Nov
08

Scouting the Trade Market: Zack Greinke

By

In his RAB debut, Moshe wrote about the difficulties of trading for an ace. Issues such as service time remaining, rarity of elite talent, and fan perception play a role in these negotiations, and often render them fruitless. But, as he notes at the end, there is some hope for the Yankees to find a pitching upgrade on the trade market: “there [is] a bevy of second-tier pitchers nearing the end of their contracts, all of whom could likely be had for the right price.” Today, however, we’ll start with one such pitcher who has been, and still could be, an ace. That’s Zach Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers.

A year ago the Royals put Greinke on the market after he requested a trade. Apparently he could no longer stand the constant losing in Kansas City and wished to pitch for a contender. That made the Yankees instant suitors, but they never made a serious play. Milwaukee swooped in and grabbed him, and the move paid off wonderfully. He produced a season that in many ways resembled his 2009 season, during which he won the AL Cy Young Award. Without an early-season injury (only 171.2 IP), and with a little more help from his defense (highest BABIP since 2005) and some better results on fly balls (highest HR/FB ratio of his career), his season might have looked a lot better than his 3.83 ERA might indicate.

When the Brewers acquired Greinke last season they were in the process of assembling a winner for 2011. With Prince Fielder just a year away from free agency they decided to go for it, trading many premium prospects for Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and then Francisco Rodriguez mid-season. Fielder is now a free agent, and while I think the Brewers could still retain him it’s far from a certainty. There’s a decent chance that they’re shut out of the top free agents, which could leave them in a bind. Both Greinke and Marcum hit free agency after the season, so if they don’t think they stand a good chance to contend in 2012 they could use one, or both, to further stock the farm system and reload for 2013.

While I consider these chance slim, the Yankees would certainly have to look into Greinke if Milwaukee made him available. In fact, late last week Vizzini at NoMaas made a case that the Yankees should make a run at Greinke. While I’m not totally on board with the idea — Nova starting the conversation — that’s mainly because of my “your trade proposal sucks” mentality. Really, the Yankees have a few chips, Nova included, who could provide the Brewers with steady value for five to six seasons. The Yankees would cash in that long-term value for a quick burst of Greinke, who could be worth six to eight wins in 2012.

Before hitting the pros and cons, I want to make clear that I do not see this happening. When I predicted the top 50 free agents I not only had Fielder returning, but also Aramis Ramirez coming over to play third base. That is, I think the Brewers make a splash again this off-season, with Greinke and Marcum approaching free agency, and then use their farm system to reload for 2013 and beyond. But if they do lose fielder and decide to begin that reloading process a year early, the Yankees should absolutely be in on Greinke.

Pros

  • He is absolutely an elite pitcher. While he disappointed in some ways following his 2009 AL Cy Young Award, he still put up peripherals better than most of his peers. Since 2009 he ranks fourth in the majors in FIP, fourth in xFIP, and, despite missing more than a month in 2011, sixth in WAR. The only place he falls short is ERA, but he’s had to deal with some poor defenses the last few years.
  • He misses bats, which is something the Yankees could use. In his career he has averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings, and in the last three years he has struck out a batter per inning.
  • He doesn’t walk guys. His 2.19 BB/9 since 2009 ranks 12th among all qualified starters. That’s even better than CC Sabathia, who ranks 30th with 2.58 BB/9. The Yankees would then have two high-strikeout, low-walk pitchers heading their rotation.
  • Last year, when seeking a way out of Kansas City, he reached out to the Yankees and expressed a desire to pitch in New York. That runs counter to one of the Cons listed below, but it’s pretty clear that the guy values winning above all else.
  • He’s durable. He pitched at least 200 innings from 2008 through 2010, and only missed the mark this year because of an injury suffered while playing basketball. If he can stay off the court, he appears capable of staying on the mound.
  • His disdain for the media can provide some interesting quotes and situations. It means zero for his on-field value, but it can provide some entertaining moments — a la Mike Mussina, perhaps.

