A Glimpse and a Glimmer?

In the desert that is the baseball offseason, there is something on the horizon.  If you squint you can see it, well you can see something so you keep heading towards it just hoping against hope that it isn't a mirage.  That's where Brewer Nation finds itself at this juncture.

As I write this the rumors of Zack Greinke have taken a step forward to the point of being reported on.  The first  report came via Bernie's Crew, reporting that Milwaukee had a deal in place that would send Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress to the Kansas City Royals for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.  The story came with a nice strong disclaimer, so it was still a rumor but much stronger than most.

But, shortly thereafter, Andrew Wagner of onmilwaukee.com stepped it up a notch, stating that the deal was all but official with Jake Odorizzi also being sent to Kansas City.  Wagner also didn't know who the second major leaguer the Royals would be sending to Milwaukee was. As of this story's publish this is where we stand, with no Kansas City report corroborating the deal and the National Media basically in a blackout on it (sorry no Yankees involved).

The estimable Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel weighed in late, but couldn't confirm the deal.  So what do we know?  There's something on the horizon but we can't touch it yet.  We can only keep walking towards it and hope it's real.

That said it's time to do what bloggers do best - speculate.


There aren't many better words to describe what Zack Greinke brings to the table.  He's an ace, he's dominant, he's in his prime and he's not a single season rental.  A deal that brings Greinke to Milwaukee gives the Brewers one of the best 1-2 punches in the game along with Yovanni Gallardo.  Add in the newly acquired Shaun Marcum and last years free agent lefty Randy Wolf and suddenly you have a very potent rotation, no matter who you put at no. 5.

In the last four seasons Greinke has had an ERA over four just once (last season, 4.17).  He's never walked more than 56 batters in a season and he's struck out more than 180 in each of the last three seasons.  Look he's good, he's really good.  He moves the Brewers from Wild Card contender to World Series contender.  Cardinals? Reds? Still there, but on paper this puts Milwaukee at the top of the Central.


And then there's Yuniesky Betancourt. He's... he's... he's something alright.  Betancourt is coming off a season in which he has set career highs in walks (with a whopping 23) and home runs (16, nearly doubling his previous high).  The home runs were almost certainly an aberration, but a switch to the National League and hitter friendly Miller Park won't hurt.  He'll swing at anything but he at least puts the ball in play, Betancourt only struck out 64 times in 588 plate appearances.

But then there is his defense.  Numerous metrics consider Betancourt to be one of the worst defensive shortstops in all of baseball.  He has terrible range and even the good old fashioned stats say he stinks (18 errors in 2010).  Escobar committed more than his share of errors a year ago but he also is young and will improve.  Betancourt is what he is, a poor defender and a poor hitter.  The prospect of him starting next year is disconcerting.


The cost is high, perhaps higher than I projected but it doesn't bleed the farm system as badly either.  Losing Odorizzi and Jeffress costs you big time, though not as big as one might think.  Jeffress will probably get chances to start but he still projects out best as a reliever.  100-mph arms are rare, but the Brewers have a lot of relief options coming up through the minors.  Think of this as a commitment to guys like Zach Braddock and John Axford.

Odorizzi on the other hand is a tougher read.  He's young enough that the sky is the limit, but he hasn't pitched higher than Single-A.  You would've loved to see him develop but a lot can happen in the next 2-4 seasons it takes him to reach the Majors.  Be glad that the Brewers managed to hold onto arms that are closer to the Bigs like Cody Scarpetta, Wily Peralta, Amaury Rivas and even Kyle Heckathorn.  Turns out the pitching in the minors isn't as thin as some seem to think.

Lorenzo Cain will be missed, that much is true.  He's a five-tool prospect and an exciting player to watch.  Cain showed flashes of being a star and was likely the starting center fielder next season.  If he lives up to his potential it will be difficult to watch him do what he's capable of (think Carlos Gonzalez type ceiling, a long ways to go however).  It just proves you have to give up major league players to get major league players.

The final piece might hurt the most; not because of what Alcides Escobar brought offensively but because of what his potential replacements bring both offensively and defensively.  There is no doubt that Escobar's supremely sub-par 2010 caused him to lose some of his luster.  Still, he is another high-ceilinged player who has yet to scratch the surface of his potential in the Show.  Replacing his offense won't be hard but the replacement will not be as dynamic a player.


Let's start with the easy one, Carlos Gomez in center field.  Gomez lost his starting job to Lorenzo Cain last year and Denard Span the year before that.  He's strikeout prone, walks little and has an increasingly frustrating attitude.  He's also a five-tool prospect and will get another chance to live up to those tools next season.

Another player that will get a chance to win center field will be late season acquisition Chris Dickerson.  A left-handed bat, Dickerson has shown flashes of being an above average player but has yet to capitalize.  He'll get a chance next year if center field is indeed open.

Whether or not the current options pan out in center field this is not a poor spot in the farm system.  Logan Schafer needs to have a bounce back year after injuries derailed him in 2010, but the year before he was the organizations minor league hitter of the year.  Also Double-A prospect Caleb Gindl has seen increased playing time at center this past year.  He should be with Triple-A Nashville next year and with a good season could be contributing to the big club before year's end.

Shortstop is another story, aside from the previously mentioned issues with Betancourt there are very few other options.  Milwaukee has zero minor league prospects at the shortstop position, which might be the biggest detractor to this deal.

There is not one player currently in the farm system that projects out to be even an average major league shortstop.  One option could be second baseman Eric Farris, who was initially drafted as an infielder.  He has seen very limited time at short since embarking on his pro career (think single digit games each season).  That's the best minor league option right now.

In-house there may be one other possibility should Betancourt provide to be as defensively inept as he has been.  The easy jump is to veteran Craig Counsell, though he'll be 41 by the end of next season and can't be considered a viable every-day player.  Plus he isn't under contract yet, but expect that to change quickly now.

Another slightly more intriguing player is Luis Cruz.  Cruz was the starting shortstop for the Brewers Triple-A affiliate and he hit a very nice .281 with 10 home runs.  Less than impressive was his 10 walks all season, which almost seems hard to accomplish.  Realistically Cruz and Counsell will end up filling out the bench though.


I'm torn, the trade I lined out made the major league team better without making it worse.  That's my fault, I didn't want to see the team give up players that would help the big club next year but the fact is good players need to be traded to get good players.  Not just good minor league players.  As good as this trade would make the Brewers for the next two seasons it will be tough to swallow if Cain and Escobar turn into all-stars.

If.  That's the operative word.  While this looks good for both teams it's far from the real deal.  Me?  I'll just squint my eyes at the skyline and keep pushing through the heat and sand.  There's something on the horizon, I know it's there - I can see it.  I only hope when I get there it's real.


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