Lorenzo Cain Rumors
Zack Greinke made quite a few headlines this offseason by becoming the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in Major League history (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The former No. 6 overall selection in the draft signed a six-year, $147MM with the Dodgers.
Greinke has long been a high-profile arm, thanks largely to his 2009 American League Cy Young Award. His 9.3 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version) that season were the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 2004 season.
So it's no wonder that Greinke had a long list of suitors when it became evident that the Royals were going to trade him. Nor is it surprising that Greinke commanded a young shortstop, a young center fielder and a pair of right-handers that had both been first-round picks.
On December 19, 2010, the Royals traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar (24 years old at the time), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (24), right-hander Jake Odorizzi (20) and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress (23). Each player in the deal had recently ranked in Milwaukee's Top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at each on an individual basis...
The Major League Side
- Zack Greinke: Greinke joined Shaun Marcum as one of two offseason acquisitions for the Brewers that offseason, as the team clearly had an "all-in" mentality entering the final season of Prince Fielder's contract. He broke a rib that offseason playing basketball, limiting him to 171 2/3 innings, but he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with an NL-best 10.5 K/9 when healthy. The Brewers ultimately finished with a 96-66 record, netting them an NL Central Division title. Greinke got his only taste of postseason baseball that year but allowed an unsightly 12 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series. Greinke hurled 123 more innings for the Brew Crew in 2012, pitching to a 3.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 before being traded to the Angels. GM Doug Melvin landed Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena in that deal, but that's a whole different post.
- Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt hit a paltry .252/.271/.381 with the Brewers but still totaled 584 plate appearances in spite of that sub-par production. His defense was also well below-average, and the result was a mere 0.4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Betancourt did manage to swat 13 homers that season -- the second-highest mark of his career -- but his lack of plate discipline and poor glove mitigated most of that value. He would go on to re-sign with the Royals as a free agent the following offseason and is now in the Phillies organization as a non-roster invitee.
- Alcides Escobar: Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect at the time of the trade (per BA) Escobar has blossomed into the Royals' everyday shortstop, posting fWAR marks of 2.2 and 2.6 in his first two seasons with Kansas City. He doesn't walk often (4.2 percent), but he's posted a respectable .274/.311/.368 triple slash line with Kansas City. That includes significant improvement from 2011-12, as his OPS+ jumped from 74 to 98 between the two years. He's developed into an elite base-stealer, collecting 61 swipes in 75 tries (81.3 percent). In 2012, he went 35-for-40 (87.5 percent). The Fielding Bible evaluates Escobar's defense at +12 runs during his time with Kansas City, while Ultimate Zone Rating feels he's been closer to average. Still just 26 years old, Escobar has room for growth.
- Lorenzo Cain: Cain's arrival as Kansas City's everyday center fielder was delayed by the acquisition of Melky Cabrera. Groin and thigh strains have cost Cain 98 games between his two seasons with the Royals, but he looks poised to take the reins as the team's everyday center fielder in 2013. It's a small sample, but Cain has a .266/.315/.410 batting line in 267 plate appearances with the Royals. His seven homers and ten steals translate to a 162-game average of 17 homers and 25 steals -- a well-above average combination of power and speed for a center fielder. In 726 1/3 career innings in center, UZR/150 rates him at 14.4 runs above average, and The Fielding Bible agrees at +15 runs. He's excelled in the Minors for the Royals and is in the midst of an impressive Spring Training showing, but he'll already be 27 on April 13. Kansas City needs to let Cain play in order to determine if they have a long-term piece this season.
The Prospect Side
- Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi made his big league debut for Kansas City in 2012, but totaled only 7 1/3 innings. Those will likely be the only innings he ever throws for the Royals, as GM Dayton Moore included the now-22-year-old in the James Shields trade. Odorizzi is BA's No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, and he ranks 45th on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's version of the same list. BA ranks him fifth among Rays prospects, praising his four average pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) but noting that he lacks a true out pitch. Both BA and Mayo agree that Odorizzi has a chance to become a reliable No. 3 starter, but his ceiling is limited by average offerings across the board.
- Jeremy Jeffress: Jeffress' star has fallen considerably since he ranked as BA's No. 100 prospect prior to the 2009 season. Now 25 years of age, the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations this past November. Jeffress pitched 82 innings for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate and maintained his strong strikeout rate (9.3 K/9) but walked too many (4.7 BB/9) and allowed nearly a hit per inning as well. He received a pair of call-ups to the big league club but walked 24 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He has the potential to be a power arm late in games, but he'll now look to fulfill that upside elsewhere.