Cons

  • It had to come up at some point, so let’s lead the Cons section with Greinke’s social anxiety disorder. It’s a well-known issue, though it’s tough to see how it has affected his performance since he returned to the mound in 2007. There will always be a faction of fans who think that his SAD will prevent him from pitching under the bright lights at Yankee Stadium, but that’s mostly armchair psychology. Only Greinke, and perhaps his doctor, knows if he can handle it.
  • For two straight years he’s had an ERA significantly higher than his FIP. There can be a number of reasons for this, but his strand rate stands out. He produced his two worst marks in 2010 and 2011. This probably isn’t a problem going forward — remember, he had some crappy defenses behind him — but it’s a red flag nonetheless.
  • Normally a bullet list should contain three points, but it’s hard to find negatives about Greinke. Maybe he continues to have a homer problem in Yankee Stadium after experiencing issues in Milwaukee. I dunno, if you want to crucify him for 16.2 playoff innings there’s that. But then again he pitches well against the Red Sox, in more career innings, so what are ya gonna do?

Chances are Milwaukee hangs onto Greinke and does battle again in the NL Central. After all, it’s not the strongest of divisions even if the World Champions play in it. But if they do lose Fielder and don’t sign an adequate replacement, they could look to move Greinke in advance of his free agency. If he does hit the market he could be a perfect fit for the Yankees.

Categories : Hot Stove League

98 Comments»

  1. Sarah says:

    Joe, do you think the high ERA might also have something to do with the terrible defense in MIL?

    I’m always intrigued by weird Zach Greinke. Great stuff.

    • Slugger27 says:

      last year opponents OPSed 884 against him with RISP. im guessing thats to blame.

    • radnom says:

      Did you read the article?

      “with a little more help from his defense (highest BABIP since 2005)”

      “he’s had to deal with some poor defenses the last few years”

      “he had some crappy defenses behind him”

      • Sarah says:

        Not necessary to be so rude. I read it, obviously I missed that part.

        • radnom says:

          Was my comment really rude? I just pointed out the parts where Joe mentioned it, and in my effort I answered your original question.

          You might want to consider not being so sensitive – no offense was intended.

          • BJ says:

            Your statement “Did you read the article?” comes off as rude, as you’re inherently implying that her comprehension skills and intelligence are subpar.

            • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

              Well, this may be rude of me to say, but since the post mentions in *several* places the exact thing asked, I think it’s fair to call reading comprehension into question. Not sure how one could read the post, even quickly, and miss all that.

  2. Jesse says:

    Pass. The anxiety issues scare me.

    • Brian S. says:

      Why? He’s not going to explode in New York. It’s a really dumb narrative.

      • Jesse says:

        “He’s not going to explode in New York”.

        You have tomorrow’s lottery numbers?

        Besides, the Yankees have worried about his issues in the past, so it’s pretty much irrelevant what we think…

        • Brian S. says:

          Do you? The guy has been playing competitive basbeball the last several years now and has pitched in New York. The bright lights of Yankee Stadium aren’t going to turn him into a basketcase.

          • Jesse says:

            “Has pitched in New York.”

            Two can play the small sample size game.

            Career in New York he’s 0-3 in three starts with an 11.09 ERA…

            • Brian S. says:

              He has also pitched against the Mets. But really, I don’t understand your argument. You are saying that he will go postal if he pitches in New York. He hasn’t. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball while pitching against all teams in all leagues in all ballparks. There isn’t anything that separates New York from Philadelphia or Detroit or any other ballpark. It’s still just baseball which he has proven to be extremely good at.

              • Jesse says:

                He’s never pitched against the Mets in New York. Your original comment was “Has pitched in New York”, key word IN. And once again, you’re just another person who completely disregards anything that isn’t on a sabermetric sheet and it’s pretty comical.

