Friday, July 27, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Zack Greinke to the Anaheim Angels

Anaheim Angels get: SP Zack Greinke
Milwaukee Brewers get: SS Jean Segura, SP Ariel Pena, SP Jim Hellweg (all prospects)

Angels GM Jerry DiPoto earned his SoCal front office ninja stripes today, stealthily and suddenly trading for All-Star pitcher Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers. Much like the Lakers' Mitch Kupchak and the Dodgers' Ned Colleti trading for stars Steve Nash and Hanley Ramirez, respectively, without much notification, DiPoto has made a deal that no only ranks as one of the most biggest of the trade deadline, but perhaps one of the most significant in regards to postseason play.

Anaheim had an absolutely brutal start to the season with a 9-15 April, but rebounded to a 54-45 mark, the third-best in the AL. The initially scuffling offense, featuring the stunningly impotent bat of Albert Pujols, the dead weight of Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu and the uninspiring play from the supporting cast members, has given way to the Mike Trout-led Halos destroying all comers. Trout, Mark Trumbo and a resurgent Pujols have essentially reinvented the Angels lineup, which ranks amongst the best in the American League. The bullpen, heavily questioned before the season, has exceeded expectations, thanks in part to San Diego Padres import Ernesto Frieri (who's given up four earned runs in 29 innings as an Angels reliever). The starting rotation, remarkably in spite of the names on paper, has remained the team's weak link.

The Angels' five man corp consists of ace Jered Weaver, along with All-Stars CJ Wilson, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. Unfortunately for manager Mike Scioscia, only Weaver and Wilson have lived up to their billing, with Haren (has given up at least 5 earned runs in five of his last six stars) and Santana (a 6.00 ERA and 23 homers given up before August) struggling, to say the least. With the calendar turning towards the end of summer, DiPoto had to assume a turnaround to complete form for both men was unlikely. Thus, the clandestine deal for Zack Greinke was finished up tonight.

This is second time Greinke has been traded in the last 20 months, with the Brewers dealing for the starter two offseasons ago from the Kansas City Royals. Milwaukee knew that Zack would be a free agent in just two years time, which perfectly coincided with their "win-now" model they had put together in impending free agent Prince Fielder (now with the Detroit Tigers) and starter Shaun Marcum (another soon-to-be free agent). The Brewers started the day 14 games in back of division-leading Cincinnati, so the thought of losing Greinke for mere draft picks at the end of the season (seeing as he would almost undoubtedly sign with another squad) only added to the pains of dissapointment the Brew Crew felt with such a promising season gone horribly wrong. Before we go any further, Greinke is a world-class pitcher whose numbers (3.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) don't come close to describing how great of a hurler he is. He's one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, and an absolute stud. Just to be clear.

As far as what I've read, the haul for Greinke was moderate, certainly not a future franchise-changing one. Shortstop Jean Segura was the best prospect in the Angels' system, whose ceiling comparisons range from Howie Kendrick to Jose Reyes. He's a bit on the small side, and could be headed for second base, but few doubt that he'll be a major league player, though of what caliber is up to interpretation. Pena and Hellweg are both 23 year-old prospects with fire baller arms (both around 9 K/9), but I'm sure you can interpret what you want out of two 23 year olds with six years in the minors under their belts.

For the Angels, this deal had its share of risk, but only when looking at the deal objectively. Greinke is a free agent after this season, and has given Anaheim management no assurances that he'd want to be back or that he'd take any type of discount to stay. For years, the book on Zack is that he's a complete headcase, with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox straying away from his trade market because of their concerns of how he would react to slightly more intense media scrutiny than that in Kansas City or Milwaukee. Anaheim surely isn't the coffee grinder from Hell that is Boston or New York or even Los Angeles proper, but there is an expectation to win, and the big city spotlight will surely be on Greinke for the first time in his career. How he will react is really anyone's guess, as a playoff race in Southern California isn't anything he's experienced before (even last year with the Brewers). The Angels gave up solid prospects here, but not anything on the level of a Mike Trout, Jered Weaver or Mark Trumbo. However, it's more about the farm system depth Anaheim gave up by dealing three more prospects, along with the youngsters they'd traded away in the Dan Haren pact, as well as giving up draft picks for signing Pujols and CJ Wilson.

However, looking at something objectively isn't why you came to MAMBINO. The Angels needed to win, and win now. Though it doesn't seem that long ago, the Angels have only won two playoff rounds since their World Series run since 2002, and haven't won more than two total games in the ALCS in doing so. Owner Arturo Moreno has pumped a stadium full (literally) of cash into this team, and though they are postseason players every year, some might say that Arte hasn't gotten everything he's paid for. The Angels are secretly one of the most dissapointing teams in the league, with a mile-high payroll, lofty expectations and a world-class managerial staff, but none of the hardware to back it up since new ownership took over in 2003.

This Angels team is hands down the most talented since, or perhaps even surpassing the 2002 squad. Before Greinke, this Angels team was definitely a contender, though running slightly behind the reigning two-time American League Champion Texas Rangers, as well as the consistently indomitable New York Yankees. However, with this trade, the Angels have to be the favorites to not just win their pennant, but also the World Series. They now boast a four-deep rotation, in which I could depend on any man to win a playoff game, the scuffling Dan Haren included. Jerry DiPoto has mentioned how he'll get another bullpen piece, which only fortifies my position. Even with Greinke being a rental player and the prospects and organization depth the Angels gave up, they had to make this deal. The time is now for them to bet big, and that they did.

For years, the Angels have tried to position themselves as one of the MLB's big dogs. They've done everything right...except for winning the chip. A great trade for the Halos who knew the importance of this season, and the team they had.

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