Could Zack Greinke Land in Anaheim?

Last week, reports started swirling around the interwebs that the Angels had entered the race for Zack Greinke. It would be an ideal fit for the Angels as Dan Haren has been hurt, and Ervin Santana has been nothing short of inconsistent. Just to tease Angels fans, here is their possible rotation if they acquire Greinke:

  1. Jered Weaver
  2. Zack Greinke
  3. CJ Wilson
  4. Dan Haren – Assuming he is healthy, and back to pre 2012 form.
  5. Take your pick of Jerome Williams, Ervin Santana, and Garrett Richards (Assuming none are included in the hypothetical Greinke deal).

Now, the odds are the Angels won’t acquire Grienke, but a fan can dream, right?

Greinke has never played in a large market, spending all 9 of his big league seasons pitching in the likes of Kansas City and Milwaukee. He isn’t flashy, nor does he put up those gaudy win totals that win the casual baseball fan over. What he does do, is strike people out. Would his perception change pitching in a larger market like the Orange County/Los Angeles market the Angels play in? Could he finally be recognized along the lines of the best in baseball?

Well, he certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Verlander, Kershaw, and others. Over the past 2 seasons, no pitcher in baseball has a higher strikeout rate than Zack Grienke. That doesn’t even include his masterful 2009 campaign in which he struck out 240 batters. Since 2005, no pitcher has posted a higher single season WAR total than Zack Greinke did in 2009. It’s a fair assumption to say he could lead a playoff caliber rotation, and he did just that last year in Milwaukee.

So, what would a possible deal for Greinke look like?

Greinke’s price is slightly diminished because of the new CBA, which now does not allow mid-season trade acquisitions to be eligible for draft pick compensation. Even with the new rules, Greinke should still command at least 2 B or higher level prospects, preferably major league ready. I also assume, the Angels would have contact with Greinke’s agent regarding his signability before going through with a deal. It would probably be a 3 or 4 for 1 deal, with the last pieces being B- or C grade prospects.

I’d imagine a Greinke deal with the Angels would center around a combination of the following:

  • Garrett Richards
  • Jordan Walden
  • Jean Segura
  • CJ Cron
  • Peter Bourjos
  • Hank Conger
  • Ariel Pena
  • Kaleb Cowart
  • Luis Jiminez

The odds are the Angels hold on to Cowart, as there is no real reason to trade their potential third baseman of the future. Management has also said they are reluctant to deal Bourjos. Because Cron is likely to be relegated to a 1st base or a designated hitter role, he could be expendable considering the Angels excess amount of players fitting that profile (Pujols, Morales, Trumbo). Walden is interesting here, but I don’t think the Brewers would want a reliever to be the main part of a deal centering around a player of Greinke’s caliber. Ariel Pena could also be expendable, but he would probably be the 3rd or 4th player in the deal, rather than a centerpiece.

The Brewers have a glaring hole at shortstop and a long-term need a for third baseman after Aramis Ramirez leaves. Segura and Jiminez play short and third respectively, which could make them more attractive to the Brewers. Both are also near major league ready. So, I would assume Segura would have to be included in this deal, and Jiminez would probably work nicely as the 3rd or 4th piece. To fill Greinke’s rotation spot, the Brewers could potentially want Garrett Richards included in the deal. So here is what a potential package for Grienke may look like:

  • Jean Segura
  • Garrett Richards
  • Luis Jiminez
  • A lower level pitching prospect such as Ariel Pena

Is that too much for the Angels to give up? Well, if they have a shot at resigning him, than it probably isn’t. Segura is blocked at the big league level by Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. The Angels would have enough pitching depth if they got Greinke, that missing Richards wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Although he is probably the player the Angels are most reluctant to give up on given his youth, potential, and 3.53 ERA in 8 games this season. Jiminez is not the 3rd baseman of the future for the Angels, and a young pitching prospect like Pena is going to be a just roll of the dice.

So that would be Segura, Richards, Jiminez, and Ariel Pena for half a season of Zack Greinke essentially. For comparisons sake, lets look at the package Seattle received from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade at the 2012 trade deadline. Lee was an elite level pitcher at the time of his trade, just as Greinke is now. In exchange for Lee, Seattle received Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson. According to grades by John Sickels, here is a side by side comparison of how each player was valued at the time of the trade (or hypothetical trade):

Note: Lawson was not given a grade, so we’ll assign him a C

  1. Jean Segura Grade: B                             Justin Smoak Grade: A-
  2. Garrett Richards Grade: B                    Blake Beavan Grade: C+
  3. Luis Jiminez Grade: C+                        Josh Lueke Grade: C+
  4. Ariel Pena Grade: B-                             Matt Lawson Grade: C

So overall you could say the Angels have a similar if not better overall package of players to offer. It actually seems to fall in line with the type of packages, teams are getting for ace caliber pitchers before they reach the free agent market. But with Greinke not having  compensation picks attached if he is traded, the Angels, or any other team for that matter, would likely be inclined to give less. So, maybe the Brewers wouldn’t get that 4th player in return? It’s hard to guess right now, as this is the first year that this situation has come upon us.

Disclaimer: This was written before Aybar went down with an injury. That may affect a potential Greinke deal, since Segura could be deemed not tradeable by the Angels brass as he will be Aybar’s fill in until he can return from his injury. 

So how would Greinke fair as an Angel?

Critics will say that Greinke’s 3.57 ERA isn’t elite, but ERA can be deceiving. FIP, or FIelding Independent Pitching, is a metric that takes out uncontrollable variables such as pitcher’s support from their defense, to give us a value of what a pitcher’s true ERA should look like. FIP tells us that Greinke is actually pitching at a level much better than what his ERA shows. His FIP is an outstanding 2.56, which is more than a full run lower than his ERA. That ranks 4th in all of baseball, behind only Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Chris Sale. Greinke also ranks 2nd in baseball behind Strasburg in xFIP, a version of FIP that averages out home run rates. xFIP also tells us what a pitcher’s ERA is expected to look like in the near future. By those indicators, it’s safe to assume Greinke is pitching at an elite level right now, and he should continue to.

Greinke would also have added advantages pitching with the Angels. Greinke would surely benefit from having multiple defensive standouts behind him such as Albert Pujols, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, and Mike Trout. He also  would be playing at Angel Stadium, a ballpark that is known for being more pitcher friendly. Fly ball pitchers, such as Jered Weaver, excel at Angel Stadium, and Greinke likely would too. His career ground ball rate is relatively low at 41.8%, which indicates he is more of a fly ball pitcher, and Angel Stadium would fit him quite nicely.

So, as I conclude this ramble, I would once again like to recognize this is all hypothetical, and just one deluded fan’s opinion. In fact, the chances the Angels acquire Greinke is minimal, but he would fit in nicely in Anaheim. Wherever Greinke lands, his new team will have acquired a top of the line pitcher, an ace. To use the old baseball cliché,  “I can count the number of true aces in baseball on just 2 hands.”

 

You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com. Comment below to join the discussion.

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Posted on July 25, 2012, in featured. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I like to dream too, but sometimes dreams come true, ie Pujols & Wilson!

  2. As a brewer fan, I’d take it. Hope that one will be a decent in the majors someday.

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