Analyzing the Zack Greinke Trade

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For the Angels

The Angels have long had a history of collecting starting pitching. The addition of Zack Greinke gives them a top three of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Greinke with the struggling but still formidable Dan Haren at number four. The Angels are a veteran, win-now team and Greinke doesn’t have to be merely a rental. They have the money to sign him, but have to cautiously navigate the fragility of baseball players’ egos and clubhouse harmony if they give Greinke the $140+ million it’s going to take to keep him. Weaver chose to forego his opportunity at free agency—presumably over the strenuous objections of his agent Scott Boras—and sign a down-the-line contract for 5-years at $85 million. As much as he said that $85 million is enough money, he could change his tune if Greinke is given a guaranteed $60 million more to sign.

It can be debated how valuable Greinke is going to be to the Angels in the playoffs. If you look back through recent history, since the advent of the Wild Card, teams that have put together awe-inspiring starting rotations have routinely gotten picked off in the playoffs. Notably, the Braves and Phillies were two such teams and it happened repeatedly. The teams that have won in the playoffs have had a very good bullpen and reliable closer. The manager is also a factor. It’s different managing in the playoffs than it is in the regular season. In a short series, there’s not the option of leaving the starting pitcher in to find his groove and hope that the offense will make up the difference. A quick hook is required and a manager whose strategy isn’t predicated on the situation but is more invested in the “this is the way I manage” brand of egomania and inflexibility, the starting rotation isn’t going to help them all that much if they don’t perform.

But the Angels have to make the playoffs before concerning themselves with what they’re going to do while there and the addition of Greinke improves their chances in doing that.

For the Brewers

GM Doug Melvin got his shortstop for the next decade in Jean Segura. Segura’s path was blocked with the Angels and that wasn’t going to change, but the Brewers are starting an on-the-fly retool and Melvin has a history of turning things around quickly as he did after 2008 and put a team together that was a legitimate World Series contender three years later. They needed to rebuild a decimated farm system and with Segura and 6’9” righty pitcher John Hellweg and righty pitcher Ariel Pena, they’ve taken steps to restock that system.

This is not a teardown a la the Marlins where they’re taking their name players and dealing them away simply to gouge their customers and keep the authorities off their backs. Owner Mark Attanasio is flexible with his payroll, trusts his GM and the fans seem to understand how things have to be handled with in mid-market Milwaukee. Greinke had resisted efforts to stay in Milwaukee and if he were to do so, it would’ve required that he take a contract similar to the one the aforementioned Weaver took to stay with the Angels. He wants to get paid and that wasn’t going to happen for the duration or dollars palatable for the Brewers, so they moved on.

For Greinke

The sense that he’s not able to handle pressure due to his former issues with depression are still hovering over him like a vulture. Considered a bad fit for the large market clubs with demanding fanbases, the Angels are a laid back atmosphere in a languid locale. If Greinke proves himself able to deal with the expectations inherent with a team that has the payroll and star power of the Angels, it bolsters his free agent credentials. If he does poorly, the scrutiny will get worse. Pitching well in the regular season and in the playoffs might force teams like the Yankees to consider pursuing him. At worst, Greinke will have the Yankees as a bargaining chip to get the money he wants. In this market, if the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are not chasing a free agent, his options are severely limited and, as a result, so will be his potential paycheck. He can put the rumors that he’s mentally weak to rest over the next two (and the Angels hope, three) months.

Then he’ll get his money.

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Avoiding Greinke Due To His Past Depression Is A Copout

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Twitter GMs, armchair scouts and amateur experts are bad enough when they’re talking about players’ on field performances and regurgitating stuff in authoritative tones as if they understand it, but with Zack Greinke it’s expanded from self-aggrandizing analysis of his performance to pop psychology and the factoid that because Greinke had depression in 2006, he’s still unfit to pitch in a high-pressure atmosphere.

The term used to diagnose Greinke was “social anxiety disorder”. Greinke had to leave baseball for awhile to get his life and mental state in back together. He did that, returned and eventually became one of the best pitchers in baseball and a Cy Young Award winner.

The “why” is as irrelevant as the fact that he was once depressed and unable to perform. It was six years ago. Put yourself in his position. Drafted out of high school with the 6th pick in the draft and joining the perennial doormat Royals whose future hopes hinged on his development, he was in the big leagues two years later before he was ready. Oh, he pitched well enough as a 20-year-old rookie in 2004 with an 8-11 record and solid across-the-board numbers for a dreadful team that lost 104 games, but he wasn’t emotionally ready at that age for the scrutiny and expectations surrounding his circumstances. Very few people would be. All the talk of “maturity beyond his years” for players like Mike Trout is fine, but 22 is 22. It’s an early age to be labeled a savior.

Greinke led the American League in losses in 2005 and missed almost the entire 2006 season with his off-field troubles. He regrouped and fulfilled his potential and more. So why is it still something brought up almost offhandedly as if the final word has been uttered because of what happened when he was 22-years-old?

According to Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin, Greinke is definitely going to be traded somewhere. The Brewers had been holding out to see where they were after the All-Star break and have come completely apart. Greinke is a free agent at the end of the season and the Brewers are a mid-market team that is willing to spend money to compete, but can’t toss $140 million at a pending free agent as the Phillies just did with Cole Hamels and simultaneously field a competitive roster to surround Greinke. Trading him makes sense. When all is said and done, the Brewers will likely have recouped what they traded away to get Greinke and more since they didn’t give up all that much to get him in the first place. That’s more of an indictment on Royals’ GM Dayton Moore than a credit-garnering device for Melvin.

Even with that there are teams that are being eliminated by the media because of a problem that existed six years ago and the set-in-stone implication that Greinke wouldn’t handle New York, Boston, Philadelphia or any other town with a heavy media contingent and demanding fanbase. The reality of that will be known within days when Greinke’s traded. The Red Sox or Yankees might roll the dice on him. The reality of the implication will be known in the next two months.

Teams can shun Greinke for legitimate reasons. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and sounds as if he’s looking forward to that process and won’t sign an extension to preclude entering the market. In a trade, he’s going to cost 2-3 top-tier prospects and there’s going to be a bidding war for him. If it happens to be true that he can’t handle the high-pressure atmosphere, the trading team will only have him for the final two months of the season and will be trading for him chasing a title. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but to steer clear because of an issue he had in 2006 and has overcome admirably is an excuse, not a reason. Saying “he can’t handle it mentally” is a copout and shouldn’t be referenced as a final barometer not to trade for a pitcher who could mean the difference between winning a World Series and not making the playoffs at all.

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