Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

(Update, 10:31am): Turns out the Royals are getting a player to be named later, not Jeffress. The bigger news is that the Royals had a trade worked out with the Nationals, but Greinke told them he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go there, presumably because they aren’t a contender. Jon Heyman says Greinke also told the KC braintrust that he wouldn’t mind coming to New York, but it was his family members that had reservations. A deal was never close with the Yankees anyway.

(Original Post, 9:02am): Is this a crazy offseason or what? Late last night a blog by the name of Bernie’s Crew reported that the Royals and Brewers had agreed to a trade involving former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but everyone was understandably skeptical. When I woke up this morning, Buster Olney had already confirmed it, so Greinke is in fact joining the Brewers. Kansas City will receive SS Alcides Escober, CF Lorenzo Cain, and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Milwaukee will reportedly receive Yuniesky Betancourt and $2M as well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the trade, I want to congratulate Jim Breen at Bernie’s Crew for getting the scoop. Independent bloggers get written off all the time because some schmucks out there throw out bad information as an attention grab, and it reflects poorly on all of us. Breen’s scoop gives him some big time credibility, and I’m genuinely happy for him. This blogging stuff ain’t easy if you want to be taken even remotely seriously.

As for the actual move, it really puts the Brewers right in the mix of NL Central contention. They picked up Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays earlier this year and just added a bonafide number one guy that they run out there every five days. Yovani Gallardo drops back into the number two spot, a job he’s overqualified for, and Randy Wolf becomes one of the better fourth starters in the game. They’ll have that rotation for the next two years (before Greinke hits free agency), but I suspect they’ll make some moves to really go all-in this season before Prince Fielder becomes a free agent next offseason.

Kansas City gets a young everyday shortstop and centerfield with five years of team control left each, plus one huge power arm in Jeffress (legitimately can touch 100, especially in relief) and one of the game’s better pitching prospects in Odorizzi. Their farm system was the best in the game before the trade, but it was lacking when it came to up-the-middle players close to the big leagues. Escobar and Cain help correct that, and dumping the Yuni-Bomber is a net positive as well.

The Yankees were never really a serious contender for Greinke’s services, even after Cliff Lee headed to the Phillies. They were concerned about his ability to handle New York, and while I don’t necessarily buy those concerns, the team had them and acted appropriately. I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched that package anyway since they don’t have a big league ready shortstop to send to the Royals (sorry, Eduardo Nunez fans). If the Yanks weren’t going to get Greinke, the next best thing would be for him go to the National League, and that’s what happened.

I was really hoping that Greinke would get traded to a big market just so he could put this “can’t handle the pressure” stuff to bed, so now I’ll hope for the Brewers to make it to the postseason and for Greinke to wreck the Phillies. Twice.

Rumor Round-up: Lee, Greinke, Downs

Slowly, slowly, the Hot Stove League is beginning to heat up…

Rangers to offer Lee five years

If the Yankees want to sign Cliff Lee, they’re going to have to make a significant commitment to him. While George A. King reported yesterday that the Yanks seem to have an easy path to landing Lee, today, he notes that the Rangers are set to offer five years to Lee. King believes the Yanks are willing to go six years for Lee at around $23 million per, and the Rangers are not expected to meet that offer.

The Rangers, says King, will try to convince Lee that he’s better off in a state that features lower taxes and is closer to home. But Lee seems to want the dollars. If it’s only about the money, the Yankees will land their guy, but I can’t be the only one nervous about paying yet another guy on the wrong side of 30 more than $20 million annually through 2016.

Yanks wary of Greinke’s Bronx desires

Yesterday afternoon, we reported on a rumor involving Zack Greinke. Supposedly, the Royals’ ace claimed he was amenable to pitching in New York despite earlier reports to the contrary. In the same King story linked above, The Post scribe notes that the Yanks are still wary of Greinke’s make-up. The Yanks, he says, “don’t buy it.” They believe he “does not want to pitch under the burning lights of the Yankees’ universe.” The Bombers are also unwilling to give up Jesus Montero, and it is believed that any package would start with the Yanks’ young stud.

Scott Downs, Type A, too costly for Bronx bullpen

With Damaso Marte out until forever at least the All Star Break, the Yankees want to find another southpaw to complement Boone Logan. To that end, Scott Downs is an appealing target. He’s been very effective for the Blue Jays for the past six years, and lefties in 2010 were just 12 for 79 (.152) against him.

Yet, the Yankees, says Ken Davidoff, will probably not pursue him. For one, Downs will turn 35 shortly before Opening Day, and for another, he’s a Type A free agent who declined arbitration. If the Yanks sign Cliff Lee, they’d give up a second-round draft pick for Downs, and if they don’t land Lee, Downs would cost them a first-rounder in a talent-rich draft. Cashman, says Davidoff, “doesn’t want to give up the draft pick.” Giving Downs the Damaso Marte money he’ll want and having to surrender a draft pick makes this alluring free agent simply too costly.

