By: Ryan Smith
Now that the All-Star Game has come and gone, it’s time to get back to the grind for the Milwaukee Brewers.
For the players, that means doing whatever they can to get into the mix for the NL Central race, or at least positioning themselves to make a run at one of the Wild Card spots.
As the trade deadline approaches, Doug Melvin faces the unenviable task of deciding whether or not to trade Zack Greinke.
For Doug Melvin, the grind is a completely different animal. For Doug Melvin, the All-Star Game provided no such break. Instead, while Ryan Braun was participating in the All-Star Game and other players were using the four-day break to spend time with their families, Doug Melvin was still wrestling with one of the biggest questions in Major League Baseball right now:
Should the Milwaukee Brewers trade Zack Greinke?
Personally, I am torn on this subject. The diehard fan in me wants to see Zack Greinke pitch as many games as possible in a Milwaukee uniform. That part of me would love to see him stay with the team through the rest of this season and lead us into the playoffs.
But then there’s the realistic side of me. As much as I would love to see Greinke remain a Brewer for the rest of 2012, I have admitted before that I think the smartest move would be to trade the star right-hander.
Now, as recently as today, there have been some rumors that Milwaukee could surprise many baseball experts and sign Greinke to an extension before he hits free agency this offseason. Jon Heyman of CBS reported that the Brewers are ready to offer Greinke a 5-year, $100 million deal to stay in Milwaukee beyond 2012. But in his report, Heyman quotes Doug Melvin as saying that “players at that level who get this close to free agency do tend to test the market.”
So while the Brewers are willing to make one final push at keeping Greinke, it seems more than likely that the front office could move him to a contender.
Teams will be lining up for the services of the former Cy Young winner.
With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at what the Brewers could be looking at as far as prospects from some interested teams. Technically, you could say that any team would be interested in acquiring a top-of-the-rotation arm like Greinke. But I thought I’d focus on a few teams that have been reported multiple times as having interest in meeting Milwaukee’s demands for Greinke: the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles.
While I plan on mentioning a few potential prospects that could join the Milwaukee organization from each of these teams, it is important to note that I’m not saying we would need to receive all of these players to make the trade happen. I also am not placing a ton of weight on being position-specific when it comes to these prospects. Yes, it would be nice to add another arm to our farm system or potentially find our shortstop of the future, but when trading for top-tier prospects, you get whatever talent you can. If you have a surplus of talent at one position, then you can figure it out when you get there. Frankly, too much talent is a wonderful problem to have.
In breaking down these potential trade partners, I thought I’d rank them based on which team I thought could offer the best realistic package to Milwaukee for Greinke. Without further ado, let’s start off with…
#4 – Baltimore Orioles
Coming into the season, not many people expected Baltimore to potentially compete for any sort of playoff spot. Even after they started out 29-17, most experts figured they would come back down to Earth. While they did start to struggle a little more as the season went on, they still find themselves at 45-40, well in the thick of the American League Wild Card race. When I look at this Orioles team, I can’t help but feel a certain familiarity. Baltimore is an organization with a relatively new and impressive ballpark, a loyal fan base, and a long, recent history of losing. Sounds a lot like the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.
In 2008, desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, Milwaukee traded away multiple prospects – including the organization’s top prospect in Matt LaPorta – to add CC Sabathia to the top of our rotation. The rest is history.
Could Zack Greinke be Baltimore’s Sabathia?
Unlike Milwaukee in 2008, I don’t think there’s any chance that Baltimore parts with either of its top prospects, RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado. ESPN’s Keith Law has those two guys and the second-and-third overall prospects in all of baseball. While I’d love to land one of those guys in a Greinke trade, I said earlier that I wanted these to be realistic trade scenarios.
However, one of the perks of being one of the league’s worst teams over the last decade is that you have the chance to acquire a lot of talent in the draft. While Bundy and Machado are all but untouchable, I think Doug Melvin would at least have to listen to an offer that included 2B/3B Jonathan Schoop. Schoop probably won’t be a defensive star in the league, but he does have the arm to play third. More importantly, his bat certainly profiles there. The guy can flat-out hit. Not only that, but he has also shown the ability to make adjustments when he has been promoted to a more challenging level. 1B/3B Nick Delmonico would also be a decent player to acquire, though he is not on the same level as Schoop. As far as pitching is concerned, I would like to see the Brewers obtain either LHP Eduardo Rodriguez or RHP Parker Bridwell.
Like I said, Baltimore has talent in their farm system. But if Schoop isn’t part of any deal, Doug Melvin should just hang up.
Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for 2B/3B Jonathan Schoop, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, multiple other minor league prospects
#3 – Los Angeles Angels
The Angels’ farm system graduated its top prospect this season when Mike Trout was promoted to the big league club. All he’s done since then is make the All-Star Game and head to the front of the line for the AL MVP.
With Trout out of the system, 2B/SS Jean Segura becomes the top prospect that the Angels have to offer. In AA this season, Segura has produced a .286/.332/.398 line. He’s not going to tear the cover off the ball, but he is a hitter who has the ability to spray line drives all over the field while providing solid defense up the middle.
