Yuniesky Betancourt Rumors
The Brewers are going to be a different looking team in 2011. GM Doug Melvin appears to have improved his starting rotation significantly with a pair of major trades. Here's the latest on what remains for the Brewers between now and Opening Day...
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy explains that the Brewers are open to extensions with new acquisitions Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. Jon Heyman of SI.com notes that no talks are planned between Greinke and the Brewers at this point (Twitter link).
- All indications from Melvin suggest he's comfortable with Craig Counsell and Yuniesky Betancourt at short. Melivn defended Betancourt's ability and McCalvy takes an in-depth look at the shortstop's glovework.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel projects upcoming raises for the Brewers' five unsigned arbitration-eligible players. Make sure to check out MLBTR's new arbitration tracker for the latest on Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Marcum and other arbitration eligible players throughout MLB.
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.
It's not often that the Brewers and Royals are the two teams dominating discussion around baseball, but that's exactly what's happening today, after the clubs agreed to a blockbuster deal. Let's check out some reactions and a few more details on the trade that will send Zack Greinke to Milwaukee....
- According to Yahoo's Tim Brown (via Twitter), the Dodgers were discussing Greinke and even brought a third team into the mix in an attempt to meet Kansas City's needs. Ultimately, they ran out of time.
- SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that the Royals were close to a deal that would've sent Greinke to Washington, if not for the right-hander's no-trade clause. MLB.com's Bill Ladson confirms that Greinke turned down a potential trade to the Nationals (Twitter links). Heyman adds that Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa likely would've been involved in the hypothetical deal (Twitter link).
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears that the Royals coveted Jordan Zimmermann, who the Nats were reluctant to give up.
- Heyman tweets that Greinke approved the Brewers and not the Nats because he believes Milwaukee is closer to serious contention. He's also apparently fond of the city.
- According to Heyman (via Twitter), Greinke told the Royals that he wouldn't mind playing for the Yankees, but New York never got close to making a trade for the Kansas City ace.
- The Brewers had some interest in Carl Pavano, who they presumably won't pursue now. As such, the Twins' leverage with Pavano should improve, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that the $2MM going to Milwaukee will cover the buyout for Yuniesky Betancourt's 2012 option, if the Brewers choose to buy him out.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports praises Brewers GM Doug Melvin for choosing an established player over prospects. Rosenthal also examines the trade from the Royals' perspective.
- With Prince Fielder a year from free agency, Melvin saw the team's window for playoff contention closing and moved aggressively to improve the 2011 roster, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- Fangraphs' Marc Hulet breaks down the package acquired by Kansas City, noting that their haul is "certainly quantity over quality." In an Insider-only article, ESPN.com's Keith Law makes a similar point, calling the Royals' return "bulk, and fit, but not impact."
- Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and two front office people he spoke to "really like" the move for the Royals (Twitter link).
Links for Friday, as interleague play resumes...
- Tracy Ringolsby of Inside the Rockies tweets that Colorado signed second round pick Chad Bettis after he passed his physical.
- The Royals signed seven draft picks according to MLB.com's Dick Kaegel, and MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros have done the same.
- Ozzie Guillen said bluntly "A.J. [Pierzynski] isn't getting traded," according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times. Said the ChiSox manager: "I talked to A.J. a couple of days ago and said 'Listen man, you're not going to get traded." (Twitter links).
- Meanwhile, Pierzynski can't wait for his 10-and-5 rights to kick in this weekend, says Mark Gonzales of The Chicago Tribune.
- Pirates' GM Neal Huntington chatted with fans about this week's amateur draft at MLB.com.
- The Athletics have signed 17 draft picks according to a team press release, including sixth rounder Tony Thompson and ninth rounder A.J. Kirby-Jones.
- Jeff Wilson of The Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers have signed 19 draft picks, highlighted by eighth rounder Jonathan Roof.
- The Braves have agreed to terms with second round pick Andrelton Simmons, according to ESPN.com's Keith Law (via Twitter).
- A team source told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that White Sox GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen almost came to blows yesterday.
- Guillen downplayed the tension between him and Williams and told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that he wants to stay in Chicago (Twitter link).
- You can now go back further than ever through MLBTR's recent posts by clicking "Previous" at the bottom of the site.
- The Reds are expected to sign their second rounder as early as tonight, according to Mike Pryson of the Jackson Citizen Patriot. Ryan LaMarre told Pryson that he has come to terms with the Reds.
- If you're a Mariners fan, I don't recommend reading this: Tom Verducci of SI.com explains how Yuniesky Betancourt may have cost the Mariners the chance to draft Stephen Strasburg.
- Carlos Santana got the call from the Indians and will debut tonight, writes Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (link in Spanish). Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer confirms the move via Twitter.
- Dan Connolly and Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun report that the Orioles will interview Bobby Valentine for their managerial job today.
- Connolly notes that the Orioles interviewed Eric Wedge Wednesday.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney hears that the Orioles are also considering Buck Showalter for the job.
- Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox should release Mike Lowell instead of playing with what is essentially a 24-man roster.
Following a promising 2008 campaign in which he hit .325/.354/.480 and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, Mike Aviles underwent Tommy John surgery last year. Now that he's playing again and working his way toward full health, a note in ESPN.com's Rumor Central (Insider only) speculates that he could become trade bait for Kansas City.
The Royals' incumbent starter at shortstop, a position where Aviles posted a +31.6 UZR/150 in 2008, is Yuniesky Betancourt. Aviles offers more upside than Betancourt, who displayed little value with the bat (.245/.274/.351) or the glove (-23.9 UZR/150) last season. However, Aviles' recovery from arm surgery has necessitated at least a temporary move to second base, where he'll compete for playing time with Alberto Callaspo and Chris Getz.