Source: Greinke says he ‘likes New York’

Here’s one from Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan that’s just designed to send Yankee fans into a tizzy: A source close to Zack Greinke says the mercurial ace would consider pitching in New York. “I wouldn’t put it past him to go to New York,” Passan’s source said. “I don’t think he’d rule out anybody. He says he likes New York. Especially because they’re winners. He wants to go to a team that wins. He’s got a list, but in the process, a lot of people have lists.”

This development essentially flies in the face of everything we’ve heard about Greinke so far. The right-hander, who has struggled with social anxiety disorder and depression, has reportedly been adverse to joining the Yankees, and his no-trade clause requires him to consent to a deal to the Bronx. Still, Passan reports that the Yanks and Royals have discussed Greinke and that the no-trade clause ” isn’t the impediment it’s been made out to be.” If Cliff Lee slips through their fingers or Andy Pettitte retires, the Yanks could very well begin to explore packaging some young talent for Greinke.

Link Dump: Catcher Defense, Downs, Greinke

Need some help passing the time? I got you covered…

Catcher Defense Rankings

Over at Beyond The Box Score, Matt Klaassen posted catcher defense rankings for the 2010 season using a weighted formula that includes stuff like throwing errors and passed balls and what not. Unsurprisingly, both Frankie Cervelli and Jorge Posada ranked near the bottom. Cervelli was tied with Jeff Mathis (Nichols Law poster boy) and Ryan Doumit for dead last at -9.4 runs, while Posada was right behind them at -8.6. Frankie and Jorge placed 119th and 117th out of 120 qualified backstops, respectively. Ho boy.

Don’t expect the Yanks to pursue Scott Downs

We know that Brian Cashman wants to add another lefty reliever to his bullpen this offseason, but Ken Davidoff says not to expect him to pursue Scott Downs. Downs held left-handed batters to a .241 wOBA last year, but he’s a Type-A free agent that will surely be offered arbitration by the Blue Jays. Cashman simply doesn’t want to surrender a high draft pick to sign a guy that will pitch about four percent of the team’s total innings next year. Can’t say I blame him. I’m sticking with my Randy Choate endorsement.

Blue Jays check in on Greinke

Zack Greinke is unlikely to accept a trade to New York, but the Jays are interested in seeing if he’ll go north of the border. Bob Elliott (h/t MLBTR) reports that Toronto has put a call in to the Royals about Greinke as well as Alex Gordon, though nothing is remotely close to happening. Dayton Moore is supposedly asking for a king’s ransom for his ace and with good reason, but if the Jays are willing to part with Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider (my speculation), you’d have to figure they’d get Kansas City’s attention. Imagine a staff headlined by Greinke, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, and Brandon Morrow. Yikes.

Rockies interested in Vazquez

Talk about a match made in what-the-hell-are-they-thinking heaven. Troy Renck (again, h/t MLBTR) says the Rockies are interested in signing two-time former Yank Javy Vazquez to solidify their rotation. Forget what happened in 2010, even if Javy rebounds back to his career norm, he’s still a fly ball pitcher (41.3% over the last four years, skewed by his 34.8% mark in 2009) that would be going to a homer haven park, humidor or not. Vazquez wants to pitch on the East Coast to be close to his family in Puerto Rico, so I can’t imagine he’d entertain the thought of joining the Rockies. Still, what the hell are they thinking? Does not compute.

Baseball America on Yankee prospects

Although the list hit the intertubes last week, BA officially released their list of the top ten Yankee prospects yesterday. Accompanying the list was a chat with author John Manuel and an article on the team’s pitching depth. Both are subscriber only, but here’s the gist: the Yankees have a ton of depth when it comes to middle-of-the-rotation and back-end starters thanks to a strong player development system, but expect them to trade a few guys to maximize value since those kinds of arms have little value to a perennial contender. Adam Warren was mentioned prominently in that scenario. That’s what farm systems are for, to plug holes and make trades, and the Yanks certainly have the inventory for that.

Report: ‘No chance’ Greinke would accept trade to NY

Via Jon Heyman, “people close to” Royals’ ace Zack Greinke say there’s no chance the righty would accept a trade to New York. Greinke has some sort of convoluted no-trade clause, and it’s only natural that he’d be connected to the Yankees after Kansas City put him out on the market.

The anti-Greinke camp was pretty strong given the concerns about his bout with social anxiety disorder and the MSM-made pressure cooker of New York, so this should make them happy. Sure, there has to be some concern when you’re dealing with something like that, but Greinke is a special case; a supremely talented 27-year-old with three straight years of no worse than 4.9 fWAR. Usually you move mountains to acquire a player like that, and who knows, they still might.

