No matter what happens over the final four days, it's been one of the buzziest trade deadlines in several years. And on Friday night, the other cleat dropped on Zack Greinke. Brewers GM Doug Melvin kept his trade promise, shipping Greinke to Anaheim for three well-regarded Angels prospects.
It looks like a good move for Greinke on the surface, even with the AL environment coming into play. The Angels ballpark has been far more forgiving than Miller Park over the last 3.5 years, and the AL West is a reasonable division otherwise (Seattle and Oakland have unthreatening parks, while Arlington is an offensive party — more on that in a second). Throw in the supporting cast the Angels have (strong defense, excellent bullpen, superhero Mike Trout, etc.) and Greinke should be a star in his new city. Of course, you already knew that.
That said, Greinke always strikes me as a difficult commodity to understand at times. The playability of Miller Park never bothered him over the last year and change; he was 11-0 at home last year with a 3.13 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, compared to a 5-6 mark with 4.70 and 1.29 ratios on the road. This year, more of the same: 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in front of Bernie Brewer, and 5-3, 4.09 and 1.39 numbers when out of a suitcase. The full stat story is more complicated that that, obviously, but the ratio split is a befuddling one.
Greinke has also been a bit of a peripheral tease for the last three seasons. His final Kansas City ERA was 4.17, well under the 3.34 FIP and 3.60 xFIP suggested. Last year was a crazy haul for Greinke, as his 3.83 out-the-door number lagged behind the 2.98 and 2.56 estimates. This year, he's carrying a 3.44 ERA compared to a 2.51 FIP and 2.79 xFIP, despite a strong push down in his HR/FB rate and a kick forward in his ground-ball rate. The overall stat package still plays for anyone in any format, you just get the sense he could be even better.
The welcoming schedule slots nicely for Greinke. He'll make his Angels debut Sunday at home against the Rays, then he works at Chicago and Oakland. The Angels have a series in Arlington that he'll miss completely. If Greinke is going to visit the Rangers down the stretch, it won't come until the final weekend of the year. There's a good chance Greinke will also pitch in Fenway Park in August, but otherwise the remaining slate looks unthreatening.
In AL-only pools, you know what to do: fire up the FAAB machine and throw everything at this guy. This is the best single option you're likely to see. As for mixed-league owners, I think your ace might be a little better down the stretch, though you never know how variance and luck will play out over the final two months. The setup is good, the environment is good.
Greinke is a free agent after the year, of course, so this could be an expensive rental for the Halos. But I don't think they would have made this move if they didn't feel they at least had a chance of retaining Greinke. It's impossible to project all that contract stuff until we see how team and player fit for the next two months. Settle in, the AL West is going to be a blast down the stretch.
• Although Carl Crawford ripped his first homer of the year in Friday's loss at New York, it hasn't been a strong return for him. He's off to a .222/.263/.306 start (one walk, 10 strikeouts), and team trainers have told Bobby Valentine that Crawford can't play four days in a row. That's life with a Tommy John-waiting elbow, I suppose. Crawford isn't in Saturday's lineup, a logical move up against lefty CC Sabathia.
Mind you, Crawford did play six straight days when he initially came back, Valentine showing veto power over his training staff. And I still feel like you can get a decent return for Crawford's name-brand value in some leagues; he still has some apologists in a few formats. He's not welcome on any of my teams, even if I see him on the wire. The speed is nice, but he's never collected 20 homers in a year; he can't hit lefties to save his life; he rarely walks; and he's playing through an injury. The Boston undertow can only do so much for you.
The Red Sox would love to find a taker for Crawford, but that massive contract is an albatross. And a new club would have to consider Crawford's list of issues: he doesn't want to leave left field or bat in the leadoff position. What do you want for a lousy $142 million, a can-do attitude?
• Poor Brad Mills did all he could do trying to pilot his club to a victory Friday, but the Astros still wound up with their 11th straight loss. Mills used five different relievers over the last three innings — and he was spared the services of dinged-up Francisco Cordero (toe) — but the Pirates still rallied for two runs in the ninth and flipped the game. So it goes. Please excuse the appearance at Minute Maid Park, the club is remodeling for the future.
Nonetheless, you have to wonder why Wilton Lopez played such a small part in Houston's game plan Friday. Lopez entered the game in the middle of the eighth inning, allowed a double to Andrew McCutchen, then departed. Lefty reliever Wesley Wright actually worked before and after Lopez — he temporarily slotted in right field when Lopez entered. Perhaps Mills thought he was clever doing a lefty-righty sashay in the eighth inning, but then he had to watch overmatched Rhiner Cruz and make a mess of the ninth (Xavier Cedeno picked up the blown save, inheriting a based-loaded mess; it's unfair to pin this on him. He retired both men he faced.)
On one hand it was wise for the Astros to summon presumably their best reliever — Lopez — into the game against the dangerous McCutchen. That's smart managing, no matter that McCutchen stroked a hit. And given how Alex Presley and Garrett Jones struggle against lefties, I can understand wanting to have Wright work against them. Still, the Astros are left looking at a one-run loss where the game turned in the ninth inning, and at the end of it all their bullpen ace (on paper, anyway) threw just three pitches. If it were my team, I'd want Lopez used in a bigger role.
We don't have any closer definition here, that's for sure. The caveats with Cordero aren't going away, he looks done. Lopez is just a few weeks removed from a DL stint, so maybe the club wants to baby him and his elbow. Cedeno has thrown 12.1 innings in the majors, it's too early to say what he is. Lefty Fernando Abad has a pretty K/BB rate, but righties are hitting .340 against him (and he was sent to Triple-A on Saturday). Cruz has a 7.41 ERA and 1.76 WHIP over 33 appearances, which demands the question: what the heck was he doing getting a save chance in a one-run game?
Joe Sambito, are you out there? Dave Smith, can you still bring the heat? Jim Bouton, how quickly can you get warm? Even rebuilding teams like to win now and again. (That said, maybe the fans are too cool to care.)
• The minor trade news from Friday involved Marco Scutaro shipping to San Francisco for unexciting 2B prospect Charlie Culberson (basically, a salary dump). Scutaro can cover three infield positons for the Giants and he'll be needed at third base initially; Pablo Sandoval is headed for the DL. But Scutaro hasn't hit outside of Coors Field this year — he has a .793 OPS in the thin air, and a .570 OPS everywhere else.
I'd love to tell you the Rockies have a splashy new second baseman to hit the scene, but I don't see that player on the roster. Maybe Culberson will get a look, or DJ LeMahieu (.229/.275/.292 ). Eric Young Jr. hasn't played second base all year. Perhaps Chris Nelson will get a look later in the year, if he comes back healthy. Down the road this should be Josh Rutledge's position, whenever Troy Tulowitzki is ready to return.