Managing Risk As A GM (The Greinke Situation)

A hot topic amongst Yankees fans over the last few days has been the mental state of Zack Greinke and his ability to handle New York. Many contended that his Social Anxiety Disorder made him a lock to melt down in New York, an assumption that is simply ignorant of the many contours of the human psyche. Having social anxiety disorder does not necessarily mean that you shy away from added attention or that you will have performance anxiety in more stressful situations. Some people who know Greinke, such as Joe Posnanski, thought that Greinke would thrive in a place like New York.

However, the argument at the other extreme, that Greinke’s condition is irrelevant and should not enter the calculus of a team targeting him on the trade market, was equally presumptive and short-sighted. Tim Marchman put it well:

One paradoxical effect of well intentioned efforts to treat mental illness as something that doesn’t deserve any special stigma is that it ends up being treated as something other than an illness. This can make you forget that Zack Greinke does, actually, have a fairly serious chronic illness. I have no idea what you’d analogize it to, exactly—bum elbow? diabetes? alcoholism?—but it’s a real medical issue, teams concerned with it aren’t being insensitive, and it doubtless rightly affects his market value.

Greinke’s SAD should not have been the primary consideration in weighing the pros and cons of any deal, but it certainly should be considered as an added risk factor, much like a history of arm trouble would be taken into account. The GM needs to balance the risk against the possible reward and determine the amount of talent that he is willing to surrender based upon that calculation. Thankfully, the Yankees have a GM who thinks rationally, and this is exactly how the Yankees approached a possible Greinke deal, according to Joel Sherman:

The Yankees were willing to overlook their concerns about Zack Greinke’s ability to handle New York if they could construct a trade they found tolerable for the righty.

But the Yanks ultimately decided Kansas City’s asking price — combined with their fears about Greinke’s makeup — were too much to consummate a deal, The Post has learned.

At the meetings the Yanks learned the full extent of what Kansas City would need to complete a deal. The Royals wanted catcher Jesus Montero, shortstop Eduardo Nunez and either Dellin Betances or Manuel Banuelos. The sides did not get further than that in discussions, but the Royals also said tjeu would need a fourth piece, another pitcher. Kansas City liked the Triple A-level arms such as Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren and David Phelps.

Greinke suffered from social anxiety disorder and depression earlier in his career and it was believed he wanted nothing to do with a big city such as New York. However, the Yanks did believe Greinke badly wanted out of Kansas City and was willing to try to pitch in New York.

The Yankees were prepared to offer Montero for Greinke, which indicates that they did not over-inflate the importance of Greinke’s condition to the point where they were convinced that he could not play in New York. They simply saw it as an added risk, such that as the amount of talent going to KC in the trade grew, the risk began to outstrip the reward and made the trade a poor bet for Cashman. This was not insensitive, nor was it a decision based on rash assumptions about Greinke’s ability to handle New York. It was a rational cost-benefit decision in which valid risks outweighed the possible reward.

23 thoughts on “Managing Risk As A GM (The Greinke Situation)

  1. considering the current makeup of the rotation my conclusion is that the possible, and to my mind, likely reward outweighs the risk. someone posted a list of the top 10 prospects in baseball over the last decade or so- a bunch of supposed “can’t miss” type guys and in those lists, most of the can’t miss guys missed. I’m not suggesting that Montero will be a bust or that I even think he will be, but Greinke is an elite talent.

    • That’s a fair point and I get that some will disagree with Cashman’s evaluation. I just wanted to note that there was a clear weighing here, and it wasnt simply an uninformed decision based on vague notions of whether he could handle NY.

      • Or an ivory tower notion that since we can’t quantify something, it therefore doesn’t exist. It’s easy to take that stance when you have no skin in the game.

    • I don’t mind people calling Greinke an elite talent but why are you doing so? Because for the most part I find the people that make this statement only are thinking of his 2009 Cy Young season and believe that he is that and that 2009 is his ceiling which ignores every other year he has ever had.

