Royals' mission delayed, not canceled

Following the reaction yesterday to the Zack Greinke trade, the questions seemed to revolve mostly around the Kansas City Royals' inability to get more for Greinke.

Look, it would be fantastic if Kansas City could have gotten (the 2010 equivalent of) Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips.

But those deals are really hard to find, and we don't know the Royals didn't just make a deal like that.

I mean, it's really, really unlikely.

You gotta try, though. The Royals just acquired four young players, none of them perfect but all of them promising.

Lorenzo Cain is almost 25 years old and hasn't done anything in the majors yet. He has almost no star potential. Also, his 2009 season in the minors was a complete disaster. On the other hand, in the minors he did get on base frequently, showed a touch of power, and has fine speed. For a franchise with a brilliant crop of prospects but little outfield help on the way, Cain is useful.

Alcides Escobar's 2010 season in the majors was a complete disaster. But he was a top prospect just one year ago, and a top prospect just one year before that, too. Escobar's stock is down, which is of course the exact moment you go after him. Just one year ago, you probably couldn't get Escobar in this deal.

Jake Odorizzi was the 32nd player taken in the 2008 amateur draft. In three pro seasons, he's won only nine games. He's got a big arm, though, and seems to be healthy.

Jeremy Jeffress was the 16th player taken in the 2006 draft. Today he's merely a relief pitcher. But he's got a big arm, too. And you never know, maybe he'll pitch so well for the Royals that management will entertain the notion of trading Joakim Soria and reel in several more talented young prospects.

We can't know today if this was a net plus for the Royals. We won't know for two or three years, at least. We do know the Royals just went from being loaded with good young players to being really loaded with good young players. One negative impact, if you're a Royals fan and you're not particularly patient, is that Mission 2012 just got delayed until at least 2013 and probably 2014. Because the mission will fail without strong starting pitching, and the Royals suddenly are down to zero starters.

Zero good ones, anyway. Greinke was the Royals' best starter last season. Their second-best starter was Bruce Chen, which is pretty much all you need to know. Granted, the system is loaded with talented young pitchers and now it's really loaded, but the road from talented young (minor-league) pitcher to major league winner is strewn with all sorts of nasty anti-personnel devices.

This whole thing might actually work. It won't work quickly, though. Unless you're in this thing for the long haul, you might want to find a different favorite team.