Royals' run spurred by additions who came from Brewers
Escobar, Cain, Aoki, Yost and Sveum all joined KC after time in Milwaukee
The Kansas City Royals deserve all the credit in the world for breaking their 29-year postseason drought and coming within one victory of a World Series championship.
But along the way, the Milwaukee Brewers might deserve at least a polite note of thanks. They provided the Royals with lots of help.
The Zack Greinke trade after the 2010 season was part of the foundation of the 2014 Royals' success. Make that a major part.
The Royals had a top-shelf haul in this deal. Credit general manager Dayton Moore with seeing the possibilities and seizing the moment.
Kansas City came up with an elite defensive shortstop, Alcides Escobar, who, in a more just world, would have already won an American League Gold Glove Award or two. Escobar's offensive game has developed to the point that he moved into the leadoff spot in the Royals' lineup and was good enough to make a real difference.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain, a multifaceted talent, arrived from the Brewers in the same deal. He emerged in this postseason as a legitimate star. He hit .333 with a .388 on-base percentage in the 2014 postseason, scoring 13 runs in 15 games, and shining in the outfield.
The Royals also picked up Jake Odorizzi, at the time regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in the Brewers' Minor League system. Moore eventually packaged Odorizzi in the deal that brought starter James Shields and reliever Wade Davis from Tampa Bay. We all know how that worked. Shields became the leader of the rotation and Davis evolved into one of the best eighth-inning setup men in the game.
Another Brewers prospect in the trade, flamethrowing Jeremy Jeffress, did not pan out for Kansas City. He was, ironically or not, back on Milwaukee's roster and pitching well in relief during the second half of the 2014 season.
The Brewers were not shut out in this deal. They got the immediate payoff they wanted in 2011, winning a division title, setting a franchise record with 96 regular-season victories and advancing to the National League Championship Series.
The following season, they traded Greinke to the Angels. One of the players they received in return, shortstop Jean Segura, could be a long-term answer, even though he is not a defensive player of Escobar's stature.
When you look at the overall effects of this trade, the Royals could be benefiting from it for a long time. The importance of this deal for Kansas City cannot be overstated.
Further assistance came from Milwaukee prior to the 2014 season. The Royals needed a top-of-the-order hitter and stable right fielder. They got that player from the Brewers in Nori Aoki. Aoki's second-half resurgence was a huge plus in the Royals' push for the postseason.
In return, the Brewers got a left-handed reliever, Will Smith, who was outstanding early in the season, but less successful in the second half, probably due to overuse. Aoki, now a free agent, may not return to the Royals, but he suited their purpose in 2014.
This brings us to the manager, Ned Yost, only available to the Royals because the Brewers, in a bizarre chapter of franchise history, dismissed him with two weeks remaining in the 2008. Yost had managed the Brewers from last place to the brink of postseason qualification over six seasons, but he wasn't allowed to finish those last two weeks.
Dale Sveum took over as Milwaukee's manager for those two weeks, finished 7-5, and the Brewers qualified for the postseason for the first time in 16 years. The Brewers subsequently didn't want Sveum as the manager, either. He, of course, finished 2014 as the Royals' hitting coach. The Royals' offense improved notably with Sveum working in that capacity.
Yost's detractors were many in recent seasons. They are much quieter now. Qualifying for the postseason, advancing through three postseason rounds, managing a team to within one victory of a World Series, will tend to take a managerial career to more seriously respected level.
To total it all up: A top-shelf shortstop, an emerging star in center, a solid contact-maker in right, help in obtaining two essential pitchers, one manager and one hitting coach. That's a bunch of assistance from one club, but that is what the Milwaukee Brewers eventually contributed to the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
From these transactions, the Brewers have a left-handed reliever, a shortstop and memories of 2011. Yes, the Royals appear to have an edge of some considerable size.