? On top of not having a filter, he says stuff just to tweak reporters all the time. Last time I checked the NY media really loves guys like that. If he made a crack about all the losing in the middle of a losing streak there, he’d be called a team leader who’s trying to kick everybody’s butt into shape.

Here’s a relevant fact that he kept quiet. The guy pitched through shoulder discomfort for half the season, and if I’m not mistaken, only missed one start. Your loss, Yanks, bad strategy to try and lowball your way to him. This guy is a warrior. He hates losing and has the extra gear that only elite players have. I hope I’m rooting for him when he’s in the WS next year dominating.

merizobeach
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merizobeach
5 years 5 months ago

Understandably you may root for him, but… the Brewers in the WS? I’ll happily make an immodest wager…

Paul
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Paul
5 years 5 months ago

Key word is *hope*. For me there are a lot of likeable guys on that roster now. You have the clownish, talented CF, “The Hebrew Hammer’, a mountain man, a chunky (note I didn’t use “fat”) first baseman, a lazy latin SS who swings at everything but has big pull power (I’m predicting 20+ dingers for him in that park – think about it), the hard throwing closer who was left for dead on the side of the road in Mexico, etc. This is Fox’s half-hour human interest story team. Destiny?

Dynamite
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Dynamite
5 years 5 months ago

CircleChange11 is a fucking douchebag.

jGreen
Member
jGreen
5 years 5 months ago

This is a poor attempt at trolling.

Lee
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Lee
5 years 5 months ago

If by douchebag you mean one of the most consistent posters in both quality and quantity on FG, then yea, total douchebag.

joser
Guest
joser
5 years 5 months ago

Agreed. Meanwhile, drive-by trollers (and lazy/incompetent ones at that) continue to plague Fangraphs. Alas.

Oakland Dan
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Oakland Dan
5 years 5 months ago

Prospects are talked about as though they tend to progress at the same rate, but they don’t. Also, prospects’ odds at becoming quality major leaguers are nowhere near as good as pretty much all the stathead sites make them out to be (though I am still a self-avowed stathead, let it be known). It’s most of the reason proven mediocre major leaguers are given big contracts.

No way does everyone progress steadily, right on schedule, all at once, so that the Royals are contenders in 2012. The Royals will lose 90 more games in 2012. Try more like 2014, when these guys are all into or just about to get into their arbitration years. People tend to picture that 6-year period before free agency as a huge window, but the reality usually is that players take a little while to progress, and the team has to take a long time to figure out how it should all shake out, since some of these players are going to completely flop.

Sure they could make a few nice trades or sign some proven players, but if they gear up between 2011 and 2012, they’re jumping the gun.

Jazayerli may or may not be overrating the Royals’ prospects, but he’s definitely overrating the ultimate value of being loaded with prospects. Things almost never pan out as well as they seem like they’re going to. He was ready to anoint Greinke as a perennial Cy Young winner about two years too early, too, and now Greinke’s traded.

Nathaniel Dawson
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Nathaniel Dawson
5 years 5 months ago

You’re half-right, I think. I know diddly-squat about KC’s minor league system, but even if it’s as good as many people think it is, not all of these prospects are going to become major contributors at the Major League level. Some will become everyday players, perhaps even stars, but many will prove to be fringe Major Leaguers, filling bench roles at best.

But that talent will be spread out over a few years, and won’t be entering arbitration for quite a while yet. Some of these players will be making their debuts in 2011 and 2012, but others will come in later years. And you can bet that KC will try to make the most of that talent by delaying their call-ups to extend their service time. These players will be getting to their 1st year of arbitration in years 2015 through 2018, and achieving free agency in 2018 through 2021. That leaves quite a window of time for the Royals to put a lot of talented young players on the field at the same time, with all or most of them playing for less than the league average.

They won’t be able to put all of that talent on the field soon enough to contend before 2014, but arbitration and free agency will still be far enough off that they will have plenty of time to get good enough to contend before all these players become expensive.

(Assuming, of course, that their system really is as good as people say. I know nothing about that myself.)

Oakland Dan
Guest
Oakland Dan
5 years 5 months ago

What you’re not accounting for is all the time you’re playing those players that ultimately won’t pan out. The big problem is that you can’t just put a guy in the majors, observe for a few weeks, and determine if he takes or gets rejected, like an implanted kidney. It takes time to figure out that that bad players are actually bad. This is the problem.

