I'm going to say it, I like the Zack Greinke trade. I don't just tolerate it, I like it. I may even come to like a lot. It's not the trade I liked the most out of the litany of transactions tossed around the rumor mills, but who knows how many (if any) of those were even close to being reality.
First, let's not kid ourself. Zack Greinke wanted out, and he wanted out now. Even if you don't believe the reports that he formally asked Dayton for a trade last week, anyone who still held out hope that he was going to stick around and be 2009 Zack Greinke, let alone re-sign, is delusional. If disinterested Zack underwhelmed again in 2011, which I have no reason to believe he wouldn't, he would've made 2009 look even more like a fluke than it already does and lowered his stock significantly. Yes, he could've pitched better in 2011 than he did in 2010, but I find it unlikely and even if he did, for what? How much MORE could we have got in return in July and was it worth the risk? In my opinion, it was not. We didn't HAVE to trade him this offseason, but really it was best that we did. When I defended the DeJesus trade, I granted that the timing was suspect and that there was a good chance if we waited until after Werth signed his ridiculous contract, we may have been able to get a tick better prospect. I don't feel that to be the case here. This was the time to trade Zack Greinke.
Now to the players. Some will argue Dayton was too obsessed with getting particular positions in return for Zack. This is understandable given the Carlos Beltran trade, but Melligner argued this point quite well in a recent blog. We are in a different position as an organization than we were when we shipped Carlos Beltran. Would you rather the Royals have acquired a more highly touted prospect that played 1B/DH? 3B? A left-handed starter? Of course not, because that would be ridiculous. When we traded Beltran the cupboard was bare from top to bottom. There was no reason to limit yourself by position because there was no one to block. Now there is.
Even so, what beef could you have with the haul the Royals received? Four players under 24, three of whom have major league experience already. Even without factoring progression of these players over the next several years, this is an upgrade for the Royals (excluding of course at SP, but that was inevitable - we were never going to get an upgrade at SP out of this trade). Escobar struggled offensively after getting full-time duty in 2010, but put up strong numbers in limited time in 2009 and has respectable minor-league numbers (.293/.333/.373). He turned 24 on Thursday and is a well-regarded defender. Did I mention we get rid of Yuniesky Betancourt?
Lorenzo Cain put up very impressive numbers in limited plate appearances for Milwaukee last season (.306/.348/.415) and had an OPS+ of 107 and those numbers are fairly close to his minor league line of .296/.366/.414). He'll 24 this season and is also regarded as a capable defender. This would not be an upgrade but a SUBSTANTIAL upgrade to anything in the Royals system. If he posts anything close to these numbers over the long term it will better than even the most optimistic projections of anyone in the group of Jarrod Dyson, Gregor Blanco, Paulo Orlando and Derrick Robinson.
Jeremy Jeffres is a righty and will be 23 all of next season and was a September call-up for the Brewers in 2010, posting respectable numbers in 10 relief innings. Like so many prospects, he has high strikeout totals (10.6/9) but also high walks (5.5/9) in the minors but has a career 3.99 ERA in 306 2/3 minor league innings.
Jake Odorizzi is another righty who turns 21 in March and was the 32nd overall pick in the 2008 draft. He spent last season in A-ball and threw 120 2/3 innings over 23 games (20 starts). He had a 3.43 ERA, a solid 1.15 WHIP. More importantly, over his career he is averaging only 2.8 BB/9 and boasts a SO/BB ratio of 3.38.
This trade is not an A+, by any means, but trades rarely are. The whole part where you have to find someone to AGREE to the trade usually means you aren't going to rob someone blind. General Managers, contrary to what you read on the internet, generally do not get where they are by being stupid. We can throw around hyperbole and armchair quarterback all we want, but at the end of the day another human being (or 10) with competing interests has to agree to the deal. All in all, I give this trade a solid B.