#Shortstops: Greinke Trade Reshaped Royals' Destiny

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Lauren Lanter

Zack Greinke was a 2018 All-Star and has pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the last three seasons.

But it can easily be said that Greinke played a major role in helping the Kansas City Royals to the 2015 World Series title – despite not having pitched for them since 2010.

The Cy Young Award winner is a five-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger Award winner and has led the majors in ERA twice in his career. Some of that success came with Kansas City, but it was after he left that the Royals achieved their greatest victory.

Greinke was drafted by the Kansas City Royals with the sixth overall pick in the 2002 June amateur draft. In his seven years with the Major League club, the Royals stood at the bottom of the standings most of the time, winning only about 40 percent of the 1,134 games played in that time span and owning losing records in all seven seasons between 2004 and 2010.

Despite the Royals’ losing ways, Greinke was a bright spot for the team during those years – becoming a fan favorite and attracting visitors to the ballpark who came just to see him start. For many Royals fans, every fifth day became “Zack Greinke Day”. A high point was when Greinke took the mound on Aug. 25, 2009, as he struck out 15 batters, breaking the Royals’ single-game record for strikeouts and winning over fans across the country. A ball from that game is preserved in the Hall of Fame’s collection. That year, the Royals finished with a record of 65-97, but Greinke posted a league-leading ERA of 2.16 in 33 starts and was selected as both an All-Star and the American League Cy Young Award winner.

Greinke had a down year in 2010 following his Cy Young-winning season, posting a 4.17 ERA, and the Royals’ results on the field remained disappointing, going 67-95. Following the 2010 season, he asked to be traded away from the only franchise he had ever known.

On Dec. 19, 2010, the Royals announced that they had traded Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was the Brewers’ top prospect, along with outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. At the time of the trade, it was thought that the Brewers were the clear winners, but looking back, the Royals can claim victory.

While Jeffress and Odorizzi did not spend much time with the organization, Cain and Escobar became franchise players for the Royals, playing together in Kansas City for seven seasons. From 2011 to 2017, the Royals posted a season winning percentage of .500 or better four out of seven times – winning two American League pennants (2014 and 2015) and one World Series (2015). Escobar was the 2015 ALCS MVP, won a Gold Glove Award and appeared in one All-Star Game, all with the Royals. Similarly, Cain garnered great success with Kansas City, winning the 2014 ALCS MVP, appearing in two All-Star games and finishing third overall in the MVP voting in 2015.

Greinke continued to succeed on the mound for four different teams after parting ways with the Royals, but in the words uttered by Alcides Escobar at the 2015 World Series parade, the Royals can forever say “Thank You Zack Greinke!”

Lauren Lanter was a 2018 public programming intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series