Random Thoughts — The Zack Greinke Deal

by M.C. Antil on December 27, 2010

Zack Greinke

People say Royals’ GM Dayton Moore was painted into a corner and was forced to trade Zack Greinke.  That may be true, but never forget for a minute that the guy working the paintbrush the past three and a half seasons was Moore himself. 

Zack Greinke opted out of Kansas City because over the course of those three and a half years, Moore — even as he was restocking the Royals’ farm system to a stunning degree — proved unwilling or incapable of fielding an even nominally competitive big league team. 

His Royal teams couldn’t hit.  They couldn’t run the bases.  But more than anything else, their fielding was so miserably bad they made the most storied butchers in history, the ’62 Mets, look like the Harlem Globetrotters when it came to ball-handling.

And please don’t try to tell me the Royals’ problems were a product of Moore’s small-market budget constraints.  Don’t tell me he couldn’t afford big-name stars. 

He didn’t need big-name stars, just big-league baseball players. 

Dayton Moore: Painted into a corner of his own making

What he needed were better fielders and better base runners.  What he needed were guys who could handle the bat, who possessed a slightly-higher-than-average baseball IQ, and who were skilled in doing the kind of little things that can keep a talent-deprived team in game after game, until its minor league system is ready to bear fruit and instill the big club’s lineup with some full-fledged bona fides.

Zack Greinke was tired of losing, to be sure.  But more than that, he was tired of how the Royals were losing. 

And if you don’t believe me, put yourself in his shoes next season, if only for a game or two.  Sit down in front of your TV some night, hold your nose, and if you dare, watch how current and ex-Royal bozos like Jose Guillen, Yuniesky Betancourt, Josh Fields, Kyle Farnsworth, Joey Gathright, Rick Ankiel, Emil Brown, Kyle Davies and Alex Gordon play the game. 

Trust me, you do that and you’ll completely get why Greinke finally spit the bit, threw up his hands and said, “No mas.”

Some other thoughts on the deal:

  • The sad thing for Greinke is now that he’s gone, his old team has built one of the deepest, richest and most talent-laden minor league organizations in all of baseball — perhaps the deepest in the past 35 years.  Meanwhile, his new club possesses one of the worst, made all the weaker by the deal that netted them Greinke  As a result, the Royals have an opportunity to become this coming decade’s Tampa Bay Rays, while the Brewers have a real good chance of becoming, well…the Royals. 


  • As much as Greinke will revel in not having to regularly face a DH, and will love getting to face such punchless division foes as the Cubs, Pirates and Astros four or five times a year, he will have at least one reminder of the dark days of his not-so-distant past.  Every time there’s a ground ball to short, he’ll turn around to see Betancourt, one of the most fundamentally bankrupt players in all of baseball.

    The sad thing for Greinke is that the Royals now have a chance to become this decade’s Tampa Bay Rays, while the Brewers have a chance to become, well…the Royals.


  • In fact, if you measure the Brewers’ chances in 2011 based on the age-old strength-up-the-middle thing, with defensive hatchet men like Betancourt, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy manning three of the four positions in the middle of the diamond, even with Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo anchoring the rotation, Milwaukee is as likely to disappoint as any team in baseball.  What’s more, once Prince Fielder leaves — as he’s most assuredly going to do within the next 12 months or so — depending upon what kind of return GM Doug Melvin gets for him, the Brewers’ future could, indeed, be every bit as bleak as Kansas City’s past.


  • This is just a prediction and is based on nothing specific, but my sense is that in 18 months the star-crossed Greinke will be wishing he never left Kansas City, will refuse to sign an extension in Milwaukee, and even if he’s dealt to a third team for prospects, will end up signing a free agent deal to return to the Royals in 2013.


  • For all that people rip Miguel Olivo for being a bad catcher, try telling that to Greinke.  I watched almost every start of his Cy Young-winning ’09 season, and that whole year he and Olivo were completely in sync with one another.  Olivo would put down a sign, Greinke would nod, and the next thing you knew some poor sap was in an 0-1 hole.  And on those rare occasions that Greinke did get in trouble, you could see Olivo calming him down, getting him to focus, and giving him the confidence to throw any pitch in any count.  This past season the feloniously overrated Jason Kendall never got inside Greinke’s head the way Olivo did, and the kid’s post-Cy Young numbers certain support the notion that Miguel Oliva is, in fact, a much better handler of pitchers than he’s ever been given credit for being.