                • Brian S. says:

                  And you’re just another person that believes in subjective conjecture with no stats or facts to back your opinion. There is no evidence that he couldn’t handle pitching in New York. None. When trying to find people to pitch for the team you look at their track record and see how they have performed. He has pitched in the majors for years and been one of the best in the business since 2008. And you are telling me he would no longer do so because…people in New York are mean? The media is larger? He might get booed in Fenway?

                • hogsmog says:

                  I mean, I’d totally buy the narrative if there was any evidence, but there isn’t.

                  If he wants to pitch in NY, then I would assume he believes he can handle pitching in NY; why would he actively seek something that would destroy his career? I am absolutely certain Zack Greinke understands the stress levels associated with pitching from a big league mound and how they interact with his anxieties more than than you, I, or the media.

            • Rainbow Connection says:

              What are CC’s #’s against the Sox in 2011?

            • It'sATarp says:

              He’s not pitching against NY if he comes here…He practically begged Cashman to allow him to come last year.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          “Besides, the Yankees have worried about his issues in the past, so it’s pretty much irrelevant what we think…”

          Could be, or could be that they were trying to negotiate a trade. Trying to bring down his value, and ultimately being unwilling to match the Brewers’ offer.

      • Thomas Cassidy says:

        Why not? He exploded in the playoffs in fucking Milwaukee. I wouldn’t give much for him. He is a headcase, Jeff Weaver 2.0. I’d offer Betances straight up. That’s it. They wouldn’t take it but that’s my offer.

        I have a feeling he would be a 12-10, 4.50 ERA guy in Yankee Stadium.

        Pass.

        • Brian S. says:

          CC sucked in the playoffs in 2007, I’m so glad we didn’t acquire him before 2009. Oh wait. And why are you using win-loss records and ERA?

          • Thomas Cassidy says:

            What’s wrong with ERA? Oh wait, here come the shitty sabermetrics and how useful they are, just ask Beane and all his championship teams, right?

            But CC also isn’t a head case. Greinke would shit his diapers pitching in a World Series game for the Yankees.

            • Brian S. says:

              LMAO! I am bookmarking this comment forever.

            • JAG says:

              I’m sorry, are you really asking what’s wrong with ERA in this forum? I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of regulars who are ready and willing to bomb you with links explaining exactly that.

              You know who also knows something about sabermetrics? Theo Epstein and his (sigh) championship Red Sox (twice).

              • Brian S. says:

                Brian Cashman uses sabermetrics. Every team uses sabermetrics to evaluate players.

                • JAG says:

                  I know, my point was more in response to the comment about Billy Beane. The Red Sox are famously one of the teams to really take a progressive attitude towards sabermetrics and found considerable success with it right around the same time that Beane was doing the Moneyball thing.

                  It’s wasted effort anyway, I know, but I figured it would be a better comparison.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          Thanks for clarifying, Dr. Cassidy.

      • BK2ATL says:

        It’s a dumb narrative that’s apparently being taken seriously within the Yankees’ organization. Who are we to second-guess what they REALLY know?

        Look. Some guys can thrive outside of a pressure-cooker. There wasn’t any pressure on Greinke in KC, even when he had his Cy Young season. There wasn’t any pressure on him in Milwaukee either. The Yanks brass appear to believe that he couldn’t handle NYC, so they have looked in other directions while wishing him well.

        No harm, no foul. They just don’t think Greinke’s built for NYC. He wouldn’t be the 1st, he won’t be the last.

        • It'sATarp says:

          How does being in a pennant race in Milwaukee any different from NY? I mean this was after the Packers won the SB, and the play off window for the Brewers closing, so it’s not like he’s playing in a nonchalant environment.

          • BK2ATL says:

            “How does being in a pennant race in Milwaukee any different from NY?”

            You’re not serious, are you?

            • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

              +1.

