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Zack Greinke comes at economical cost for Angels

The price, a rookie shortstop and two double-A pitchers, is remarkable. The team didn't have to part ways with any young major leaguers such as center fielder Peter Bourjos or pitcher Garrett Richards.

July 27, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Zack Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.44 earned run average, 122 strikeouts and 28 walks in 123 innings this season.
Zack Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.44 earned run average, 122 strikeouts and 28… (Bob Levey / Getty Images )

The Angels bolstered their sagging rotation with a right-hander who has been one of baseball’s top starting pitchers over the last 4 1/2 years, acquiring Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura and double-A pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena on Friday.

The deal was remarkable for the Angels in that they did not have to give up two of their top young major leaguers, center fielder Peter Bourjos and pitcher Garrett Richards.

Segura, recently called up from double-A Arkansas, was preparing to join the Angels for stretch when he was pulled off the field by first-base coach Alfredo Griffen and sent to Manager Mike Scioscia’s office to be informed of the deal.

Greinke, 28, is 9-3 with a 3.44 earned-run average, 122 strikeouts and 28 walks in 123 innings this season. He won the American League Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals in 2009 and helped the Brewers win the National League Central title in 2011.

The risk in acquiring Greinke, who makes $13.5-million this season -- about $4.5 million of which the Angels will now pick up -- is that he can depart as a free agent next winter and the Angels, under the new collective bargaining agreement, will receive no draft-pick compensation for him.

The Brewers and Greinke’s agent discussed the parameters of a contract extension, believed to be for six years and more than $100 million, but when little progress toward an agreement was made it became more apparent to the Brewers that they would have to trade him.

When Cole Hamels signed a six-year, $144-million contract extension with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday -- and the Brewers completed an 0-6 road trip to fall 9 1/2 games off the National League wild-card pace -- Greinke immediately became the top pitcher on the market.

Greinke, who mixes a 93-mph fastball with a slider, curve, cut fastball and changeup, had his best season in 2009, when he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA, 242 strikeouts and 51 walks in 229 1/3 innings.

The sixth overall pick in the 2002 draft, Greinke had a down year in 2010, going 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA, but the trade to Milwaukee the following December seemed to rejuvenate him -- he went 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA, 201 strikeouts and 45 walks in 171 2/3 innings to help the Brewers win the division.

But Greinke does come with some baggage. In the spring of 2006, Greinke broke down after a wild throwing session and left the Royals for personal reasons. It was eventually revealed that Greinke suffered from social anxiety disorder and depression, and he pitched in only three games, all in relief, that season.

A number of athletes suffer from social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by intense fear in social situations and, in severe cases, can make it nearly impossible for patients to get out of bed.

Greinke told reporters years ago that his condition got so bad at one point that he despised baseball and considered leaving the game. But he was prescribed antidepressants and showed considerable improvement in 2007, when he went 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 52 games, 14 of them starts.

Greinke returned to the rotation full time in 2008, going 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts, and he followed that up with his Cy Young Award-winning 2009.

As dominant as he can be on the mound, Greinke can be just as perplexing -- and aloof -- off of it, not only for the media covering him but his own teammates.

“Zack, he doesn’t mean to, but he kind of puts himself on an island because of his personality,” Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy told ESPN.com after the Brewers clinched the division last season. “You have to swim to that island. I wanted to create that relationship with him because I knew that this was going to be a very important year to have that, that mental trust.

“You need that with any pitcher, but with him especially. He distrusts easily. He’ll withdraw fast. So for me, I’ve got to constantly be trying to communicate with him because sometimes he won’t want to talk. But I don’t care, and I tell him that. He’s a very honest guy, and he expects honesty in return.”

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