      Zack’s xFIP over the last 5 seasons…

      2006- 4.28
      2007- 4.28
      2008- 3.76
      2009- 3.15
      2010- 3.76

      Zack’s FIP over the last 5 seasons

      2006- 5.04
      2007- 3.74
      2008- 3.56
      2009- 2.33
      2010- 3.34

      Zack’s WAR over the last 5 seasons

      2006- 0.0
      2007- 2.5
      2008- 4.9
      2009- 9.4
      2010- 5.2

      Zack’s K/9 over the last 5 seasons

      2006- 7.1 K/9
      2007- 7.8 K/9
      2008- 8.1 K/9
      2009- 9.5 K/9
      2010- 7.4 K/9

      2006-2008 and 2010 all fit in the same general mold of a pitcher who is very good but no necessarily a Cy Young winner and not necessarily someone who dominates year in and year out, in 2009 he’s a completely different pitcher than ever before or in the year since and to believe that he is that pitcher over every other year saying differently to me doesn’t make sense.

      So while I completely agree that Greinke is a top of the rotation starter and he has clearly had 3 very dominate years I don’t think he is this world beater that everyone makes his out to be because of one season he will never repeat or even come close to again. When you look at his numbers he is a 3.4 – 3.7 FIP guy and a 4-6 WAR guy which are great numbers, even ace numbers but they don’t scream out what 2009 did and I think a lot of people confuse the very good pitcher in a pitchers park with the 9 WAR season he happened to have.

      I’m not a Zack Greinke hater even though I know that’s how it must come off but I believe once you put him in a more homer friendly park the further away from 2009 he actually goes and because of that the risk goes up and I don’t want to pass on the possible reward Montero could be for that risk.

      • Take out those 2006 numbers… I got overzealous in the number crunching and added 2006 at the last minute without looking at the inning total.

        • Really, you should disregard 2007 as well because he spent virtually that entire season pitching out of the bullpen. Bullpen numbers vs starting numbers = apples vs oranges. It leaves you with a pitcher with a three year track record, sure, but he’s still young.

          • He had 14 starts that year so he didn’t spend the whole year in the pen.

            He had 271 ABs that year as a starter with an opposing line of .292/.346/.494

            He had 190 ABs that year out of the pen with an opposing line of .226/.282/.332

            So he actually spent for 1-1 pitcher vs batter moments as a starter that year therefore the numbers would be even worse had he not dominated the 190 ABs he put up as a reliever, if anything this just helps my point.

      • This is very fair. Greinke will likely never repeat 2009. I think he is absolutely a 5-6 win guy, with a chance to throw in a 7 here and there. That makes him a 27 year old ace, but as you noted, he isn’t the generational talent some think he is.

  2. Exactly, I feel like a lot of people think that Greinke is basically like having Felix Hernandez and since Yankee fans covet him so much they would be willing to give up anything for someone they feel is on par with him when I feel Greinke is at a level or two below that.

    Hernandez’s numbers over the last 5 seasons and don’t forget that Felix is 3 years younger than Zack and both of them broke into the league at age 20 (Felix 19 but his 2006 season was 20 so close enough).

    2006(20)- 3.34 xFIP
    2007(21)- 3.34 xFIP
    2008- 3.87 xFIP
    2009- 3.42 xFIP
    2010- 3.26 xFIP

    2006(20)- 3.91 FIP
    2007(21)- 3.75 FIP
    2008- 3.80 FIP
    2009- 3.09 FIP
    2010- 3.04 FIP

    2006(20)- 3.8 WAR
    2007(21)- 4.1 WAR
    2008- 3.7 WAR
    2009- 6.8 WAR
    2010- 6.2 WAR

    2006(20)- 8.29 K/9
    2007(21)- 7.80 K/9
    2008- 7.85 K/9
    2009- 8.18 K/9
    2010- 8.36 K/9

    All the Greinke numbers start in 2007 because that is when he came back from his second trip to the minors after needing a break but his year 20 and 21 season don’t compare to Felix.

    2004(20)- 145 IP, 3.97 ERA, 4.70 FIP, xFIP, 4.28, 2.2 WAR
    2005(21)- 183 IP, 5.80 ERA, 4.49 FIP, xFIP, 4.64, 2.6 WAR

    • the lowest WAR Felix has ever posted was 2.6 in 2005 his very first year in the league as a 19 year in old pitching ONLY 84.1 IP, in that little amount of time he was able to equal Greinke’s WAR from 2005 as a 21 year old pitching 183 IP and be better than Greinke’s WAR from 2004 as a 20 year old pitching 145 innings.

