Will Greinke trade turn franchise around?

By Jeffrey Flanagan
December 19, 2010

The last time the Royals engaged in a blockbuster deal involving their popular ace � the 1991 trade of Bret Saberhagen � it eventually became viewed as the trade that turned an entire franchise around.

For the worse.

The Royals and general manager Dayton Moore are hoping this time around, the trade of Zack Greinke also will become known as the deal that turned an entire franchise around.

For the better.

After months of speculation, Moore finally found the deal he was looking for to trade his ace, Greinke, who still had two years left on his contract. Moore finalized a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday morning, then made the move official Sunday afternoon.

Moore landed much of what he coveted � a young, starting shortstop in Alcides Escobar, a ready-now center fielder in Lorenzo Cain, a ready-now pitcher in Jeremy Jeffress and the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year in 20-year-old Jake Odorizzi.

While Odorizzi is likely to start in the low minors for the Royals, both he and Jeffress are considered power pitchers with huge upsides capable of averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

Because the Royals also traded Yuniesky Betancourt with Greinke in the deal, Escobar will become the Royals’ starting shortstop in 2011. Cain, a right-handed hitter, also could win a starting spot in center field, flanked by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur.

“The bottom line is that we win more games in the future with this deal,” Moore said in a conference call Sunday. “It will make us a better team down the line than if we didn’t make this deal.”

Although there were rumors that Greinke had demanded a trade in recent days, especially after he changed agents, Moore said that neither Greinke nor his agent made any trade demands.

“Let me say that clearly that we weren’t forced to make this deal,” Moore said. “We did not make a single phone call to another team shopping Zack. Teams called us.”

Moore said he did discuss with Greinke and Greinke’s agent the possibility of signing a long-term deal beyond the present contract, which runs through 2012.

“I would love to be sitting here and talking with you (the media) about a new long-term deal with Zack,” Moore said. “But you need a partner to get something like that done. Zack and his agent expressed a desire not to go down that road.

“On the other hand, I had several talks with Zack since the winter meetings ended, and he understood our situation in that a deal might not happen before spring training or next season or whenever. He understood that.”

Greinke did have a no-trade clause in his contract that included Milwaukee. But Moore indicated that Greinke did not contest Moore’s request to waive that clause as the deal with the Brewers got more serious.

“The only way this deal was going to make sense for us is if we got a catcher, center fielder and shortstop in return (along with pitching prospects),” Moore said. “Having said that, it wasn’t realistic to get all three � catcher, center fielder, shortstop. But we felt if we got two of three and the two were center fielder and shortstop, then it was a deal worth taking.

“This entire deal makes sense for the direction we’re going as an organization. We got three ready-now players and another excellent pitching prospect to add to the next wave of prospects already in our system.”

The deal came about primarily because the Brewers are in a win-now mentality, while the Royals clearly are not. In fact, next year will be a struggle for the Royals to remain competitive without a staff ace. Luke Hochevar likely will become the No. 1 starter and start opening day.

But unlike the Saberhagen deal nearly 20 years ago, the Greinke deal has a better chance of helping the Royals long-term.

The Royals got Kevin McReynolds, Keith Miller and Gregg Jefferies for Saberhagen – McReynolds and Miller both flopped in Kansas City, and Jefferies was traded to St. Louis for Felix Jose a year later.

The Greinke trade also may flop � none of the players the Royals acquired have proven anything � but it also may be the deal that fans and observers years from now look back on as the trade that turned the franchise around.