The Brewers made themselves the NL Central favorites by snatching Zack Greinke away from the Royals for shortstop Alcides Escobar and three top prospects. The 2009 AL Cy Young winner, Greinke fell off a bit last year to a 4.17 ERA with 181 strikeouts and 55 walks allowed in 220 innings. After a bout with an anxiety disorder early in his career, the 27-year-old righthander has established himself as a durable and effective front-of-the-rotation starter who throws strikes and keeps the ball in the yard. Greinke, new Brewer Shaun Marcum, 29, and holdovers Yovani Gallardo, 24, and Randy Wolf, 34, give Milwaukee a strong rotation to support an offense that has been among the best in the league the past two years and includes two potential MVPs in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
For the Royals the move continues their building process. They had the best farm system in baseball even before this trade, and the addition of righthanders Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress simply increases their lead over the field. Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain, also included in the deal, should both be contributors in 2011 and will upgrade a poor defense. It may be frustrating for Royals fans to see their ace dealt, but this trade isn't a salary dump: Kansas City is following the same path the Rays and the Rangers took to reach the World Series.
Whatever the on-field ramifications, this move is great for baseball. The off-season has been dominated by the East Coast scary monsters, whether they were making big trades (the Red Sox), signing top free agents (the Phillies) or failing to do either (the Yankees). For a small-market team such as the Brewers to put its chips on the table and outplay the big boys for a No. 1 starter shows fans around the country that in the revenue-sharing era, any team can acquire great players.