In what is most likely the biggest trade to happen in all of 2012 (Miami’s trade of Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers may end up being very close), the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim acquired enigmatic All-Star pitcher Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers for several highly touted prospects. The Angels sent over SS Jean Segura, and two pitchers by the names of Ariel Pena and John Hellweg. When it comes down to the specifics of the trade in question, the deal looks like a win-win for both teams, each team getting exactly what they need at this time and place. For the Angels, they acquired another ace to put near the top of their rotation, joining a staff that already has two aces in Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Along with that, Dan Haren put in an impressive showing against the Tampa Bay Rays in his return from the 15 day disabled list, which might just make the pitching staff seemingly unbeatable. If the team can get anything from Ervin Santana, Jerome Williams or rookie Garrett Richards, it makes this deal all that much sweeter.
For Milwaukee, they get a collection of the highest rated prospects in the Angels’ entire farm system. Segura was the 2nd rated prospect in the organization’s system to many while Pena and Hellweg have been doing fantastic in the minor leagues. After the departure of All-Star (and 2012 Home Run Derby champion) Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers in the offseason, the Brewers seem to have known that they would eventually have to bite the bullet with Greinke and get what they could to rebuild once again. With this trade, I would argue that they’ve done an excellent job in getting three players who could very well be cornerstones of their rebuilding process. Still, it has been a period of trying times for the team, what with what happened to All-Star slugger Ryan Braun.
The addition of Greinke to the Angels might make for the most exciting AL West race in years, with this year being the most probable for the Angels to take over the Rangers’ spot as AL West champions. General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been a revelation for the team, finally bringing a winning attitude to the big market squad, finally squashing years of hurt with Bill Stoneman and Tony Reagins. Since becoming the GM of the team, he’s acquired Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, LaTroy Hawkins and Zack Greinke, changing the culture of the Angels for now and the long term future. Still, this trade has depleted the team of some of their most valuable prospects in return for what might be a rental of one of the best pitchers in the league. What I have to ask is, was it worth giving up a big part of the future for a legitimate run at the team’s first championship since 2002?
Greinke started his career with the Kansas City Royals in 2004 and things started off rather rough, topping off in 2006 when he only played 3 games due to his social anxiety and depression. The symptoms were so bad for the star pitcher that many wondered if he’d ever pitch again. Fortunately for the Royals and now, the Angels, he returned and with a vengeance. In 2007, he had a great 3.69 ERA, a 7.82 K/9 ratio and due to his team being very lackluster, a 7-7 win-loss record. Everything got better from there and in 2008, he had a 13-10 win-loss record, a 3.47 ERA and 8.14 K/9 ratio. Before the 2009 season, Greinke was a collective pick of most analysts to be the pick for the Cy Young Award in the American League and sure enough, he had an excellent season and did indeed, become the Cy Young winner. In 2009, he had a 16-8 win-loss record, a 2.16 ERA and an eye-popping 9.50 K/9 ratio. It seemed like things were looking up for the Kansas City Royals and Greinke’s personal problems were nothing but a thing of the past. That would end up being half right, as the Royals traded Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City continued their losing ways.
Greinke was a man possessed in the 2011 season, posting a 10.54 K/9 ratio, a respectable 3.83 ERA and a 16-6 record, finally showing that he was one of the best pitchers in the National League, if not all of baseball as a whole. For Milwaukee though, it was a partnership destined to end, with multiple players leaving the team through free agency and trades. On Friday, the 27th of July in 2012, the Milwaukee Brewers gave into Greinke’s wish to be traded to a contending team and he was traded to the Angels. A big part of what most journalists and analysts who have had time to take the trade in have forgotten, is that he’s moving back to the American League. It shouldn’t be a hindrance at all to the star pitcher in that his last years with the Royals were some of the best pitching I’ve ever seen. He was that good and with a more than formidable team backing him up at the plate and a playoff race in action, I believe that the Angels will get the best of Greinke’s career, with the ace only being 28 and in his prime.
On the other side, Milwaukee obtained three very valuable pieces for their farm system and soon, their major league club. Shortstop Jean Segura has been praised to the moon by all who follow the Angels while Ariel Pena and John Hellweg have been doing quite well for themselves in the minor leagues. John Hellweg has had a fine season at AA with a 3.38 ERA, a 6.62 K/9 ratio and his win-loss record at 5-10 certainly doesn’t show the talent he does have, which is quite adequate. Ariel Pena has been something of a small revelation in AA ball this season for the Travelers, posting a 2.99 ERA and a 8.74 ERA in 114.1 inninings pitched. Still, the most valued prospect in this deal has to be Jean Segura. Segura, 22, put up a .294 AVG with seven homers and 33 stolen bases in AA this season and he’s widely considered to be one of the best prospects in baseball. With Erick Aybar getting a contract extension, it’s been thought for quite a while now that Segura could be moved and with the trade now being official, there’s no reason to panic as this is not a case of throwing all your chips in, putting all your eggs in one basket, etc. Aybar is still young, getting better and coming off a year where we won his first Gold Glove.
The main question most fans will ask is if gaining Greinke was worth giving up three great prospects, when Greinke is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. It may seem like an expensive rental but remember, the culture around the Angels organization has changed dramatically. The team is spending like a big market team and even if Greinke were to leave after this season, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto could pick up another valued pitcher with the revenue that’s coming towards the team these days. What was not possible in the Bill Stoneman and Tony Reagins days is now possible, all is not lost when a player leaves. Even then, that is the worst case scenario and with Dipoto signing the biggest free agent in recent history in Albert Pujols, is there anyone else you’d rather bet on when it comes to signing a big time player for the long haul?
Certainly, this trade worked out for both teams and if the past and basic baseball common sense is to be used, the Angels have put themselves right at the top of the list when it comes to World Series contenders. Gone are the days of wondering of Greinke would be headed to the Texas Rangers, which in itself is a tremendous achievement in the race to win big this season. If all works out as the team can possibly hope, the Angels now have the best rotation in all of baseball, one that can keep up with the rest of the division and AL, while they still have some of their most valuable prospects on the team. Keep in mind, the main players who were rumored to be in any big time trades were outfielder Peter Bourjos and pitcher Garrett Richards, who didn’t have to be included in any trade. Everything seems to have worked out and if Greinke can pitch like he has for the last few years, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have just as much of a case as anyone to proclaim that they are the frontrunners to win the AL West, the AL Pennant and possibly, another World Series Championship.