I’m not sure I understand the Angel’s trade for Zack Greinke.
I mean, at a certain level, it looks nice. The Angels have a solid top four of Greinke-Jered Weaver-C.J. Wilson-Dan Haren. That does look very nice. But the details of it don’t add up.
First, Greinke will test the free agent market after this season. That means this move is solely for the next two months only. Furthermore, the Angels gave up quite a bit for him. They sent Jean Segura, John Hellweg, and Ariel Pena; the general consensus seems to be that the first two represent two-thirds of the Angel’s top three prospects (ESPN’s Keith Law ranks them first and third, for one). Pena is also considered one of their top ten. Going back to Law’s rankings, this represents more or less a top 40 prospect, a top 80 prospect, and someone else just outside the top 100. Seeing as the Brewers now control a combined 18 years of these three, this was not a small package.
Even more so, this doesn’t seem to carry a lot of upside. The Angels sit 4 games back in the West, and lead the Wild Card spot. Not only that, but they also seem like a solid bet for second place in the division. Baseball Prospectus, for example, was predicting them to finish 7 games behind the Rangers before the deal (and gives Texas an 85.8% chance to win the division). Greinke represents an improvement, but not that big of an improvement-maybe 2 games, going by Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement. It makes the race closer, but I’m not sure the Angels become favorites to win the division.
However, the Angels seem like safe bets to make the playoffs anyway as a Wild Card; they currently lead the position, and BP gives them a 65.6% chance of making it. However, with the new Wild Card format, that only guarantees the Angels one extra game. Unless the Angels plan on using Greinke in that one game playoff (doubtful, since they have Jered Weaver), he doesn’t really improve their odds of moving on to the second round. Now, if they make the Divisional Series round, then Greinke helps. But in a one-game situation, I’m not sure. And even then, the divisional series is short enough that having four great pitchers still may not be enough-see the Phillies last year.
Basically, the Angels gave away six years each of three of their best prospects in exchange for two months of Zack Greinke, which gives them slightly better odds of winning the division (but doesn’t make them favorites) and slightly better odds of winning the second round, but doesn’t necessarily help their chances in the first round. I kind of understand the thinking, but not enough to buy into the gamble. I’m not sure adding Greinke can overcome the Rangers’ four game head start, let alone be worth giving up as much as they did. There were other improvements that would not have cost as much. Congrats to the Brewers on their solid haul, though.
UPDATE: To help clarify my thinking a little: this move makes a lot more sense for the Angels under the old, 8-team playoff system. Since winning your division and winning the Wild Card both guaranteed you a best-of-5 series, it made sense to prepare for the Wild Card run and a 5 game series by doing things like trading for another good pitcher when you already had one (like with Greinke). However, with 2 Wild Cards, the Angels are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs (seeing them drop past the second wild card slot, with or without Greinke, seems close to unimaginable right now), but they aren't guaranteed multiple games (ie; the entire benefit of trading for Greinke), meaning they're giving up a substantial amount for a less-certain return.