Royals’ Greinke trade is a smart move

Royals GM Dayton Moore got his wish: A shortstop, a center fielder and at least one young pitcher who could help replace ace right-hander Zack Greinke.

The Royals, sitting on perhaps the game’s deepest farm system, finally are close to a breakthrough.

The question is whether Moore could have acquired players with greater upside for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

Well, the entire industry knew the Royals had to trade Greinke, putting Moore in a difficult spot. Greinke was not going to show up at spring training a happy camper. He also could block trades to 15 teams and would not approve a deal to the Nationals, a source said.

The deal, then, must be judged in context. Moore did not acquire an anchor, one rival exec said, but landed four good assets.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right-handers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi are intended to complement the young talent already in place.

By 2012, the Royals could be a force in the AL Central. They also will save money with this deal — $15.5 million this season and $13.5 million the next.

The Royals are a low-revenue club. They will never spend like the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Tigers. But suddenly, they have stunning financial flexibility — not a single player under long-term contract in ’12.

By then, some of their ballyhooed left-handed pitching prospects will be in the major league rotation and their infield could have a completely different look.

At first base: Eric Hosmer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

At second: Cristian Colon, the No. 4 overall pick in 2010.

At short: Escobar.

At third: Mike Moustakas, the No. 2 overall pick in 2007.

Escobar might never be more than a No. 8 or No. 9 hitter, but his defense should be a tremendous asset, particularly given Moustakas’ limited range at third.

Colon was drafted as a shortstop, but his range profiles better at second and the Royals believe he could develop into a player similar to Placido Polanco.

The Royals’ outfield is less set, which is why Moore so badly wanted Cain as part of the Greinke package.

Cain, who turns 25 on April 13, has a lengthy injury history and limited major-league experience but shows immense promise. The Royals believe that Cain, like Escobar, will improve offensively. But at worst, both will provide strong up-the-middle defense, which is vital behind a young pitching staf.

Odorizzi, 20, was the 32nd overall pick in 2008 and perhaps the Brewers best pitching prospect. He has yet to pitch above Class A but could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter or power reliever, adding to the Royals’ powerful stable of young arms.

Jeffress, 23, has tested positive three times for marijuana, according to published reports, but seemed to turn around his career last season, finally surfacing in the majors as a reliever.

Would the Royals be better with Greinke? Of course. But Greinke was not going to be with them beyond 2012.

The Royals, moving forward, should be just fine without him.