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Re-evaluating the Zack Greinke Trade

March 12th, 2013


Yesterday at MLB Trade Rumors Steve Adams looked back at the trade that sent Zack Greinke from the Royals to Brewers. This got me thinking. We haven’t seen the career trajectories of the prospects in the deal yet, but we’re several months removed from the deal that made Zack Greinke an Angel, and it isn’t too early to take another look at the deal.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to say that the Angels’ decision to trade for Zack Greinke last season wasn’t the right call; the team’s goal was to make a push for the postseason–and a World Series–and it failed. But it isn’t that simple. The team also gave up a trio of legitimate prospects, and lost Greinke to the Dodgers in free agency this offseason. It was a big risk, but the Angels assumed bounce-back performances from some of their players down the stretch, and assumed that Greinke would put them over the top. The thinking makes sense, even if you don’t agree that the risk was worth it, which is something we’ll address in a minute.

At the time, I liked the trade a lot. The club had a long-term option at shortstop in Erick Aybar, so trading Jean Segura wasn’t a major issue. The rotation would be excellent with Greinke, and so trading Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg didn’t seem to hurt so bad, especially given the concerns about both prospects. Three good prospects for two months of a borderline #1 starter might not make sense in a vacuum, but the Angels’ circumstances made the move justifiable, at least in my opinion at the time.

Today, I look back at the trade and I think the Angels made a huge mistake. It was July 27, and the team was atop the Wild Card standings, four games behind the Rangers (five in the loss column) and just inches ahead of the A’s, White Sox, and Tigers. There were several Halos battling injuries:

  • Erick Aybar (on DL with hairline fracture on big toe)
  • Dan Haren (fresh off the DL with a lower back injury)
  • Scott Downs (hit the DL the next day with a shoulder injury)
  • Jered Weaver (a month removed from the DL with a back injury)
  • Chris Iannetta (would come off the DL the next day after the wrist injury)
  • CJ Wilson (missed a start with a blister, which the team might have used to disguise discomfort in his elbow)

You could contest the listing of Wilson’s injury, but the left-hander has stated this offseason that discomfort in his elbow affected his performance down the stretch. Maybe the Angels knew about that, or maybe they didn’t, but either way, the club was relying on the health and performance of a group of uncertain players. Maybe the team was counting on the sustained emergences of Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, the continued rebound of Albert Pujols, Ervin Santana’s turnaround, and a shaky bullpen putting things together.

If everything went the right way, it should have worked, but there were so many uncertainties. Assuming that Greinke would put the team over the top was a very shaky assumption. At the time I didn’t see past the potential; the team could have been amazing, but the group had so many red flags, and only two months to shine. In hindsight–which is still at least 20/20–the Greinke addition was pretty unlikely to put the Halos over the top.

Adding Greinke clearly made the team better, and the trade would be easily justifiable if the prospects weren’t potential impact players…but they are. Since that trade, I’ve received glowing reports on Jean Segura and Johnny Hellweg.

Although I’ve attempted to better myself at the craft of scouting over the past couple years, I’m not a scout. And I’m only going off of what I’ve seen of Segura on TV, so my opinions might be a bit flawed, but I think Segura is a future plus defender at shortstop; he has the arm, the range, and the instincts. He’s a plus-plus runner, with plenty of raw power. If he’s an average hitter, Segura is a star. In other words, I expect him to make $510,000 after his first full season.

I’ve received great reports on Johnny Hellweg. The general thinking is that he has the makings of a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but is likely to end up as a late-inning reliever because he struggles to repeat his delivery and command his arsenal. The Angels have use for No. 3 starters and late-inning relievers.

Oh, and Ariel Pena might be a very solid back-of-the-rotation starter.

Put it all together, and the Angels gave up quite a haul to boost their playoff chances minimally. The trade hurts already, and if the prospects in the deal reach their ceilings, this could become a defining point in the Dipoto regime.



  • Dubya19 says on: March 13, 2013 at 10:52 am


    For all the glowing praise that’s been heaped on them, it’s going to be crystal clear in another 2-3 years that DiPoto-Moreno are the worst GM-owner combo in MLB. The Pujols contract, the Hamilton contract, not picking up Haren’s option but signing Joe Blanton for a hefty sum in his place, and the Greinke trade all reek of gross ineptitude.

    • ParisB says on: March 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm


      Obviously! They will be lucky if they win 75 games again (at best, of course).

      Just make sure you tell us and remind us OFTEN. Like, in every post every day for the next couple of years. Make sure you don’t let up and keep warrioring on that keyboard to remind us what a pitiful franchise this is or will be!

    • Hudson Belinsky says on: March 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm


      But it won’t matter if they get a ring, will it? The Yankees shelled out bad contracts and made ill-advised moves en route to a WS in 2009. Today, people look at them as a broken down team with a rough couple years ahead of them, but they did win a World Series, and that’s what this is all about. I don’t agree with many of the team’s moves, or the team’s general process, but I respect that they’re trying to win right now.

      • Dubya19 says on: March 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm


        Big difference between the 2009 Yankees and the current iteration of the Angels. The Yankees had an incredibly solid and were contenders without those bad contracts. Those ill-advised signings helped round off the rough edges but didn’t make or break the team from an overall talent standpoint. The bad moves by DiPoto and Moreno haven’t been to smooth out the rough edges around an otherwise solid nucleus of players. He’s throwing around big wads of cash to past-their-prime (Pujols and Hamilton) and suspect (Wilson) players trying to make them the core nucleus of the team. I don’t think it’ll dawn on the front office or fanbase just how misguided these moves have been until Arte, after paying megabucks to declining stars for a few more years, finally returns to some fiscal sanity just as Mike Trout approaches free agency, and then he bolts Anaheim for greener pastures (where there’s both more money and a batter chance of winning). The stage was set for this with that pitiful $20K raise they gave Trout after his monster rookie campaign. The writing is on the wall.

