Sunday, December 19, 2010

Zach Greinke a Brewer

In reality, the Milwaukee Brewers' timing probably couldn't be much better than this.

Assuming most major offseason moves are going to happen before spring training, the Brewers picked a very good day to make one of the biggest trades in franchise history.

After all, the Green Bay Packers are knock-knock-knockin' on the golf course's door. They could be eliminated from the NFC North race by Monday night, and they're starting their backup quarterback Sunday night at New England.

(The Packers need to beat the Patriots, or have Chicago lose Monday to Joe Webb and the Minnesota Vikings, or the Bears will win the division.)

Yeah, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, the Brewers have been working hard on improving their pitching staff during the offseason. The trade for Shawn Marcum was just the beginning.

Sunday morning, the Brewers moved four players -- including two who were virtual locks to be Opening Day starters -- to Kansas City in exchange for All-Star and former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke.

Greinke's overall numbers are pretty impressive. Career WHIP of 1.26. Career K/9 of 7.6, to just 2.3 BB/9 innings. He doesn't allow a lot of home runs, which is good, because he has some good defensive players behind him, and the ability to keep the ball in the yard is essential. He's only 60-67 in his career, but he's 39-32 the last three years while playing for a really bad team.

He's also a horse, with three straight seasons of 200 or more innings. That's a plus, because the Brewers have yet to make many upgrades to a shaky bullpen. It's one area of concern on a team that could have just become the favorite in the NL Central next season.

General manager Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt the obvious.

"This is what I call a 'now' trade, getting a player of his ability," said Melvin, who indicated the trade was "90% complete" last night and finished this morning.

"I feel like I've acquired a CC Sabathia except for two years and maybe longer. It feels good. It was a costly trade. We gave up a lot of good, young players. This is a credit to our scouting and player development people to have the kind of young players it takes to make a trade like this."

Melvin said he had made a couple of runs at Greinke this winter without being able to make a deal. Then, when he heard a prospective trade with Washington fell through because Greinke used his no-trade clause, Melvin said, "I decided to try this one more time."

Greinke is indeed waiving a no-trade clause to join the Brewers. He is signed through 2012.

As a fan, this is one of the best things that can happen. You see your team being aggressive in trying to improve, and for the Brewers, it really underscores the importance of drafting well. When you're able to continually stock your farm system with solid major-league prospects, you can open the door for trades like this.

The Brewers gave up a lot. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain could have been the starter there for years to come. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was the man who allowed Melvin to move J.J. Hardy, but the fact that Kansas City gave up their starting shortstop -- Yuniesky Betancourt -- in the deal makes Escobar expendable. Betancourt might not be the long-term answer at shortstop, but he isn't a bad defensive player, and he has some pop in his bat that could help Milwaukee at the bottom of their batting order. Minor-league pitchers were also part of this deal, but that's not a big deal as long as Milwaukee continues to draft well.

Pitchers and catchers don't report for almost two months yet, but it should be exciting in Milwaukee. That's one of the truly underrated baseball towns around, and they've got reason to be stoked about the 2011 team. Even with the likelihood of Prince Fielder leaving after the season is over, the team is building in a way that could allow them to stay competitive well beyond the upcoming campaign.

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