In Zack Greinke Trade, There Are No Losers

If you’re a fan of a sports team, and your team is involved in a trade, you want your team to be declared the “winner”. You want to know that what your team sent away was less valuable than what it received, that your team is better, and that in five years you can look back at that moment the trade took place and say something like, “that trade made all the difference”. On Friday, the Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers agreed on a deal that sent Zack Greinke out west in exchange for three prospects, and both teams should feel as though they “won” this trade.

Angels

The Angels were loaded for bear entering 2012, acquiring Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the offseason. To some, they appeared to be the most talented team in baseball. For the amount of capital invested in the current roster, winning a World Series in the near future is the top priority for this ball club. Adding Greinke to the rotation is a perfect complement to that mission. Despite arguably having the best four-man rotation entering the season with Jered Weaver, Wilson, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana, the Angels needed an upgrade due to the disappointing season of Santana. They found that upgrade in the best available starting pitcher on the trading block. After Friday’s action, the Angels trail the Texas Rangers by four games in the AL West, and adding Greinke may not be enough to overcome that deficit, but it almost certainly makes them the favorites to make the playoffs as a Wild Card. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen, and now on paper, no team can match the Angels’ starting rotation in a short series.

Concerning what the Angels traded to land Greinke, it wasn’t like they shopped in the bargain bin. They sent Jean Segura (SS), John Hellweg (RHP), and Ariel Pena (RHP) to Milwaukee. Entering the 2012 season, Segura and Hellweg were the #2 and #3 prospects in the Angels system, ranked behind just Mike Trout. The Angels minor league system was not a deep one before this trade, and it certainly could be described as depleted now. To get something, you typically have to give something, and this pillage of the farm clearly signals that the Angels are moving all-in to win in the near term. It was a lot of prospects to give for Greinke, who could amount to be just a two-month rental before free agency this winter, but if the Angels win the World Series it will be completely worth it. If they don’t, the top-heavy imbalance of the organization may become unsustainable, and a system overhaul may be required.

Brewers

Milwaukee didn’t necessarily want to trade Zack Greinke when the month of July began. It was even reported that they offered him a 5-year extension worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$112.5 million. After all, Greinke had pitched well for the Brewers, especially in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park, where he is a career 15-0 with a 2.89 ERA. However, Greinke turned that offer down, and the Brewers are fading quickly in the playoff chase, so general manager Doug Melvin’s only option was to attempt to trade Greinke to a contender for more value than the two sandwich round compensation picks Milwaukee would have picked up after Greinke left in free agency. Thanks to one of Greinke’s best starts of the 2012 season just three days ago (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K), the timing couldn’t have been better for a deal to be made.

Melvin found the perfect match to meet his needs by dealing Greinke to the Angels. The Brewers lacked a strong shortstop prospect, and they now have one of the most promising in baseball, to go along with two live arms in Hellweg and Pena. Segura may even have an outside chance of starting at shortstop for the Brewers on Opening Day 2013. The Milwaukee fans can respect Melvin for doing all that he could to re-sign Greinke, but after that was no longer a possibility, starting to re-build the foundation of the franchise. Not only are the three prospects Milwaukee received better than two compensation draft picks, they will also contribute in a one-to-two year time frame, as opposed to a three-to-four year one.

Both teams got exactly what they were looking for in the trade market, and each franchise is in a better position for it based on their current goals. In five years, we may be able to declare one team the clear winner in this exchange, but for now, I am going to call it a draw.

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