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(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog)

Everybody knew that Zack Greinke would be traded before Spring Training, but the suddenness of the deal, not to mention the destination, was somewhat of a surprise. However, despite attempts to suggest the contrary, the Yankees were not caught off guard by the transaction.

As soon as Cliff Lee finally made up his mind, Greinke trade rumors became the new fuel for the hot stove. Because the Yankees and Rangers were both jilted by Lee’s decision, the natural assumption was that both would be the front runners for the Royal’s ace, but once again, a “mystery” team emerged from the pack. Not surprisingly, Greinke’s trade to Milwaukee was portrayed as another blow in the Yankees’ off season of discontent, but in reality, it was really evidence of a firm hand steering the ship.

Without a doubt, Greinke is a very talented pitcher, but some of the recent analysis of the trade seems to be based on the notion that the right hander’s real plateau is his 2009 Cy Young season, in which he had a WAR of 9.4 and ERA+ of 205, and not the more “normal seasons” that have surrounded it. That’s not to suggest Greinke isn’t a top of the rotation starter, however. In particular, WAR likes Greinke enough that his 2008 and 2010 seasons both ranked among the top-20 pitchers in all of baseball. Although ERA+ is less kind (ranked 21 in 2008 and 61 in 2010 among all qualified pitchers), Greinke’s performance before and after his Cy Young season has been strong enough to suggest continued success, especially with a move to the weaker NL Central, but that doesn’t mean he should be viewed along the lines of Lee or any other top ace in the major leagues.

On the Strength of a Historic 2009 Cy Young Season, Zack Greinke Has Ranked Among the Best Starters in the Majors Since 2008

  2008 2009 2010 Total Rank
WAR 4.9 9.4 5.2 19.6 4
ERA+ 126 205 100 133 11
xFIP 3.76 3.15 3.76 3.55 11

Note: Minimum of 450 innings.
Source: baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

It remains to be seen how well the Royals made out in the deal (respected evaluators like ESPN’s Keith Law and BP’s Kevin Goldstein disagree somewhat), nor is it certain that the Yankees could have offered a similar package without including higher end prospects like Jesus Montero. Regardless, it seems as if the Yankees made an informed decision that Greinke’s past health issues and overall performance, combined with the asking price, all conspired to make him a less than ideal alternative to the team’s failed pursuit of Lee. In other words, there likely wasn’t any panic in the Yankee offices when the Greinke deal was announced.

So, if Greinke wasn’t the best fit for the Yankees, who is? Even with the return of Andy Pettitte, the Yankees will still need to fill one rotation slot. Mark Buehrle seems to be an ideal candidate, but White Sox GM Kenny Williams has stated that the veteran lefty is not on the trading block. One pitcher rumored to be available is the Rays’ Matt Garza. However, even if Tampa was willing to trade within the division, the volatile right hander’s declining peripherals suggest that he wouldn’t qualify as a frontline starter, nor be worth the expected cost. In fact, he has the hallmarks of another A.J. Burnett, and the Yankees likely have their fill of pitchers with that profile.

Considering the lack of attractive options, the Yankees may well decide to entrust the role to rookie Ivan Nova and then bide their time for a midseason acquisition. Patience has been the off season-long theme for the Yankees, and the Royal’s trade of Greinke shouldn’t trigger a change of course. It might be hard as a fan to accept, but as long as Brian Cashman practices what he preaches, the 2011 season remains in good hands, even if the Yankees seem to be lacking the necessary arms.

7 Responses to “Farewell to Arms: Despite Being Shutout of Off Season’s Best Pitchers, Greinke Deal No Cause for Panic”

  1. Reports from Heyman say that the Yankees could of had Greinke for Montero and Nunez. Not sure if those are the only 2 pieces that were requested, but it goes to show that the Yankees had huge concerns about Greinke’s ability to handle NY. If Cashman and the FO feel that way, then they made the right decision not making the trade. Also, it goes to show how crappy that package they got back from the Brewers is. I mean seriously, an all defense, not hit SS who is the center of the package. If that guy was wearing a Yankee jersey, all those know it all experts would be killing the Royals for making that trade, IMHO.  (Quote)

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    classicsteve Reply:

    Agree that Greinke probably wasn’t the best fit for the Yankees but disagree that the Royals’ return was crappy or that Escobar was the centerpiece. While neither Escobar nor Cain look like top-flight regulars, the two pitchers are viewed more highly with one projected as a near top of the rotation starter and the other as a potential closer, possibly making Soria available sooner than anticipated. When compared to the packages that the Twins received for Santana and the Indians and Phillies got back for Lee, the haul wasn’t bad, especially considering the no-trade list, the salary and the unique other issues attached to Greinke which the author alluded to.  (Quote)

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  2. That trade was good news to folks like me: it means Montero is a lot less likely to be traded any time soon. I can’t wait to see him in the NYY lineup.

    I keep wondering why great young hitters became less valuable than 30-ish pitchers.  (Quote)

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  3. As long as Andy comes back there’s no huge hole in the pitching rotation (unless you count A.J. Burnett). Nova played well, and they have a few other pitchers who can duke it out for the 5th spot in the rotation. CC, Andy, and Hughes got us to a division win and ALCS last year, and I think they have a shot at doing it again. Of course can’t count on Red Sox having the same amount of injuries, but Yankees are no worse off than the beginning of last year coming off a WS ring.  (Quote)

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  4. happy we passed, he was jeff weaver waiting to happen  (Quote)

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  5. Very well written article with the pulse on the situation here in Yankee land and I couldn’t agree more with all the comments above me, except for the Brewers gettint a bad deal because outside of Escobar I don’t know their system and can’t judge the trade.

    I did read this yesterday on Keith Law’s twitter though he said that a return of Gardner, Romine, Nunez, Nova and Noesi wouldn’t have been better than what they got, some fan had asked if that trade was a better one than the Royals got and he shot it down quick. So if Law thinks its a better deal than that it can’t be terrible, there are no stars in that package but it can’t be awful.  (Quote)

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  6. Reports from Heyman say that the Yankees could of had Greinke for Montero and Nunez. Not sure if those are the only 2 pieces that were requested  

    They weren’t, I think you missread the article if you read it on MLB Rumor because it says that Heyman reports they wanted Montero and Nunez but that they also wanted 1 of Betances or Banuelos.

    No way in hell would I trade Montero and Betances/Banuelos for Greinke so this was a better decision than most even thought.  (Quote)

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