In the end, the Brewers got an ace-caliber pitcher and an NLCS berth in exchange for the four prospects they dealt. Greinke managed to net them a trio of prospects including a new, promising shortstop to replace Escobar. Kansas City turned Greinke into an everyday shortstop, a promising center fielder and a pitching prospect that helped them acquire a new ace-caliber pitcher (Shields). However, the Royals are better positioned to compete with this top-of-the-rotation arm than they were the last time they had one.
Both teams fell a bit short of their best case scenarios (Milwaukee didn't win a World Series, and Kansas City cut ties with Jeffress for next to nothing), but this is a trade that definitely reaped benefits for each side.
Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Blue Jays are looking for a closer this offseason and Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun says the team has checked in on free agents Francisco Cordero and Matt Capps. Heath Bell is another option for the Blue Jays, who had interest in Jonathan Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies. Here are more notes on the Blue Jays, who have yet to make a major move so far this offseason...
- The Blue Jays would listen to offers on 24-year-old first baseman David Cooper, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Cooper, the Blue Jays' first round draft pick in 2008, debuted with the team in 2011 and posted a .678 OPS in 81 plate appearances. He won the Pacific Coast League batting title with a .364/.439/.535 line this past season, adding nine home runs and 51 doubles.
- Blue Jays president Paul Beeston isn't a fan of the posting system and Elliott suggests Toronto's interest in Yu Darvish is "lukewarm."
- The Yankees are interested in Kyle Drabek, according to Elliott. Drabek started the season in the Blue Jays' rotation before being demoted to the minor leagues. He had a standout season in 2010, but struggled with command in the Majors (6.3 BB/9) and in the minors (4.9 BB/9) in 2011.
- The Royals have some interest in Colby Rasmus because of concerns that Lorenzo Cain may not be ready for an everyday role, Elliott reports.
- The Phillies have discussed ways of re-obtaining Travis d'Arnaud, the Double-A catcher who arrived with Drabek in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade. As Elliott points out, the Blue Jays would need a ton to part with this year's Eastern League MVP.
The Tigers signed Jhonny Peralta to a two-year deal on this date in 2010. The shortstop responded with 21 homers and a .299/.345/.478 line in 2011 and the Tigers won their division. Here's the latest from baseball's central divisions, starting in Detroit...
- Jonathan Maurer, the agent for free agent second baseman Jamey Carroll, told Lynn Henning of the Detroit News that the Tigers would be viewed "enthusiastically" should they approach Carroll about a deal. Obtaining a second baseman is one of the Tigers' offseason challenges.
- It doesn’t appear that the Tigers will talk seriously with free agent reliever Joe Nathan, according to Henning.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he’s “got to give” Lorenzo Cain a chance to play. The Royals created space for Cain yesterday, shipping Melky Cabrera to San Francisco for Jonathan Sanchez.
- The Cubs will interview Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. for their managerial opening later this week, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. The Red Sox are also interviewing the former catcher.
- Astros GM Ed Wade re-stated his interest in bringing shortstop Clint Barmes back, but he’s not sure the free agent will re-sign in Houston. “I just don't know if it's going to work in our situation," Wade told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Agent Barry Meister expects a “significant market” for Barmes.
We’ve known for a while that the Royals’ offseason will revolve around their hunt for starting pitching. GM Dayton Moore made a major move today, obtaining Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. Here are some notes on the trade, plus a look at what’s next for Kansas City:
- Royals GM Dayton Moore indicated to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that his top prospect position players will stay put this offseason (Twitter link).
- Moore told reporters he’d like to re-sign Bruce Chen, according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
- The Royals are still looking for starting pitching after today’s trade, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter). However, the Braves don't appear to be a fit any longer, since the Royals will rely on Lorenzo Cain in center field and are reluctant to part with Wil Myers.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs explains that Sanchez's reliance on high pitches makes him a decent role player, rather than a "long term rotation savior."
The Phillies made one of the first notable signings of the offseason the other day, inking Jim Thome to a one-year deal. Here's some more on Thome and the rest of the game's Eastern division teams...
- Thome's deal with the Phillies allows him to earn an additional $250K based on his plate appearances, according to this tweet from ESPN's Jerry Cracnick. Thome will earn $50K for reaching 175, 200, 225, 250, and 275 plate appearances, making his contract potentially worth $1.5MM.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says the Braves would be open to trading anyone for the right price, following their late season collapse. Rosenthal also notes that Atlanta tried to acquire Lorenzo Cain from both the Brewers and Royals last offseason, offering up Brandon Beachy. They also tried for a swap of Jair Jurrjens and Brett Lawrie with Milwaukee, but were unsuccessful.
