The Zack Greinke Trade And A Bad Player Poll

So, as you've presumably heard by now, the Royals have shipped Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. He was originally on his way to Washington, or almost on his way to Washington, but he invoked his no-trade rights to block that deal before waiving them to go to the Brewers. It's a trade that's notable for a number of reasons:

(1) Greinke's the first big-time player I can think of who wanted to go to Milwaukee.

(2) Greinke's the first big-time player I can think of who wanted to go to Milwaukee because he thinks they can win.

(3) The Brewers, of all teams, are now a serious World Series contender. They were a somewhat serious World Series contender back in 2008 when they had Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, but this is a team that hasn't won its division since 1982. This may be the first time in 29 years that the Brewers come into a season with high expectations.

(4) With Greinke dealt to a competitive team, we can finally quit with all the amateur psychology discussions of social anxiety disorder for at least the next several months, as if anyone knows fuck all about how Zack Greinke feels.

(5) Is this the biggest baseball story ever broken by a blogger?

(6) It's a somewhat interesting gamble by the Brewers; while Greinke was quite good in 2010, his contact rate jumped from 78% to 83% - the highest it's been since 2005 - and they'll be hoping that it was caused at least in part by a lack of interest in pitching for another lousy team. That's one of those things where we have nothing to say on the subject.

There are a bunch of angles here, and I haven't even touched on the young players going the other way - one of whom is a 23 year old power reliever who's already tested positive three times for weed. A lot of people don't like that the Royals are coming away without adding any sure things, settling instead for parts that fill needs, and that may well be a valid argument. I think there's a powerful tendency for people to assume that Dayton Moore screwed up, and that introduces a bias into the conversation, but maybe he did. I don't know the Brewers' system very well. Even though Moore didn't have as much flexibility as he would've liked, maybe the return is too light.

But I don't really want to discuss the return package very much, and whether the deal is fair. Nor do I want to discuss Zack Greinke, who's one of the game's last great unknowns. Greinke's being shipped to Milwaukee along with two million dollars and Yuniesky Betancourt. I want to talk about that.

We're all very familiar with Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt was supposed to be a franchise cornerstone until it dawned on us that he couldn't really hit and he couldn't really field. On top of that, he's gotten worse. Yuni's been in the Majors since 2005. Over his first three years, he had an OPS+ of 88, and a UZR of -4. Over his last three years, he's had an OPS+ of 80, and a UZR of -38.

If you prefer, we can look to WAR, if only for the sake of simplicity. Over Yuni's first three years, he had a WAR of 3.3. Over Yuni's last three years, he's had a WAR of -0.7.

As a skinny 23 year old in 2005, Yuni was interesting. Yuni was electrifying. Yuni was a lot of fun to watch. He's gotten less fun to watch by the day, and he's blossomed into one of the worst everyday regulars in baseball. If you believe that his defense really is as bad as the numbers, then for three straight years, now, he's practically been worthless.

And now he's the starting shortstop for a World Series contender. Over the course of his career, Yuni's teams have won this many games:

2005: 69
2006: 78
2007: 88
2008: 61
2009: 85, 65 (traded midseason)
2010: 67

The 88-win team was a fluke that wasn't as good as its record, and while the 85-win team was better, it still wasn't good, and besides, that team traded him in July. For all intents and purposes, 2011 should be Yuni's first turn on a team good enough to win a championship.*

* people might've said the same about the 2008 Mariners, but something obviously went way wrong, and the Brewers probably won't have the same kind of nightmare.

And Yuni's getting his first turn on a team good enough to win a championship as a guy who's been one of baseball's least valuable players for the last three years. So, to cut a long story short, I wonder: is Yuniesky Betancourt the worst regular player on a team that's supposed to contend in 2011?

This is a hard question to ask right now - both because choosing who is and isn't supposed to contend is kind of subjective, and also because the offseason isn't done yet. There are obviously still moves being made that could change some teams around. But I looked at some depth charts and narrowed down what I think is a pretty strong pool of five candidates, and now I'm going to leave it up to you to decide. If voting "other", post the name in the comments, because depth charts are tricky to navigate right now and I easily could've missed a few guys.

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