Zack Greinke, and the Goal of an MLB Team

Finals interrupted my ability to comment directly and at length on the acquisition of Zack Greinke. Those of you who have followed the site and comments closely in the past week probably have read much of what I have to say anyways. To sum up, I think it's a bold deal and a great deal, improving the team by an amount that gets them solidly in contention status. I'm not comfortable enough to throw a win number out there, but this team is clearly in the mix for a playoff spot.

Greinke was the perfect guy for this team to get. Here is a young pitcher in his prime who actually preferred to get traded to Milwaukee, and not only that, his refusal to go to a big market lowered the price it cost to acquire him. The Brewers got Greinke for an almost historically low price for a pitcher of his caliber. The combination of the small amount of teams Greinke would accept a trade to, the "deflated" trade market, and the Royals lack of leverage in needing to move Greinke gave the Brewers something they would not have been able to afford without the perfect circumstances. And he's not the typical high-caliber ace who has a consistent value from year-to-year, he's a guy whose ceiling as a pitcher is possibly unmatched by anyone in the history of baseball. Is it not possible to see Greinke, for the first time in his career playing meaningful baseball, carrying the Brewers to the playoffs with a historically great season? I usually don't buy the impact of a player improving their performance based on the team they are on, but if there was ever a player who might see a boost from playing on a contender, based on what I have read it would be Grienke. Is it a concern that many people report he did not give it his all last year? Sure. But I am excited about what it could mean for next year. 

If I had outlined the best possible outcome for this offseason before it had begun, it would have looked a lot like what has happened. Melvin saw that the team had a pretty weak farm system, but no real need for a lot of hitting prospects in the next couple of years with the corners set (and Mat Gamel to fill in for the next man to leave, which will almost certainly be Fielder). He didn't see Brett Lawrie as a second basemen. And he saw players like Jeffress, Cain, and Odorizzi at what could be their highest point of value. With one more year of Fielder and Weeks available for sure, it's certainly time to make a push. With 2 of the top 15 picks in a loaded 2011 June Draft, the Brewers will have plenty of time to get some quality position players up through the system. And it's certainly possible for a smart team to piece together cheap platoons to get something close to league-average production in the meantime, a subject I will talk much more about next week sometime when I look at the shortstop and center field situations.

This is not about "sacrificing the future". If I see either the Greinke or Marcum trades characterized as that, I'm going to go ahead and vehemently disagree. In any one year, the goal for a franchise is to make the playoffs and then advance to the World Series. In the end, players are assets. Sometimes you trade a few pretty good ones for one really, really good one. If the Brewers had held on to the five players they dealt in the two trades, there's a good chance that come 2012 and 2013 the Brewers would be looking to deal their first round draft picks from this coming summer for a pitcher to help them get to the World Series.

It's extremely, extremely unlikely that a team's collection of talent in the minor leagues will come of age at the same time and produce a team of 15 players who are not just average producers, but substantially above-average players and make a team that wins 90-95 games. There are always going to be supplementary free agents, trade acquisitions, leveraging of players who can become useful down the road for players who are much more useful today. Baseball rewards that kind of behavior, and it's why you see bad teams sell at the deadline and good teams buy. Sometimes you're the seller, sometimes you're the buyer. This is a year that the Brewers are trying to win the World Series. They will probably be trying again in 2012. If they're able to sign Weeks to an extension and Gamel proves a capable replacement for Fielder, it will seem likely. Maybe injuries will ravage the squad, 2011 will be a disappointment, and Marcum and Greinke will be sold to teams who are "going for it" in 2012 for more young talent than the Brewers gave up to get them in the first place. There's no way of telling. 

All that I can say for sure right now is that the Brewers have built a very strong team. Work isn't done, they find themselves in a spot where a marginal win has a great amount of value to them. They should not stop looking to upgrade, and I'll analyze what they can do within their budget to try to make the team even slightly better in a year in which 1 win might be the difference. But if there's one thing to take from this, it is don't worry about the future right now. Things can change so quickly. Maybe the big league team wins 65 games in 2013, and the farm system is top 5 in baseball, or maybe they extend Greinke and Weeks and add a few more pieces with minor leaguers and win the World Series in 2013. No one knows. But in my very humble opinion, this was a great move on every level, and it's going to be one heck of a ride this season. I'm back into the Brewers with more passion than I've had for some time, and I think a lot of people are going to feel the same way. This team is special, and I think we could be looking back at this offseason in late October 2011 and say, hey, I had a good feeling about this.

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