        You guys have to be disappointed with how the FO did Trout. I mean, c’mon, seriously. To throw around the moolah like they have and then do that to the “face of the franchise”?

        • Dubya19 says on: March 14, 2013 at 1:19 pm


          Should read….”The Yankees had an incredibly solid core….”

        • Ryan W Krol says on: March 16, 2013 at 2:52 am


          The Yankees were NOT contenders without their bad contracts. If you actually go and look at the payroll of the Yankees in 2009, you’ll find that if you shave off their payroll to match the Angels you’ll see a very weak team that would be lucky to have a winning record. That is a theory that will be tested in 2012 by the amount of injuries the Yankees have suffered this offseason.

          The Yankees have not had a solid core in years.

      • TSF says on: March 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm


        Arguably, the Yankees paid too high a price for that World Series. For any other team in baseball, a decade of misery is worth the price of a championship, but for a team expected to contend and/or go deep in the playoffs every year, and one leading all North American sports in championships, one championship in 13 years isn’t really acceptable.

        I don’t think the Greinke trade was all that poor a decision even in hindsight. Even if the prospects become successful major leaguers, if they weren’t of any value to the Angels position-wise, you can only evaluate the opportunity cost of saving them for another trade down the road. An example of a trade that was a total disaster was the analagous 2011 Giants’ trade for Carlos Beltran, sending Zack Wheeler to the Mets. That team was on the cusp of a playoff berth and regression hit it like a truck. Following the 2013 season, the Giants will need a #1 and #5 starter and cost control, and Wheeler offered both. SF will have money, but the free agent pool is considerably more shallow than in recent years. They will need a proper OF and the prospect they decided to keep in the Beltran trade might not have a major league career.

        All in all, I think the Angels did alright. They’re the strongest team in the AL West right now and now have the Astros to pound for free wins. There is much to look forward to.

    • Dave says on: March 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm


      I think the Dodgers will surpass the Angel’s in bad contracts soon enough

    • Ryan W Krol says on: March 16, 2013 at 3:10 am


      Yeah the worst owner/GM combinations always sign the top 2 players in the game in back-to-back offseasons.

      • Michael H says on: March 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm


        Sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

      • Dubya19 says on: March 18, 2013 at 11:22 am


        Are you referring to Pujols and Hamilton???

        LOL, you just surpassed Paris in terms of deluded homer idiocy.

      • Dubya19 says on: March 18, 2013 at 11:25 am


        The pitching must’ve gotten really, really good the past couple of years if the top 2 players in MLB posted lines of only.285/.343/.516 and .285/.354/.577.

      • Dubya19 says on: March 18, 2013 at 11:29 am


        There was nothing impressive about the Angels landing Pujols. They went out and wrote the longest, fattest check to the biggest ego that was on the market. Pujols got his payday and Moreno
        got his “name.” Keep in mind that Pujols is much more name than talent nowadays.

  • ParisB says on: March 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm


    Still too early to evaluate I think. We have heard good things about Brandon Wood and Dallas McPhearson too. In hindsight now that he left and Angels missed out on their sh, sure it would be nice.

    • Jarrodl says on: March 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm


      Good things about Brandon Wood and McPherson? What are you smokin? Both of those guys are amazing MINOR league players. Didn’t translate to the bigs.

  • Ryan W Krol says on: March 16, 2013 at 3:03 am


    The players the Angels gave up for Zack Greinke had no place on the Angels in the coming years. It was the right decision at the right time, and the Angels losing out on re-signing him could have more to do than what we know, considering the fact that Greinke now has swelling in his elbow.

    You know what Curt Schilling said to Buster Olney this morning when he asked Curt what he thinks the swelling could be?

    Without hesitation: “Bone chips”, Schilling replied.

    The Angels made the move to get a top starting pitcher that they probably should’ve made 3-4 years ago; they passed on Roy Halladay even though every player they had to offer is now a big leaguer, unlike all the players the Blue Jays actually got for Roy.

    2 reasons the Angels haven’t returned to the World Series:

    1. Not making that move for a legitimate ace.

    2. Relying too much on those homegrown players they kept instead of trading for that legitimate ace.

    Getting to the World Series involves taking chances. And I’d rather take a chance on 2 months of Zack Greinke and letting the Dodgers deal with future elbow problems than wondering why we didn’t make that move after only winning 85 games (hypothetically speaking) after 2 seasons of watching this team sit in October.

    • Hudson Belinsky says on: March 16, 2013 at 11:04 am


      I’m not sure they’ve relied too much on homegrown players. They traded for Dan Haren, who gave them ace-level production in 2011.

      It isn’t true that the prospects had no place on the big league club. The pitching prospects could have helped the back-end of the rotation or slotted into the bullpen. Maybe there wasn’t a clear path for them, but if things went right, each prospect could have forced their way onto the big league team in some capacity.

      It seems unlikely that the Angels knew about Greinke’s arm issues and that the Dodgers didn’t find those issues during the physical. Possible, but unlikely.

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