A Zack attack

Zack Greinke would look much better in pinstripes and navy than he does in royal blue. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

What if? What if? What if? What if Andy Pettitte retires? What if Cliff Lee stays with the Rangers? What if the Yankees are left empty-handed on the open market and are forced to contemplate a rotation with only CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and a whole lot of question marks? Those are the questions of which nightmares are made for Yankee fans.

As the ALCS plays out, the Yankees know they have a mini pitching problem on their hands. Last year, they used just three starters en route to their 11-4 run through October, and this year, they saw A.J. Burnett spit the bit in a pivotal Game 4, which also happened to be his first start since October 2. Their supply of reliable pitchers has dwindled, and that number could sink even further.

We’re awaiting the end of a series against Cliff Lee, and many in baseball seem to think that Game 7, if it comes to it, could be the last time Cliff Lee faces the Yankees for a few years. If you can’t beat, the saying goes, throw enough money at him so he’ll join you. If it’s about the money, as Patrick Rishe at Forbes explored earlier this week, Lee will land in New York. He could make around $180-$200 million in salary and endorsements if he signs with the Yankees, and the Rangers, despite their new-found wealth, can’t even begin to approach a $25 million annual commitment for Lee.

But it’s baseball, and we can’t predict it. If Lee re-ups with Texas, the Yankees will look to the trade market, and as we know, the Royals will listen to offers for Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award. The mercurial right-hander is owed $13.5 million in 2011 and 2012, and the perennial small-market Royals would love to clear some salary.

On the surface, Greinke is an alluring target. Despite suffering through a down-year — by his standards at least — the 27-year-old has some impressive numbers over the last three seasons (and for what’s it worth, Buster Olney’s sources think that Greinke’s numbers were down because he was bored in Kansas City last year). He’s made 98 starts with an ERA of 3.25 and a FIP of 2.98. He’s given up less than a home run while averaging 2.2 walks and 8.4 strike outs per 9 innings. He won’t come cheap, and because my trade proposal is bound to suck, there’s no point speculating. If the Mariners wanted Jesus Montero plus for three months of Cliff Lee, we can only imagine what the Royals should want for two full years of Greinke.

Olney, who first broke the Greinke story, listed his most likely destinations a few days ago. Interestingly, the top 13 unlikely destinations are mid-market teams that are a player or two away from competitiveness. Those are the franchises that could truly stand to benefit from a Greinke trade. The Yankees and Red Sox, says Olney, are among the ten teams with the pieces to land Greinke and perhaps the need too. He writes:

The first question that both teams would ask before seriously pursuing Greinke is how they think he would adapt to their high-pressure markets. Keep this in mind: The Yankees do have excellent catching prospects, and the Royals need catching, and even if they sign Cliff Lee, they would not hesitate to make a Greinke deal if they thought he could adjust to New York. GM Brian Cashman always has believed in shooting for high-end pitching.

Therein lies the rub — or two rubs. As Jon Morosi reported yesterday, Zack Greinke has a restrictive no-trade clause. This year, he can block trades to 20 teams; next year, that number sinks to 15. Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are on that list and seemingly for a good reason. Greinke has suffered from a social anxiety disorder and depression, and the various beat writers and scouts who have at least a passing knowledge of Greinke and his make-up question whether or not he would be able to handle the pressure of pitching for the beasts of the AL East. Think Javier Vazquez Redux.

In an ideal world, the Yankees would be able to separate Zack Greinke the pitcher from Zack Greinke the person. They could trade from their depth and take on Greinke’s modest salary. After all, he’s making less than A.J. Burnett and is a near-lock to outperform A.J. over the next two seasons. But it’s impossible to take Greinke’s arm without his head, and that might very well be a deal-breaker. Greinke is an appealing name for the Yankees, but it just wouldn’t work out for those two.

Olney: Royals intend to listen to offers for Greinke

With a hat tip to MLBTR, Buster Olney reports that the Royals plan on listening to trade offers for 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke this offseason. They have a boatload of prospects coming up through the system, but Greinke can be a free agent after 2012 and the time tables don’t match up. He’s under contract for $13.5M in each of the next two seasons.

The Yankees are going to be on the lookout for at least one starting pitcher this offseason, perhaps two, so expect them to get their names thrown into the Greinke ring regardless of what happens with Cliff Lee. A lot will be made of Greinke’s battle with social anxiety disorder by people that don’t really understand what it is, especially after some of his past comments (“New York, I still might have trouble in New York. I probably would. But I think almost everyone does.”), but the fact of the matter is that no one knows how he’ll handle it until he’s actually put in that situation. We’ll have more on Greinke in the offseason, I’m sure of it, but if you’re going to take a gamble on a guy with anxiety disorder, wouldn’t you want to do with someone as young (27 next week) and amazingly awesome (19.6 fWAR since 2008, more than CC Sabathia and behind only Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, and Lee) as Zack Greinke?