By Jon Heyman, SI.com
The Milwaukee Brewers made a stunning and bold move by acquiring ace Zack Greinke in a six-player trade with the Royals.
The Royals receive speedy outfielder Lorenzo Cain, young shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odirizzi for Greinke and veteran shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who presumably will take Escobar's place in the Brewers' infield. Kansas City will also send $2 million in the deal to Milwaukee to cover part of the salary of Betancourt, who is to make $4 million this year and has a $2-million buyout in 2012.
"Zack Greinke is one of the top young pitchers in the game today," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. "We are very excited to add him to our new rotation.
"Zack brings great physical skills and athleticism to the team and is an outstanding competitor. This trade is a credit to our scouting and player development staff as their hard work and judgment provided us the talented prospects that Kansas City will be receiving. I also appreciate the support of ownership in making this deal."
The Royals felt they had little choice but to trade Greinke, who has occasionally expressed displeasure about the team's progress toward contention and is reported to have requested a trade within the last week. An announcement regarding this trade is expected sometime today.
There is no reason to expect any holdup in the trade because the Royals and Brewers have agreed on contingency plans should one of the prospects be found to have a medical issue.
The Brewers were not on Greinke's list of 15 teams to which he would be traded to without approval, but Milwaukee was on previous lists of teams he'd accept. Locale was potentially an issue in some cases because of Greinke's past battle with social anxiety disorder, but he is said to like Milwaukee.
Greinke, 27, was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season. He won the AL Cy Young in 2009 after going 16-8 with 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts and in six seasons with the Royals, was 60-67 with a 3.82 ERA. He was drafted No. 6 overall in 2002. There are two years left on the four-year, $38 million contract he signed with the Royals in January 2009. He is due $13.5 million each of the final two seasons.
The Royals were looking for middle infield help and very much like the talented Escobar, who many believe underachieved as a rookie last year in Milwaukee. The Royals were also seeking pitching help and would have preferred to get a pitcher closer to the big leagues than Odirizzi, but he is said to have huge upside. Cain is highly-touted and was sought by several teams.
In all, Kansas City added to one of the more impressive lists of prospects in baseball. The Royals' top prospects include third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, infielder Cristian Colon and catcher Wil Myers. Colon is seen as a possible shortstops but the importing of Escobar could force a move to second base for Colon, who should be ready in the near future. Most of the Royals' best prospects are a year away, though, which hastened Greinke's departure since he's only under contract for two more years.
The Royals came close to a trade with the Nationals earlier this winter, according to sources, but Greinke told the Royals he wouldn't go to Washington, halting those talks. The trade discussions with the Nats revolved around young right-hander Drew Storen, shortstop Daniel Espinosa and others, sources say. Greinke has expressed a desire to pitch for a winner and people familiar with his rejection of the Nats say he was not convinced they'd contend soon.
The Brewers, which earlier added pitcher Shaun Marcum, look like a contender in the NL Central now. Star first baseman Prince Fielder, previously thought to be a potential trade candidate this winter, looks certain to stay now. Milwaukee had been talking to Carl Pavano, who will now consider the Twins and perhaps the Nationals, Rangers or others.
"We were getting better with [Shaun] Marcum, now Greinke," Brewers outfielder Corey Hart said in a text message to The Associated Press. "Brewers are for real!"
The Blue Jays were another team that tried this winter to land Greinke, while the Rangers were among many other teams that talked to the Royals about the ace, who won the American League Cy Young award in 2009.
Greinke within the past several days told the Royals he's consider a trade to the Yankees even though they also were not on his list, but some family members were skeptical as to whether New York would be the right place for him, as were the Yankees. The reason Greinke was open to New York is that he wants to win. The teams talked a couple times in the past week but never came close to a trade.
The player to be named in the deal could change, depending on medicals. However, all sides are confident a deal will not be jeopardized.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.