- WEEI.com's Arielle Aronson wonders if the Red Sox will pursue Martin Prado as an alternative if Michael Cuddyer signs elsewhere. The Phillies are thought to be big players in the Cuddyer sweepstakes.
- Steve Gould of the Baltimore Sun offers up his thoughts on how free agents Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Pena could or couldn't fit the Orioles.
Yesterday we learned that the Braves are open to moving Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, and that they've already had trade talks with the Royals. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star reports that talks have stalled however, likely because Kansas City does not want to include top prospect Wil Myers in the deal.
Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal Constitution says (on Twitter) that Atlanta is not actively shopping Jurrjens and Prado, but they will listen to offers for any player on their roster without ten-and-five no-trade protection. Dutton says the Braves offered the Royals a two-for-two deal: Jurrjens and Prado for Myers and Lorenzo Cain. Kansas City is open to moving Cain, he added. That deal would add close to $10MM to the Royals' payroll next season, eating up a big chunk of what they have available to spend this offseason according to Dutton. The Braves are trying to unload some salary, which they managed to do earlier in the week by trading Derek Lowe to the Indians.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports notes (on Twitter) that it shouldn't be tough for Atlanta to find a taker for Prado if they're really motivated to move him. The Blue Jays, Tigers, Twins, Cardinals, and Dodgers could all use an upgrade at second base. Troy Renck of The Denver Post speculates (on Twitter) that the Rockies could get involved, possibly using Dexter Fowler or Charlie Blackmon as trade bait. Both outfielders are from Georgia.
The Braves have told some teams they would be willing to move Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado in a trade, a Major League source tells MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Atlanta is known to be looking for a power-hitting outfielder and possibly a new shortstop, so either could be acquired in a Jurrjens/Prado trade, or at the very least the Braves could pick up some salary relief --- both Jurrjens and Prado are arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter.
The Braves and Royals have already discussed a Jurrjens trade, and the Braves have an interest in minor league outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Wil Myers, amongst several other prospects in K.C.'s deep farm system. The Royals are known to be targeting veteran starting pitching on the trade market this winter so the two sides would seem like a fit as trading partners. As Bowman notes, Cain could be seen by the Braves as a future center field option if Michael Bourn isn't signed to an extension.
Jurrjens was an All-Star in 2011, though the right-hander struggled badly (a 5.88 ERA) in the second half of the season and spent time on the DL with a knee injury. While Jurrjens' health is a question mark, Myers also took a minor step back (a .745 OPS in Double-A) in 2011 after being ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the sport in Baseball America's preseason rankings. Myers is still just 20, however, and was converted to the outfield this year after spending his first two pro seasons as a catcher.
After an impressive 2010 season that saw him finish ninth in NL MVP voting, Prado took a step back in 2011, hitting .260/.302/.385 as Atlanta's everyday left fielder. Prado's ability to play left, third, first and second base would make him an intriguing trade possibility for a number of teams, especially since he could be available at a somewhat buy-low price.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star answered a number of Royals-related questions during an online chat with fans today. Here are a few of the more notable items...
- The Royals' highly-touted farm system has more depth than ever, so Dutton explains that this wave of prospects will be different than past (failed) "youth movements" in Kansas City. "Will some guys flop? Absolutely," Dutton writes. "But the depth is so good that not ALL of them will flop. Some should be really good."
- Dutton thinks Mike Moustakas will be in the majors by June, but Eric Hosmer may be a September call-up at best since K.C. wants to give Kila Ka'aihue "an extended look."
- Speaking of Ka'aihue, Dutton notes that if Hosmer lives up to expectations, the question for Kansas City becomes whether Ka'aihue or Billy Butler is the better long-term DH. You'd expect Butler would have the edge given his proven hitting abilty and recent contract extension, but that team-friendly deal (four years/$30MM, plus a 2015 team option) could make Butler very attractive on the trade market.
- Moustakas' arrival could turn Wilson Betemit into "trade bait," but Dutton notes that Betemit could take over at second if Chris Getz can't handle the job.
- The Royals have no interest in Michael Young. He's both too costly and would block "high-quality alternatives" from the minors at various infield positions.
- "The Royals appear committed to opening the season with Melky Cabrera in center," Dutton writes. Kansas City signed Cabrera before they acquired Lorenzo Cain from Milwaukee, but Dutton notes that Cain could he called up from the minors should he play well. Cabrera is only slated to earn $1.25MM in 2011, so the Royals wouldn't be sending a lot of money to the bench if Cain usurped the center field job. Dutton mentions later in the chat that the Royals can be flexible with Cain since he has minor league options left.