  • Speaking of Greinke’s head, one of the benefits of watching a game on TV is being able to study the pitcher’s eyes.  And I will tell you, if the eyes are the mirror of the soul, Greinke’s soul went dead at some point last June, or maybe July.  After so many years of botched double plays, misjudged fly balls and bonehead throws behind him, and he simply checked out emotionally.  It was as though some sense of self-preservation forced him to shut down and he spent his final three months in Kansas City on auto-pilot.  I’m not sure they Royals got fair value for Zack Greinke.  But I do know this: as much as he remains one of the five or six most exciting pitchers of my lifetime, it was time for him to go.


rbt January 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

And here I thought I was the only one who feels that Greinke is NOT going to like Milwaukee. It’s a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” I’ve done enough reading from Milwaukee since the trade to know that Zack is freakin’ God there right now, and that’s not going to change any time soon. And that is just about exactly the last thing he wants to be. He is going to be under the microscope and the complete center of attention.

I’m not one of those who feel that Greinke isn’t going to perform well under that type of scrutiny – in fact, I think that people who make that assumption are unbelievably ill-informed and prejudiced. He’ll thrive in the NL. But he’s is going to chafe and squirm, because everybody there is going to want a piece of him, and that’s not the sort of atmosphere that he will enjoy.

Milwaukee is kind of like Kansas City in that they have only baseball and football for pro sports. When the Packers are done, full attention turns to the Brewers…and Greinke will be under the most demand of any Brewer this season. I actually think he would have been better off in a city like New York. There’s so much else going on, what with two each of baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams that he actually would have found himself under LESS scrutiny there than he will be in Milwaukee. Sure, it’s a critical fanbase, but I think he’d have been fine with it.

M.C. Antil January 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Intersting point about NY, but I just throw this bit of caution out there: I used to live in NY, and it’s a place that requires a lot of energy just to exist. Space is at a premium. Quiet is at a premium. And the pace of life can wrap itself around a person and squeeze the energy right out of a him. I’d be less worried about the press and the fans in NY, than I would the quality of life away from the ballpark.

I too think Greinke will flourish in Milwaukee. But with their bad defense, woefully thin farm system and Fielder’s pending departure, I can see them becoming a bad team rather quickly too. And when they do, I think Greinke will look at what they’ve got going in K.C. and think to himself, “Boy, do I wish I was back there.”

He’ll be fine in Milwaukee. It’s just that, if he doesn’t make the playoffs there this coming season, there’s a real good chance he never will.

Zach December 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm

If you’re right and Greinke does re-sign with the Royals I will be extremely surprised and elated. I’ve grown up with the Royals and just hope that they can seriously contend at some point in the not-so-distant future…or my lifetime for that matter.

M.C. Antil December 31, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Zach: A couple of thoughts. There is no team in baseball with a better farm system than the Royals. In fact, their system is so strong, it might be the best baseball has seen in 30 years. What’s more they do not have a single dollar committed to any player on their big league roster past 2011. I think in 2011, they might spend the first three months looking like one of the worst teams in baseball history, and in fact may be one of the worst teams in baseball history.

But by September, fans will start to see the tip of the iceberg. Mike Moustakas will be the first to appear. And Eric Hosmer will follow soon thereafter. But the guy you’ll really want to see is Wil Myers. He’s a catcher now, but I think he’ll eventually be the Royals’ starting RF. He’s a special talent. Throw in, arguably, the four greatest left hand starting prospects any team has been able to assemble since the advent of the draft, and you have a team ready to become the Braves of the 90’s. That’s why I said Greinke might come back, and why, like Greg Maddux did in ’92 (when he signed with the Braves for less than the Yankees were offering), Greinke might choose to return to the relative calm and comfort of Kansas City at a “hometown” discount.

By the way, Zach, if you’re a Royals fan, you might want to check out the blog item I posted a few months back about John Schuerholz’ two worst deals ever; one of which took place while he was running the Royals.

Keep reading, OK? And please share my blog with your fellow Royal fans. (I’m not necessarily a Royals fan; I just loved watching Zack Greinke pitch. He was — and is — truly special.)

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