So, ya. Today's Sunday. Oh, I'm supposed to write on those days and that's why there isn't a post up when I got up this morning. Hmmm. [charles barkley] That's Turrible [/charles barkley]
Obviously the big news here is that Zack Greinke was traded to the Brewers. Having not visited yesterday's thread, either this has been discussed in depth or Aranathor had too much to drink in England with Stuart Broad. The Brewers fill another gaping hole in their rotation and now find themselves with a pretty impressive front three of Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Shawn Marcum. That should be enough to scare anyone in a short series and it will certainly be interesting to see what Greinke can do in the National League.
Greinke had requested a trade out of the depths of baseball purgatory, which, strangely enough, is a brief drive down I-70 from St. Louis. I had always thought purgatory was much more involved than that. Anyway, requesting a trade was enough to get him sent to the Brewers but, outside of $2M, the Brewers didn't escape unscathed. They sent their young slick fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar and three impressive prospects to the Royals: Jeremy Jeffress, Lorenzo Cain and Jake Ordorizzi. If you go back to before the 2010 season, those four players were the Brewers #1, not top 10 prospect, #8 and #9 prospects. Jeffress was the Brewers 1st overall pick in the 2006 draft and was once highly regarded. (Pre-2007 season, Jeffress was the #4 prospect with Cain at 8 and Escobar at 9 per Baseball America.)
[Update: It appears Jeffress will be replaced by a PTBNL. The perils of a harsh publishing deadline. The story stands as originally written. A PTBNL may be worse for Milwaukee as Jeffress looked like a washout due to command. Likely, it will be a no name prospect though.]
So the Royals managed to haul quite a few prospects. They also sent a wonderful (from our perspective) treat to the Brewers to play SS for them: Yuniesky Betancourt. Former player of the #6org (i.e. Mariners), Betancourt's horrible conditioning and hack/slash style at the plate has made him a near replacement level player. He's a stop gap at best and not someone you want to see at SS if you think your team is a contender.
Strangely, the Brewers look like contender's after this move even with Betancourt at shortstop. Pitching was a huge problem that they've now addressed and they still have some potent bats on the team. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder should both provide the thump in the middle of the lineup. The team will need Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Matt Gamel/Casey McGeehee to be average offensive players to even out the lineup. These players have been inconsistent in their year to year production (Hart just got that hefty extension) so it's possible that the lineup could be problematic still. Like the Cardinals, they will have some gaping offensive holes notably at shortstop, catcher and centerfield.
The Brewers problem, to me, looks like a defensive one. Betancourt is a terrible shortstop. The corner outfielders, Hart and Braun, are both below average defenders on their good days. Prince Fielder has fall down range. It's a weak group of gloves. The only decisively above average glove to my eye is centerfielder Carlos Gomez.
That's not to intimate that the Brewers aren't a troublesome team. They've certainly placed their name with the Reds and the Cardinals when discussing who will win the 2011 Central Division. I still like the Cardinals as the slightly better team on paper but both the Reds and Brewers are within 2-3 wins by my estimation.
If there's any saving grace here from the Cardinals perspective, it should be that the Brewers have taken themselves out at the knee caps in their farm system. They've traded away four good to great prospects to acquire Marcum and Greinke. There's no impact player in that farm system that can be reasonable projected to arrive prior to the 2014 season. They're really down to bare bones and players in the low minors portion of their system. If things don't work out near term and they can't retain free agents like Fielder (2011) and Greinke (2012), they could turn into a very bad team very quickly.
In 2011, however, we've got some competition.