RHP Garrett Richards has split his time this year between AAA and the big leagues. He hasn’t necessarily had the success you’d like to see, struggling with his location (4.71 BB/9) at times. Still, he’s a good player with a fastball that stays 94-98 late into games. RHP John Hellweg is another pitcher with a powerful fastball, but he also struggles with his command (4.88 BB/9). However, he’s only in AA and has some time to work on those command issues.
Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for 2B/SS Jean Segura, RHP John Hellweg, multiple other minor league prospects
#2 – Atlanta Braves
The rest of the teams on this list are not in the same boat as Baltimore. All three of these teams have had recent success. They aren’t going to be making a deal for Greinke just to make the playoffs. If these teams try to acquire the right-hander, it is because they think he could be the final piece to their World Series puzzle. Atlanta is a team that almost needs to do something because the division title is well within their reach. Philadelphia has fallen off drastically, Miami lacks consistency, New York seems to be winning with two players (Dickey and Wright) doing most of the work, and Washington will soon be faced with an innings limit on their ace.
If Atlanta ends up being the team to land Greinke, Milwaukee should expect to receive multiple pitching prospects in return. Atlanta seems to have quite a bit of pitching talent in their system, while they seem to lack position players that can hit consistently.
Atlanta’s top prospect, RHP Julio Teheran, has had some difficulties this season with the long-ball (1.68 HR/9), but his xFIP of 3.47 suggests that the rest of his stuff has been pretty effective. He’s only 21 and playing in AAA, and he has a decent fastball-changeup combo that he can throw for strikes.
After Teheran, there is a bit of a drop-off. Arodys Vizcaino would have been a guy to target, but he underwent Tommy John Surgery in March. Randall Delgado is an arm that would be nice to add to your system, but he has been pitching at the major league level this season and hasn’t exactly been blowing anyone away, which leads me to believe he might be a bullpen arm waiting to happen. Christian Bethancourt might be the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. He calls a good game and has the arm to shut down any team’s running game. I’m not sure if Atlanta would part with him, but I wouldn’t blame Melvin for holding out for both Teheren and Bethancourt. After all, Greinke is the best arm on the market.
Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for RHP Julio Teheren and C Christian Bethancourt
#1 – Texas Rangers
I’ll admit that the Atlanta deal would be one I could live with. But I’ve been saying for quite some time now that if we are going to trade Greinke, I want Texas to be on the receiving end. Texas is in a unique situation because they have appeared in the World Series the last two seasons while still producing one of the top farm systems in Major League Baseball. In fact, Keith Law ranked the Rangers as having the seventh-best farm system in all of baseball.
Making it to two straight World Series is pretty impressive, but the Rangers failed to win it all each year. They also watched their top pitchers in each season (Cliff Lee in ’10, C.J. Wilson in ’11) walk away at season’s end. They added Yu Darvish to the top of their rotation before the start of the season, and then they signed Roy Oswalt to strengthen that rotation. Still, finding a way to acquire Greinke’s arm could certainly put them in the driver’s seat to be the AL’s World Series representative for the third consecutive year.
I mentioned earlier that Baltimore had two of the top three prospects in all of baseball. Texas has the other. SS Jurickson Profar is everything you’d want in a baseball player. He hits for average, hits for some power, plays excellent defense, and keeps improving even as he reaches more challenging levels. Profar would be even more hands-off than either of Baltimore’s top prospects.
Now, I know this isn’t likely because they are using him this season, but wouldn’t Profar’s excellence make current SS Elvis Andrus an interesting trade chip? Andrus is an excellent defender who also seems to be able to hit for a consistent average. I know I said that position wouldn’t play a role in these scenarios, but the Brewers certainly lack that shortstop of the future. Hell, the Brewers lack a shortstop of the present. Andrus would be a nice find for Milwaukee.
As far as other prospects go, I’ve been a fan of 3B Mike Olt for the last year or so. He’s a slick-fielding third baseman who can swing the bat as well. This year in AA, he’s produced a line of .292/.403/.574. Sound like a nice guy to add to Milwaukee’s system? I thought so.
As far as pitching is concerned, Texas did promote LHP Martin Perez up from AAA this year, but he’d still be a nice guy to add that could help fill the spot Greinke would leave behind. RHP Neil Ramirez would be another guy that would add some depth and talent to our farm system. But the pitcher I would most like to snag in a Greinke deal would be RHP Cody Buckel. He just turned 20 this year and he really seems to be figuring it out. He seems to be striking guys out (7.25 K/9) while not allowing the long ball (0.81 HR/9) in AA.
Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for SS Elvis Andrus, 3B Mike Olt, and RHP Cody Buckel
Maybe I’m aiming too high with that last deal. Maybe Texas wouldn’t give up all of that for a two or three month rental of Greinke.
Then again, maybe getting to the World Series isn’t enough for this team. Maybe getting there two years in a row only to walk away empty-handed has pushed them to a point where they are willing to sacrifice some of their future talent to win it all now.
And Zack Greinke could certainly help them win it all now.
Yes, it would be painful to see Greinke go. But at the same time, I hated seeing Prince Fielder leave. I hated the fact that we got a late first-round draft pick in return for him.
If Greinke is going to go, let’s make the most of it. Let’s restock our farm system.
Instead of letting the franchise start a freefall, let’s set it up for a quick rebound.