              I am deeply appreciative of the value of advanced stats so my stance has nothing to do with that. I consider them necessary, but not sufficient, to judge things.

              Similar point to the above: acting. If you think performing on a high school stage in front of 80 loving parents is the same as on a broadway stage in front of 800 people who paid $100+ a ticket, or in front of a crew of 100 on a film with a $100 million budget, well then you’ve never acted.

              NOT ALL STAGES ARE THE SAME. STOP PRETENDING THAT THEY ARE. THEY ARE NOT. FULL STOP.

  3. countryclub says:

    Didn’t the Yanks publicly state last off season that they didnt think he could thrive in NY? If not, it definitely came out thanks to the Shermans of the world. I’m sure that hasnt changed.

  4. nesto says:

    YES. Please, YES. Screw what anyone says about his “anxiety issues.” Unless anyone commenting here is zack’s personal therapist/neuroscientist no one really has any clue about his state of mind or how it will affect his pitching in new york. Bring him over. Hell, if Arod and his miserable PR skills can make it here, why can’t Zack?

    • radnom says:

      This is just as ignorant as the people who claim he can’t pitch in NY because of said issue. Its a risk/uncertainty, as you admit yourself – no one knows his state of mind or how it would affect him.

      Lets look only at the facts – he had to take significant time away from the game to straighten these issues out back in 06/07. Since then he hasn’t had to miss anymore time and has been successful on the mound. Its definitely a risk, but I think a small one and I would definitely be on board for trading for him (as I was when he was with the Royals).

      • Spreadsheet Sam says:

        The whole SAD issue is misunderstood. From the SAD standpoint there really is little difference between pitching in front of 10,000 people or pitching in front of 60,000. The guy has performed extremely well “under the bright lights” and the specific number of voices in the crowd or wattage of the lights isn’t going to make a difference.

        SAD is more likely to show itself in more intimate social situations shut as post-game press conferences and the like. But Greinke has been dealing with them for years and his performance hasn’t suffered.

        Honestly, I don’t see how Greinke’s SAD is going to hurt him any worse in NYC or Boston than it has in KC or Milwaukee.

        • radnom says:

          I don’t see how anything you just said is any less speculative that any other “armchair psychology” fans are doing. In fact, if one were to take what you said seriously (I don’t), then it should raise more alarm if anything. As you said, there is no difference between 10k and 60k, and Greinkes pitched in front of huge crowds many times before. The main difference between a KC and a market like NY and Boston would be off the field – dealing with the increased media pressure.

          But there is no reason to assume that is the case because I don’t buy into any of the random fan speculation about his condition.

        • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

          Ummm, have you not seen the difference between media coverage – specifically, the post game press conferences and the like that you specifically mention – in KC and Mil vs. in NY? Come on man. You’re really serious with that stance?

          • Rookie says:

            You’re not suggesting for one minute, I hope, that there’s any difference in the number or attitude of the press corp New York and that of Milwaukee or K.C….

    • Slugger27 says:

      he ALREADY MISSED TIME in his career due to the issue. clearly, theres something to it.

      • It'sATarp says:

        That was a long time ago. Are you still the same person you were when you were younger? I’ve known people who were Depressed in College and had many problems but once they got treatment they’ve really improved and now you wouldn’t even have known how bad they were a few years ago.

        • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

          Congratulations. I also know people who’ve been fucked up since being molested as kids and who remain fucked up and best case can hope for a life on the therapy couch to help them deal.

  5. Brian S. says:

    I would be the happiest man alive if we acquired Grienke. He is ELITE and even lead all of MLB in xFIP this last season.

  6. nesto says:

    Also, as Joe pointed out, Greinke is one hilarious dude, intentional or unintentional.

  7. Johnny O says:

    Joe – any thoughts on what it would take to acquire him? I know you mentioned Nova but it didn’t seem like a serious proposal. I’d throw in anything not named Jesus or manny. Nova plus Betances and Romine? Too much for 1 year or not enough for the talent Greinke brings?

