Published on December 25th, 2010 | by Leonard Jackson0
Looking at THE TRADE
There is always a great deal of pontificating after a major trade in the sports world and the trade this week by the Kansas City Royals with the Milwaukee Brewers has certainly sparked the usual barrage of chatter and chin-stroking analysis. The Royals swapped Zack Greinke, their ace pitcher and Cy Young winner of 2009, and Yuniesky Betancourt, journeyman utility infielder, to the Brewers for four players: Alcides Escobar, their regular shortstop last year, Lorenzo Cain, center fielder and strong prospect who played in 49 games last year and top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi and reliever, Jeremy Jeffress. Odorizzo was voted the Brewers top pitching prospect in the organization in 2010 and will probably play in the minors for the next couple of years; Jeffress is highly rated talent-wise but has some off-field issues that he will have to overcome if he plays anywhere.
Any trade the Royals make brings out the customary experts and their anticipated critical analyses (especially this one that ships out the first super star they’ve had in several years): (1) the Glass family is cheap and doesn’t care about winning – just making money; (2) the Royals will never have a good team because they trade away all their good players like Saberhagen, Damon and Beltran; and (3) they’ll never have good crowds because Kauffman Stadium is out in the boondocks and not downtown.
I don’t know anyone in the Glass family so I have no personal reason to defend the team or the ownership, but I will say that the bad trades and the location of the stadium are excellent subjects for another post which I will probably get to before the coming season. But I have certainly wondered how someone like David Glass who has achieved such a high level of financial success in business and is obviously accustomed to winning and being first in everything he does could have endured the past seventeen years as chairman and owner of such a hopeless, ineffective and disrespected operation without stepping in and making an effort, any effort no matter what, just to try to change the direction. To finish last in any endeavor is unacceptable, but to do it year after year until it becomes a pre-season assumption is unbelievably repugnant to not only the fans, but the entire game of baseball. It seems his pride would have forced some action long ago even it was futile.
On the positive side the decision to hire Dayton Moore in 2007, although way past due, was a good move and for the first time in nearly 20 years there is a professional baseball attitude about the place and I seriously believe the 40 man roster has more real talent than it has ever had. Remember now, I am an ardent baseball fan and the Royals especially, was a season ticket holder for many years, and have annually approached the coming season fully convinced that only one or two more players would be the difference in making the playoffs.
So let’s look positively at what the results of the trade could mean. Like any starting pitcher, Greinke would actually play in only 33 games if he made every scheduled start. There are 162 games in a season, thus he would not play in 129 (80%) of the games. Let’s assume that Greinke won, or pitched good enough to win, in every game he started. That would mean he actually helped the team 20% of the time. (Now that he will be playing in the National League with real baseball rules – no DH – he might be used as a pinch hitter some but that remains to be seen). Also, he won’t play at either KC or Milwaukee after two years when he becomes a free agent. Barring some unforeseen event he will be a very wealthy man living and playing baseball in southern California. You heard it here first – Zack Greinke will not pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013.
Two of the new Royals (Escobar and Cain) are projected to be starters, which means, barring injury, they will play 140 – 150 games. That’s about 90% of the time. They play two of the three positions that the Royals felt were their weakest (catcher was the third) , so we have two players filling past weaknesses 90% of the time, a pitcher (Jeffress) who could be used in 30 or so appearances, and a young pitching super-star (Odorizzo) that might be the next Greinke in about two years. Compare that to a super starter who will only play 20%of the time and a journeyman infielder (Betancourt) who hasn’t done much in six years in the majors (.272 lifetime .250 over last 3 years) and can handle only those grounders hit within two steps in either direction and the trade doesn’t look so bad. The Royals will control all four of the new players for the next five or six years and if there is as much talent here as expected this is how the cores of teams are formed. So if you look at these facts closely and say it real fast the Royals may have just put themselves in the playoffs.