MILWAUKEE – Zack Greinke loves the attitude of the Milwaukee Brewers and their willingness to try to reach the postseason immediately.
"The main reason I wanted to get out, I mean, preferred to get out of Kansas City, is I wanted to be on a team that was trying to win this year because as a pitcher you don't really know how long your career is going to be," Greinke said Monday, a day after he was acquired from the Royals in a six-player trade.
After winning the AL Cy Young Award with a 16-8 record and 2.16 ERA in 2009, the 27-year-old right-hander slumped to 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season.
"Just really wanted to be in a place where they were playing to win games right away," he said.
Since the end of the season, the Brewers also acquired for Shaun Marcum to join a rotation that also includes holdover Yovani Gallardo. The new players join a core that includes All-Stars Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart to go along with Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee, closer John Axford and setup man Zach Braddock.
"They've got some really good offense on the team and they seem to have like an attitude about them, and I kind of like that," said Greinke, who liked the swagger of former Brewers catcher Jason Kendall. "He was great for our team. I'm assuming that he got some of his attitude from being in this organization."
Fielder is eligible to become a free agent after the season. General manager Doug Melvin is content to keep the slugging first baseman for 2010. Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, encourages clients to become free agents to maximize value before signing.
"Realistically, we're done making major moves," Melvin said. "I envision this club with Prince being the No. 4 hitter and having a big year for us."
Melvin traded starting shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi and former first rounder Jeremy Jeffress to the Royals for Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and cash.
Melvin compared this trade to the one he pulled off to acquire CC Sabathia in 2008, except that Greinke has two remaining years under contract instead of a few months. Milwaukee needed a boost in its rotation after Sabathia and longtime ace Ben Sheets left as free agents after winning the NL wild card that season.
Greinke was asked if the Brewers could make a World Series run with the talent around him now.
"The division's still pretty tough," Greinke said. "It'll be tough just to get there, so if you're not first place, you've got to win the wild card. That's probably tough, too. I don't have much playoff experience, so I don't know how it all works."
Milwaukee's rotation appears to be one of the better in the NL after the Brewers gave up many of their top young players.
The Brewers have dealt their top position prospect (Brett Lawrie), top pitching prospect (Odorizzi) and two projected opening-day starters (Escobar, Cain) to acquire Marcum and Greinke to go along with Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. All five pitchers are under team control through 2012.
"We've got three opening-day starters in our rotation right now with Marcum, Greinke and Gallardo," Melvin said. "You don't make these kind of trades without having good, quality young players. We're able to still put a team out there with every one of our starting players is under 30. Our top three starters are under 30. Our closer and setup guy are under 30. We're still a very young team. We still have a lot of young, talented players."
One of the biggest decisions new manager Ron Roenicke will have to make early is who will pitch the opener. Gallardo started Milwaukee's first game last season, while Marcum opened for Toronto and Greinke for Kansas City.
"It's too early to say that," Roenicke said, laughing.
Greinke has two years left on the $38 million, four-year contract he signed with the Royals in January 2009, and he is due $13.5 million in each of the final two seasons. Greinke is 60-67 with a 3.82 ERA in six-plus seasons with the Royals. He sat out most of the 2006 season because of an anxiety disorder and considered quitting.
"Before I left baseball, and before I got on the medicine, just having to go through everything that definitely made me a stronger person," Greinke said. "After I got on the medicine, it made it a lot easier. But going through the stuff before definitely made me a lot stronger."
Greinke declined to comment on an MLB.com report that the Nationals also struck an agreement to deal for him, but he used his no-trade clause to nix a trade. Milwaukee was on Greinke's no-trade list, too, even as Melvin continued working with Royals GM Dayton Moore to try to secure the right-hander.
"I'm glad I didn't give up on it," Melvin said. "I called Dayton last week and asked if there was any way we could start talking again. I knew it was going to be a costly trade. We gave up some very talented young players.
"If I was in Dayton's seat, I would have selected the players he did, too. The thing about is, we're getting a young pitcher who's 27 years old with a Cy Young Award and someone who is very energized to be in the postseason."