• The Milwaukee Brewers dealt for former Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke shortly after it was announced that the right-hander had rejected the Washington Nationals' advances, and they traded for Nyjer Morgan when he failed to claim the starting spot in center field in the nation's capital, and those are probably the only two sources of tension between the two teams with little history together or any sense of a rivalry. Greinke's injured and hasn't yet made his 2011 debut for the Brewers, and he won't be throwing in the Nats Park this weekend, but Morgan, who's put up a July/August-of-'09-like .476/.522/.762 line since he was dealt to Milwaukee, comes back to Washington, D.C. this weekend and he's sure to be making headlines. Before the three-game series, Federal Baseball sent a few questions to Kyle Lobner of the SB Nation's Brewers site, Brew Crew Ball, to see what's going on with Milwaukee...
Federal Baseball (FBb): Is the honeymoon over with Nyjer Morgan yet? When he first arrived in D.C. after a trade with the Pirates, the Nationals fans embraced him much the same way it seems Brewers fans are now, but an injury, some contract issues and a 2010 season in which he underperformed after a strong '09 combined with some odd onfield outbursts to end the love fest in Washington. Are Brewers fans just happy to have someone to play center over Carlos Gomez or what is it about Morgan that's endeared him to fans in Milwaukee?
Brew Crew Ball (BCB): Around BCB I've been referring to the last couple of weeks as the Nyjer Morgan Golden Era. Everyone loves him right now, and I think that will remain the case as long as he continues to post a 1.200 OPS, play plus defense and score runs by bowling over opposing catchers. I think a large portion of Morgan's popularity with the Brewer fan base right now is tied to the fact that the players he replaces when he's in the lineup (Carlos Gomez and Mark Kotsay) are pretty undesirable options. When Corey Hart comes off the DL Morgan's only playing time will likely come in center, and it'll be interesting to see how the organization uses him.
FBb: Has Morgan started the Tony Plush stuff up again or is that all Brewers fans embracing his alter ego?
BCB: I think all the "Tony Plush" stuff came to Milwaukee before Morgan arrived. He definitely didn't start it on his own...in fact, he's had to explain it in more or less every interview he's done since coming to town. His eccentricities are unique and fun right now...and as long as he's producing they most likely won't become an issue.
FBb: Nationals fans weren't necessarily happy with the idea that the team was willing to include players like Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa and Drew Storen in a package in their attempt to acquire Zack Greinke from the Royals. Were you okay with the package of players the Brewers sent to the Royals for Greinke?
BCB: When we do our weekly BCB Tracking Poll, the Greinke trade routinely draws about 90% approval. The Brewers paid a high price for him, but I think a lot of people see Greinke as the piece that makes the Brewers a contender. In addition, you can make a strong case that the Brewers sold high on all four players they traded away:
- Alcides Escobar is a very talented defensive shortstop but his plate approach has been poor and he may never hit well enough to be a significant contributor.
- Lorenzo Cain could be an excellent outfielder, but leg injury issues cost him most of the 2009 season.
- Jeremy Jeffress could be an impact reliever, but he also had a well documented problem with pot that led to four positive tests and two suspensions.
- Jake Odorizzi might be a frontline starting pitcher, but he's still a long way away from the majors.
Obviously, all the prospects above are guys you'd like to keep around if you can. But with that said, dealing them away made the Brewers a potential playoff team and I think most fans would do it again.
FBb: Part of the Nats' approach in pursuing a deal [w/ the Royals] was signing Greinke to an extension (rumored to be 5-years/$90-100 million), do the Brewers need to keep him long-term for the deal to make sense? Greinke conducted an interview recently in which he said that he was impressed with the Nationals' pitch to him this winter, and he brought up the possibilty of signing with Washington in the future when his current deal is up. Did the interview get any attention in Milwaukee? What do you think of him talking free agency before he's ever thrown a pitch for the Brewers?
BCB: I think learning to take everything Zack Greinke says with a grain of salt is one of the most important things Brewer fans had to do this offseason. Greinke is very honest and direct, and he doesn't seem to have the ability to sugarcoat things. As such, more or less every Greinke media session leads to at least one quote that you wouldn't normally hear from an athlete.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Brewers make an effort to extend Greinke but I think they know they don't have a strong chance of keeping him, and that's all right. I think the team made this deal with the hope that having an ace on board would get them a playoff appearance or two, and keeping him long term would be a bonus.
FBb: The Nationals have shown a willingness to spend money recently, is Prince Fielder going to be out there as a free agent option at first base? Would you give him a long-term deal? I'd say no, but he's still just about to turn 27, will whatever teams gives him a big deal regret it?
BCB: Fielder will almost certainly be a free agent following the season, as the Brewers have almost no chance of convincing the Scott Boras client to forgo the open market. He's believed to be seeking a bigger deal than what Ryan Howard got from the Phillies (5/$125m). I think a handful of teams will be interested in his services, but I have a hard time believing he'll find someone willing to offer more than five years.
Fielder has been very durable and consistently productive during his time in Milwaukee, so I think I'd be ok with signing him to a 5-6 year deal through his age 32-33 seasons. With that said, his size and weight will almost certainly be a red flag for anyone considering making a big offer to him. He lost of a lot of weight over the offseason, which is a positive but also a potential concern for his next team: it's possible his contract year is motivating him to improve his conditioning, and he'll let it slide again once he's got a big contract.
I answered a few questions for BCB too, and I'll post a link to that Q&A when it's published later today...