Presumably, the Royals are hoping Aviles builds up the arm strength needed for throwing across the diamond, taking away some of Betancourt's playing time at shortstop. Even so, the Royals may end up having more middle infield depth than they need, and GM Dayton Moore could consider moving Aviles or perhaps Callaspo, who was the subject of trade rumors earlier in the winter.
Are there any teams you see as a possible match for Kansas City? If you're a Royals fan, how would you like to see the club handle their potential middle infield surplus?
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that the Royals would like to leave themselves some wiggle room for in-season financial flexibility. As such, they're likely to enter the 2010 season with a payroll in the $66MM-$67MM range, as opposed to last season's $70.5MM payroll. Dutton quotes general manager Dayton Moore:
The Royals currently have $50.4MM allocated to Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, David DeJesus, Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, Joakim Soria, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Willie Bloomquist. They have eight more players eligible for arbitration, although Mike Jacobs, John Buck, and John Bale are all non-tender candidates after disappointing 2009 campaigns. All of this projects to about $63MM before the Royals can even think about making moves.
“I think we can be better positioned to improve our team for 2010 and into the future if we have more flexibility... That may be as simple as being more aggressive in the draft or being more aggressive internationally to build our farm system. And, certainly, it allows us the flexibility to make a deal to take on some money when necessary. I just think it makes more sense right now.”
They'd obviously love to be free of Guillen's $12MM owed in 2010, but much like Farnsworth ($4.5MM) and Cruz ($3.25MM), he'll be tough to move after a poor 2009. Meche could be moved as well - he's owed $24MM over the next two seasons - but his salary and injuries in 2009 will likely mean a poor return in any trade. They'll listen on DeJesus, but the Royals would miss his strong defense and solid bat and would like a replacement in any deal..
Alberto Callaspo may be the club's sole appealing trade chip. Kansas City hopes that Callaspo's strong offensive skills and the fact that he's not even eligible for arbitration will outweigh his defensive woes and yield a catcher or center fielder.
The Royals remain interested in Erik Bedard, Ivan Rodriguez, and Scott Podsednik, but it's tough to imagine them having the cash for those three without making some moves first. Any future GMs out there have some insight as to how Dayton Moore could free up the payroll to make it happen?
Royals GM Dayton Moore was not terribly revealing in his MLB.com chat with fans today, but let's take a look anyway. He deserves props for answering a few tough questions, though it would've been nice to have one about Alex Gordon's service time manipulation (Gordon and his agent didn't consider the demotion devious, though).
- There are "no immediate plans" to try Joakim Soria as a starter, though Moore did not dismiss the idea outright.
- Yuniesky Betancourt and Mike Aviles will compete for the shortstop job in 2010.
- Moore wouldn't reveal much regarding his team's catching situation, though he expressed a desire to improve blocking and receiving skills behind the plate.
- He was also vague about the idea of signing a power hitter in the offseason.
- Moore expects to sign Aaron Crow, but has nothing new to report.
- When Moore was asked, "Mr. Moore, why is this team so bad? Plz answer. Thx," he went with injuries as the explanation.
- Another funny exchange - Moore was asked why he gave up Dan Cortes for Betancourt, when Betancourt probably would've been designated for assignment. Moore believes it was "highly doubtful" the shortstop would've been DFA'd.
- Moore spoke in generalities when asked if he'd try to lock up Billy Butler.
- Moore says he's focused on pitching, speed, and defense, much like the Angels.
This round of links is on me...
- Brewers manager Ken Macha told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that he manages the same whether others think he has complete job security or not.
- Erik Manning of FanGraphs says it's hard to tell whether Aaron Harang has enough value to offset his contract going forward, but he suggests it's possible.
- Via Twitter, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com has some fun and asks if Yuniesky Betancourt is the worst player in baseball history.
- Over at MLBTR's Facebook page, we have a discussion about John Smoltz on the go.
A few links for the afternoon as the All-Star Break approaches:
- Ryan Church has no animosity or hard feelings towards the Mets organization. He says that he's appreciative of Omar Minaya and everything that he has done for Church over his career. He's also excited to be playing with Chipper Jones. Says Church:
- Joe Posnanski continues to lament the recent acquisition of Yuniesky Betancourt by the Royals, stating that either the numbers are right, or the Royals are right. Posnanski's bet seems to be on the numbers.
- MLB.com's Jen Langosch has some notes on the Pirates, including an update on Ian Snell who allowed one run on seven hits through six innings in his most recent Triple-A start. That outing lowers Snell's ERA to 0.45 since being demoted. We've heard Snell's names in trade rumors this year, and he appears to be taking some strides toward re-establishing his value. Langosch also mentions the two international signings that Mike wrote about here yesterday, and I feel obligated to give my vote to Dovydas Neverauskas for having the coolest name in baseball.
Had enough of yesterday's trades yet? Good, because here are some reactions from around the blogosphere...
- Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog says he's not sure the Ryan Church-Jeff Francoeur swap makes total sense, and he's not sure if the move will have an impact for either team.
- Sam Page at Amazin' Avenue says that he's convinced the trade makes no sense, and all of the "talk about potential, shake-ups and athleticism is just noise."
- Talking Chops' "gondeee" likes the Church pickup, even if it cost the once-face of the franchise. Admittedly, it's been a while since Francoeur was viewed in that light.
- Jay Yencich at USS Mariner says the Mariners came out pretty good in the Yuniesky Betancourt deal, even if they had to send some cash Kansas City's way.
- D.W. at Tangled Up In (Royal) Blue doesn't understand how the move fits into the big picture for the Royals.
- Keith at The Royals Tower is taking a hiatus from blogging out of frustration caused by the deal.