- Dutton thinks the Blue Jays and Braves will regret trading minor league left-hander Tim Collins. The 21-year-old was sent to Atlanta in the Yunel Escobar deal last summer and then became a Royal at the trade deadline as part of the package that sent Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to the Braves.
- "It's a long shot" that the Royals would try to sign Zack Greinke after the right-hander's contract expires after 2012.
The Brewers entered this offseason with the goal of upgrading their rotation. Today, they acquired Zack Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM from the Royals for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. The Royals have confirmed the move in a press release. After already acquiring Shaun Marcum in exchange for Brett Lawrie last month, it's safe to say Milwaukee has accomplished its goal.
Greinke, 27, had been one of the winter's most discussed trade candidates, with rumors picking up steam after the right-hander requested a trade earlier this weekend. Although many clubs reportedly inquired on and pursued the Royals ace, a trade was no sure thing, due to Greinke's no-trade clause and the Royals' high asking price. However, neither issue ultimately proved to be an obstacle for the Brewers, who had made repeated attempts to acquire the righty despite being on his no-trade list, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links).
During his time in Kansas City, Greinke posted a 3.82 ERA in 1108 innings, including a 3.25 ERA and 8.4 K/9 over the last three years. Prior to his Cy Young campaign in 2009, Greinke signed a four-year extension, meaning he'll remain under Milwaukee's control for two more seasons, at a cost of $13.5MM per year.
Escobar, who turned 24 earlier this week, was viewed by Baseball America as the Brewers' top prospect heading into the 2010 season, his first full year in the bigs. Although he struggled at the plate, hitting .235/.288/.326 in 552 plate appearances, Escobar provided above-average defense at shortstop, according to UZR. Baseball America's scouting report prior to the season dubbed Escobar a "defensive whiz" and a "special defender," while also citing a hope that he'd develop into a solid leadoff option. The 24-year-old's minor league numbers (.293/.333/.377, 176 SB) indicate that his offensive game should continue to improve at the major league level.
Cain, 24, was considered one of the Brewers' top 10 prospects even before a hugely successful 2010 campaign. After hitting .317/.402/.432 across two minor league levels, Cain received his first shot at the bigs, and posted a .306/.348/.415 slash line in 148 plate appearances in Milwaukee. Like Escobar, Cain's primary strengths are his speed and athleticism. Baseball America suggested before the 2010 season that he "could be a more prolific and successful basestealer," and Cain responded by stealing 33 bases in 37 attempts between the minors and majors. According to Baseball America, the former 17th-round pick shows "flashes of power but is mostly a gap hitter."
Both pitching prospects heading to Kansas City are former first round picks; the Brewers selected Jeffress with the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft, while Odorizzi was taken 32nd overall in 2008. Jeffress' path to the bigs has been sidetracked by repeated suspensions for substance abuse. His most recent violation resulted in a 100-game ban that saw him miss significant chunks of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Jeffress' fastball has touched 100 mph and Baseball America raved that he had "as much sheer talent" as any player in the Brewers' system heading into this season, but his off-field issues and control problems (5.5 BB/9 in his minor league career) had slowed his development.
Odorizzi, meanwhile, was rated by some teams as the best high school pitcher in the 2008 draft, according to Baseball America. Just 20 years old, Odorizzi is the only player in the deal who has yet to see major league action, but he turned in an impressive year at Class A Wisconsin, recording a 3.43 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 120 2/3 innings. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick notes in a tweet that the two right-handers were ranked first (Odorizzi) and third (Jeffress) in Milwaukee's system in Baseball America's upcoming Prospect Handbook.
The Brewers had long indicated a desire to shore up a starting rotation whose 4.65 ERA ranked near the bottom of the National League in 2010. Moving a handful of young players in two trades, while hanging on to Prince Fielder, suggests that the club feels they can immediately contend in the NL Central.
Credit Jim Breen of Bernie's Crew with the scoop last night, with an assist to Andrew Wagner of OnMilwaukee.com. ESPN's Buster Olney confirmed the story this morning, while Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus cleared up some conflicting reports and confirmed that Jeffress would indeed be included in the deal (via Twitter).
MLBTR's Luke Adams and Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Braves and Brewers continue to discuss trades that would send an outfielder to Atlanta for a young pitcher, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman. However, the Brewers are more inclined to move Carlos Gomez than Lorenzo Cain. The Brewers requested Mike Minor for Cain, and the Braves balked at trading him or their other top young arms.