      So I believe for all these reasons that Greinke while clearly a good pitcher and an ace is not as good a pitcher as Felix Hernandez and therefore not worth a package that includes Montero and Bs, a package I would only unload for Felix.

      Sorry for the double post thought of more numbers to add and the edit time had run out, sometimes it’s like beat the clock on this thing haha.

  3. Yankees have all these prospect that everybody wants. I say we stand pat, be patient for a couple year and make a repeat run like in the late 90’s with home grown talent

    • The only problem with that is that the 90’s teams had additions made via trade that put those teams over the edge… Paul O’Neill is one that immediately comes to mind, the other side of that is also that prospects busts and as much as we all love the “Nasty Bs” (Is it too porno sounding? I hate Killer Bs and just calling them the Bs sounds like a hive) it’s very likely only 1 if 1 makes it as a starter so while I agree with the overall premise of your post we shouldn’t forgo all trades we just need to make the ones that make the most sense for the organization and hope we do our best at determining which ones will take off and which ones will bust.

  4. When it was tweeted that the Yanks could have Greinke for Montero and Nunez, I thought two things. One, that probably is not true. And two, that would totally be worth the risk. But, when adding one of Banuelos, Betances or Brackman as well as a Warren/Noesi, it would not be. Still close though depending on which of the three B’s.

    • Brackman was never in he discussion from what I have read, they wanted either Banuelos or Betances I imagine because Dellin has a higher ceiling and Manny has a lower floor.

  5. Terrific piece Mo, very balanced and fair. The reward may have outweigh the risk, but when you find out the cost the decision becomes easier. They wanted a no-brainer package for Grienke and he’s a…”brainer”?

    • Yet they took a MUCH lesser package from the Brewers. Damn, I already pay high taxes for living in NYC, and I guess that also goes for the Yankees when making trades.

      • I have been hearing so much debate on the package the Royals got does anyone actually know enough about these prospects to know if they got fair return or not?

        Because I have read fans saying the Brewers got robbed, I have read fans saying the Royals got robbed and you hear experts disagree on the package somewhat as well.

        • Escobar was a top-25 prospect a year ago. Good defensive shortstop. His bat isn’t very far along though, and he really struggled last year in the bigs. Will never hit for power, but could be a decent average hitter with good speed. He has potential but not there yet.

          Cain might be a poor mans Brett Gardner. He’s got a decent bat, good speed, and plays good defense in center. Not a big time prospect, and never going to be a super star, but definitely a solid player.

          Jeffress was a first round pick in 2006. #100 prospect according to BA heading into 2009, but he’s never thrown more than 100 innings in a season, less than 100 the past two years combined. He’s probably going to be a reliever.

          Odorizzi is the only real prospect in the deal, and he’s a pretty good one. 20 year old first round pick. Good stuff. Performed well in A ball last year. High strikeout rate. Still has to work on his control, and far from the big leagues.

          The Royals didn’t get a horrible package, but they didn’t get the impact talent you would have expected. I was very surprised that they settled for what they did. It’s far from Montero, Banuelos/Betances, Nunez, and Noesi/Warren/Nova/Phelps.

          • Nice breakdown thanks.

            It seems to me the Yankees always end up with a tax when it comes to doing these trades and they never seem to be able to match what they actually ask the Yankees for, it makes you believe that the only way a team is willing to give us an impact player at all is to make us over pay like it’s their retribution to our spending in free agency.

            When you see Boston get Adrian Gonzalez for 3 good prospects but honestly I’ve watch Casey Kelly pitch and I wasn’t impressed and he’s the center of the deal and then you compare that for what teams ask of us and there seems to be a gap between the two.

            Honestly I’m glad we passed because as many of you know I’m not the biggest Greinke to New York supporter and I don’t want to trade Montero or any of the “Nasty Bs” at all.

  6. It doesn’t sound like KC wanted half as much from Mil as they did from NYY. It’s funny that some teams are willing to deal with us on a pretty even basis, but others expect us to pay more than anyone else.

    I wouldn’t have made the rumored trade, let alone the other one. I think Montero’s going to be a lot more valuable going forward.

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