  8. Mark L says:

    Alternately, if the Brewers want to save some cash, why not see about Randy Wolf? He’d be a serviceable southpaw 3rd-4th starter for us and he’d be under control through 2013. Milwaukee could probably get similar production from any slew of journeymen free agents for a lot less money.

  9. mike says:

    No way, rather have Pavano back. Grienke is a mess. He cannot handle any pressure situation. Beating Houston on May 13th in Milwaukee, no problem. Bright lights of the playoffs,problem…he would be institutioanlized by June pitching in NY.

    • Slugger27 says:

      i think this is going overboard

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      Pavano sucked ass last year. The absolute MOST I would give up for Greinke is:

      Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell. I’d do a one for one with Hughes or Swisher. I think they’d rather have Swisher, he’s a good, cheap bat, stays healthy, gets on base, and has decent power.

  10. jeremy says:

    nick swisher (assuming they lose Fielder) phil hughes adam warren and phelps/mitchell

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      You’d give up that much for him? I’d do a Swisher straight up, and offer Beltran a 2/26.

      I wouldn’t include Hughes in that deal unless it’s only him. Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell wouldn’t bother me though.

      • Johnny O says:

        why would beltran accept 2/26? because you offered it?

        • Thomas Cassidy says:

          Nope, because he really wanted to play for the Yankees before the Mets signed him. And he probably still does.

          I just can’t see a team giving him 45 million dollars over 3 years.

      • sicily71 says:

        hughes for greinke straight up? are you kidding hughes sucks! greinkes a beast and can pitch in the AL!!!That would never happen.. his era is high versus the yankees in new york but he’d be pitching for us so it wont matter!!! he’s by far better than wilson and mark b,

      • jeremy says:

        phil hughes in my mind NEEDS a change of scenery. i love him but i believe it would be in the nest interest of his future to go somewhere else. And the yankees dont nessasarily need warren, phelps and mitchell, as theyd be #4 AT BEST on that team.

    • Slugger27 says:

      thats entirely too much to give up

  11. Pat D says:

    As someone who has been treated in the past for mental health problems, I’d still be a bit wary of Greinke’s history with the same.

    Now, each year that we move further away from those problems without repeat incidents is very encouraging, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I can tell you from my own experiences that you’re never really “cured” of mental health problems and they can come back really without warning and at any time. We just have absolutely no idea if he’d suddenly have a significant relapse.

    That being said, if they wanted to trade for Greinke, I’d be in full support of it, so long as it doesn’t involve Montero or Banuelos. I don’t think, considering his pending free agency, it’s worth trading either of those two guys. Anyone else is fair game.

    • Sarah says:

      Excellent point.

      Also, it would be fair to say it’s similar to most injuries. The further away we get, the better the likely outcome, but no guarantees. Which, as it turns out, is true of life as a general rule.

    • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

      This. Much like addictions in that regard. They NEVER disappear or get cured. They just (hopefully) stay in check with whatever combination of meds, therapy, and other support are needed to get by.

  12. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    I disagree with every idiot narrative meme out there…….except this one. I wouldn’t touch Grienke with a ten-foot pole and neither would, probably, the New York Yankees.

    • Jesse says:

      “I wouldn’t touch Grienke with a ten-foot pole and neither would, probably, the New York Yankees.”

      What’s your justification to that?

      • Slugger27 says:

        i think theres a 99% chances hes referring to the social anxiety issues

        • Jesse says:

          But I thought the social anxiety issues falls under the category of “every idiot narrative meme out there….”

          • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

            My justification is that the only memories of Zach Grienke at Yankee Stadium involve him being handed his ass. Now, that could be selective memory, and someone with some time on their hands could gladly point out some good performance I’m forgetting but, as recent as last season, yup, handed his ass.

