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Early Thoughts on the Zack Greinke Trade

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The offseason's most talked about trade target has finally gotten his wish. Zack Greinke is out of Kansas City, and will head to a Milwaukee Brewers team that should factor in to a playoff race in 2011.

Greinke, who is just one season removed from winning the American League Cy Young Award, gives a major boost to Milwaukee's rotation, which was by far the team's undoing in 2010. The Brewers feature a good offense for a National League Central team, anchored by stars in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and at least quality regulars in Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Casey McGehee. They'll be weak, offensively, up the middle, with the departures of Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar in the deal, but should still have an above average offense. With the addition of Zack Greinke, in addition to acquiring Shaun Marcum via trade a few weeks ago, the Brewers have revamped their rotation, which now boasts a very formidable group in the first to fourth starter spots.

In my opinion, the move essentially puts the Brewers in line with two of their division rivals in the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals now look like a very similar team, with an offense led by two stars (Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday) and a strong pitching rotation. The Reds probably have the stronger overall offense of the three, but are clearly weaker in their rotation. It would be hard to pick a clear favorite in the National League Central at this point, but it seems fair to say that all three teams will have a good shot at making the playoffs, depending on injuries and other luck within the season.

The Brewers have clearly identified 2011 as a year that they want to be able to compete, as it will most likely be the last year they have Prince Fielder under contract. They'll have their two big offseason acquisitions, Greinke and Marcum, under contract in 2012, also, and shouldn't have too tough of a time finding a replacement first baseman via free agency. At the very least, the Brewers will keep themselves competitive for 2011 and 2012.

While a lot of the early feedback on the trade itself has been that Kansas City didn't make out very well, I think the Brewers gave up quite a bit, and the trade addresses some key needs of the Royals. The Royals, as has been well-document, boast one of the best farm systems baseball has seen in years, and that's before the additions they'll gain from this trade. The Royals already have a system full of high upside pitching and top offensive threats. In terms of pitching, they'll add Jake Odorizzi, a starting pitching who was likely the Brewers top prospect before this trade, Jeremy Jeffress, who should make an immediate impact on the Royals bullpen. Offensively, the Royals add two up-the-middle players that seem likely to remain solid regulars, at the very least. Lorenzo Cain is a centerfielder who put up strong numbers in his rookie season in 2010. Alcides Escobar, a shortstop, was generally considered one of the top ten prospects in all of baseball before 2010. He didn't have a strong offensive year as a rookie, but with strong defense, speed, and as he gets comfortable in the majors, should become a decent offensive player, which will be valuable at shortstop. Cain and Escobar may never be impact players or all-stars, but with the terrific bats that the Royals have waiting in the wings, like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, the two will fit in well as supporting players that won't be relied on to carry an offense. The Royals, who have been one of baseball's laughing stocks for years and years, are aided by this trade in balancing out their offensive depth chart, and are well positioned to become a force in baseball in a few years.

The results of the trade remain to be seen, of course, but given the needs and positions of both teams, I think Kansas City and Milwaukee will wind up benefiting from this trade. It's a safer trade from the Royals perspective, gaining players that are mostly Major League ready, and two of them at positions where they won't need to become stars to be valuable. The Brewers sacrificed a lot, as if Fielder, Greinke, and Marcum don't remain with the team after 2012, they'll be left with a very rough farm system. Still, they've clearly identified 2011 as a year they think they can compete, and if they can make it to the playoffs, they'll have a rotation poised to lead them to a strong run.