Evaluating The Zack Greinke Trade

The Los Angeles Angels were the winners in the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, making a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for the former Cy Young Award winner. The trade offers intriguing angles for three different teams, including LAA’s AL West rival in Texas. TheSportsNotebook runs through the trade’s implications…

*Los Angeles is clearly the best team in baseball with this addition. The rotation is now Jered Weaver-Zack Greinke-C.J. Wilson-Dan Haren. It’s going to take a significant upset to beat the Angels in a playoff series

*In spite of that, the trade is a significant risk for the Angels because they did not work out a long-term contract extension with Greinke, who is set to be a free agent at the end of the season. LAA was likely to make the playoffs as a wild-card even before this trade. Even with him, they’re still five games out in the West and have both Oakland and Texas to leap, something that’s not going to be easy. If the Angels end up in the one-game wild-card playoff, still the likeliest scenario, and get beat, then they never get a chance to showcase that starting rotation. And then if Greinke goes elsewhere in the offseason, the deal was essentially all for nothing. This doesn’t mean I think the trade is bad—there are three different ways it can work. Either win the wild-card game, win the AL West or sign the pitcher to a long-term deal and the prospects they gave up were worth the chance. But none of those are sure things.

*Speaking of the prospects, Milwaukee has to happy with the package they got back in return. Jean Segura is a top Triple A shortstop and he’ll likely be starting for the Brewers in September and then be the projected Opening Day starter in 2013. Milwaukee also got two Double A pitchers who are both rated in the top 10 of the Los Angeles minor league system. When you consider that the Brewers were only assured of two compensatory draft picks if they held on to Greinke and let him walk via free agency*, general manager Doug Melvin was able to exceed that benchmark with this package and get a major-league ready infielder at a spot where his team has immediate need.

*Now we come to the Texas Rangers, the team with the most to lose in all this. Texas has problems in its rotation right now, with Colby Lewis being out for the year and Neftali Feliz having a setback on his rehab stint. The Rangers have Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison as the 1-2 in their rotation and are keeping their fingers crossed on Roy Oswalt. Individually, each one of these pitchers has value, but all are about one notch higher on the rotation rung than they should be. Meaning the Rangers have a real need for a #1 starter. They also have the farm system to deal with and could have certainly matched, if not exceeded the package the Angels put together. What’s the problem? Or, as we sit here just 26 hours from the trade deadline, does Texas have something else in the works. Matt Garza and Josh Johnson are on the block, or they might swing for the fences and offer Seattle a blockbuster package for Felix Hernandez. Texas GM Jon Daniels has no record of sitting on his hands at this time of year, and after two straight American League pennants, but no World Series title, I can’t imagine he won’t give his team every chance to win. And that means at least making competitive offers for the ace-caliber starters on the table.

The other significant deal over the weekend was the Minnesota Twins shipping Francisco Liriano to the Chicago White Sox for a couple prospects. With Chris Sale suffering from arm fatigue and talk the White Sox may have to give him some serious rest, Chicago’s immediate need is apparent and for all Liriano’s inconsistency, it’s not hard to envision him ripping off five great starts in succession and tipping the balance in the AL Central race with Detroit. What is hard to imagine is him showing any real consistency, which is why I think this deal is a risk for the White Sox and one I would not have taken. Chicago has John Danks coming off the disabled list, they have the ability to move Brett Myers to the rotation and more to the point, this was never supposed to win-or-bust anyway. In spite of that, the deals for Myers and Kevin Youkilis made sense—Youkilis is a good player who became unexpectedly available and plays a position Chicago was atrocious at. Myers can start and relieve and is under club control through 2013. The most we can say for Liriano is that he might get hot. If he does, no one on the South Side will care about what was given up. But I can understand why Minnesota had no hesitation about dealing him within the division.