            Scientific? Nope. Based on fact, and only fact? Nope. Purely one man’s opinion? Yup.

      • Mitch camp says:

        He cant pitch well in front of crowds and he has never done well in new york

  13. Dick Gozinya says:

    His wife is gorgeous, and that means he is confident. Sign me up.

  14. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    I had a tough time with Psych. 101. So I cannot comment about his SAD affecting his athletic performance. He has pitched in KC and Mil. both small markets. if he comes available it will no be different than any other trade. A crap shoot at best for many reasons. I know one thing. He can pitch. And it would be a toss of the coin IMHO to go for it or not. Just as Texas does with Hamilton and his issues. The reward would be awesome if he could compete without issue.

    I’m not saying much that you guys don’t know but I would not give up Nova for him as leverage against the worse case scenario.

  15. It'sATarp says:

    I was all for him last year. I would trade Nova for Greinke, but i think we can get him for less seeing how depleted Milwaukee’s farm is. Maybe for what Phillies gave up for Cliff Leeish..Solid but not spectacular prospects.

  16. Greg c89 says:

    I have SAD, and I’ve commented on previous posts about this issue. While on the one hand I have a hard time not taking some of the negative comments a little personally, I also would be a little hesitant because of my own experiences. However, I have managed to find ( for the first time in 20+ years trying) pretty effective treatment for myself, and I was probably way worse off than Greinke for much longer. My resources are pretty limited, but I have a good doctor and good therapist. A combination of medicine and counseling has done wonders. It’s quite possible that he has found very effective help as well. There might be a risk of something triggering a relapse or temporary flare-up, but I’ve found once I’m on the right track those things are manageable.

    • LarryM.,Fl. says:

      Greg c89, happy to read that you are managing well with the SAD. Consider these two aspects of NY. Pitching in front of 47k every game and media blitx with fan behavior on negative outings. Different than KC and Mil.?

  17. RetroRob says:

    I find people’s reaction to Greinke’s SAD interesting. There’s a group who assume he can’t pitch in NY because of it and there’s an equally vocal group who assume the opposite, and that the disorder will make no difference at all. I suggest both groups are ignorant.

    I’m in the camp of “We Just Don’t Know,” and that should at least give pause. In some ways, it seems the disorder is being used to excuse away things that many wouldn’t normally let pass so easily if it was another player. We have certainly all wondered about how the personality of some players would mesh in NY, trying to avoid the next Ed Whitson, or wondering how some players would handle the intense media scrutiny, even jumping down the throats of new free agents like Rafael Soriano when he avoids talking to the media because he had a tough game.

    Does Greinke get a free pass on this because of SAD? I don’t think. As I said, it should certainly at least cause the Yankees to pause and assess. The assumption by many is the Yankees made a knee-jerk reaction by passing on Greinke, and we don’t know that all. There is much we don’t know.

  18. Drew says:

    Sucky Trade proposal – Banuelos and Laird for Grienke, corresponding move, Montero and Betances to Miami Marlins for Hanley Ramirez – Arod shifts to DH so he stays healthy move Hanley to 3B. BOOM World Series.

    CC, Grienke, Nova, Hughes, Burnett

    Gardner, Jeter, Cano, Hanley, Granderson, Arod, Teix, Swisher, Martin

  19. Reg says:

    Pointless article. Greinke would shit the bed in the Bronx. Pass.

  20. chuck says:

    I would dump both banuelos and betances this winter.. phelps, warren whatever. Get as many of Greinke, Gonzalez, and Danks as we can. They are sure things and if Greinke is a bust due to social anxiety next year trade his ass at the deadline to the cubs or something instead of signing him to a huge contract. Betances seems like just as big of a headcase. Banuelos.. does seem good..

  21. Tony says:

    You do have to take a persons make up into consideration. See ED Whitson UGGG

  22. emcee says:

    Irrelevant: My daughter has Drew Sutton’s dad as a college professor this semester.

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