Yes, the talent will be spread out. This is good for annual payroll, but in terms of actually winning baseball games, it’s jsut another problem. If it’s too spread out then it’s not consolidated, and you can bet that the Royals will be talking about needing to trade one player, like Moustakas, just as Hosmer is getting ready to come up, or just as Lamb is recovering from the shoulder injury that delayed his major league career for 18 months. And then you trade Moustakas and Lamb and Hosmer don’t work out. Then where are you? Not only do things like this happen, but things like this WILL happen. When a team relies on everything coming together at a given time, they’re just hoping to win a lottery ticket.

Also, delaying the start of guys’ major league careers is a problem, when you think about it. All it ends up meaning is that you have to wait longer to see if a guy can actually play. Same problem.

I am well aware that prospects have value. I’m not saying they don’t. I’m just saying that you can’t do it with prospects alone. It doesn’t work. It’s expensive, in terms of time and money, and perhaps both. I think the Royals COULD do a good job with a system so talent-rich, but I’ll bet you they don’t because they’re not going to do what it takes to surround these unknown quantities with enough decent major leaguers. If they give that a try, it’ll be limited, they’ll waste a bunch of money by half-assing it, they’ll mis-time it, and the moment it doesn’t quite work right they’ll cry poor and start jettisoning talent. The great Kansas City fans are going to watch this happen. Saying that it’s all going to start coming together in 2012 is sheer fantasy and/or BS from the mind of Drayton Moore.

But that was my original point. It’s not going to be 2012 because prospects usually aren’t as good as advertised, and because they time time even if they are. Maybe 2014 will work out, but only if they fill the starting lineup out with a few solid players, and that will take opening the checkbook. Fat chance.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

We also have to look at this with the team in mind. We’re talking about the Royals. Their only real shot at competing (multiple years) is to have a bunch of prospects, try different guys and see which ones stick (which is why the quantity over quality thing might not be such a bad idea).

Obviously, not all of the prospects are going to stick and be MLB regulars. But, what other choice do they have?

The nightmare aspect is what we’ve seen in PIT, where they had a nice young group of SPs come up together, but no hitters. Now they have some decent young hitters, but no pitching.

Nothing is preventing KC from signing some FA’s to fill in the future holes, or to add some thump (impact value) once they know what they have at the MLB level. Right njow all they have is potential, which is simply unproven ability. Some of the comments seem to imply that they are limited to only playing their MiLB prospects at the MLB level.

It’s not a desirable situation regardless. Once they get closer to competitive, finding the next Aubrey Huff or Cody Ross or Carlos Pena, etc is what they’ll need to do. That’s hit or miss, but that’s the situation KC and smaller market teams are in (not that SFG is a small market, I was just using the most recent “bounceback players” as an example).

What they don;t need to do is sign Jayson Werth for 7 years in anticipation of being competitive 2 years down the road … or sign Brandon Lyons for a multi-year 5M/y deal when they aren’t competitive, etc.

Cliff
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Cliff
5 years 5 months ago

If the Brewers struggle does MIL flip him to recoup some prospects or is this a 2 year commitment either way?

Dynamite
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Dynamite
5 years 5 months ago

Hey CircleChange11 why don’t you blow me?

Keith
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Keith
5 years 5 months ago

The Royals had deals in place with both the Nationals and the Blue Jays and Zack exercised his no-trade. Boston and New York we’re passing on him. You also don’t trade him within the division without a majot haul. So, who does that leave?? The Dodgers were interested but were looking for a third team to get involved…who else…the Rangers made an offer during the winter meetings that was heavy on lower level prosepects and did not include Martin Perez.

Sure is easy to sit here and say, “I can’t believe they didn’t trade him for Montero, Nunez, Betances…etc, or for Profar, Perez, Beltre, Holland…

Those deals weren’t out there. And with the wave that is coming (Mouse, Hosmer, Myers, Colon, Montgomery, Lamb, Duffy, etc) they didn’t need to get superstars back. They had defensive hole at SS and CF, what helps out young pitchers the most?? Up the middle defense…

Also, if this trade was made a year ago, people would be raving that the Royals just got a top 15 player and the best SS in the minors. A bad offensive rookie year for a 23yr old SS a career does not make.

Take a listen to Buster Olney in this podcast on 810 in KC. Level headed stuff…

http://www.810whb.com/podcasts

Llewdor
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Llewdor
5 years 5 months ago

Why did they trade Grienke? It was the only way to get someone to take Betancourt off their hands.

Walker Baxendale
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

What an informative read!!! Thanks for sharing this with us.

Scrap Car Ipswich & Scrap Metal Ipswich
Guest

very well said. as for me, i don’t care who complete the team. but make sure that the composition of the players are well coordinated and they should be skillful. and of course it’s important that they should have teamwork.

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