- Associated Press - Monday, December 20, 2010

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The last time general manager Doug Melvin made a big move that prioritized the present over the future, CC Sabathia carried the Milwaukee Brewers to their first postseason appearance since 1982.

It didn’t matter much that Sabathia was gone the following year, and so were the prospects the Brewers gave up for him.

Melvin went all-in again Sunday, pulling off a deal with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday for 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. Combined with another recent move to get starter Shaun Marcum from Toronto, the Brewers think they’ve fixed their starting pitching problems _ and believe they’re back on track for the playoffs.

Brewers are for real!,” outfielder Corey Hart crowed in a text message to The Associated Press.

Milwaukee made pitching a top priority this offseason after watching its starters struggle in back-to-back disappointing seasons since the team’s 2008 postseason appearance. Melvin was willing to pay a fairly steep price to give new manager Ron Roenicke more to work with.

The Brewers gave up top infield prospect Brett Lawrie to acquire Marcum earlier this month, then sent more of their most prized young players to Kansas City to get Greinke.

The Royals acquired shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and right-handed pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers in exchange for Greinke, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and cash considerations.

Zack Greinke is one of the top young pitchers in the game today,” Melvin said in a statement. “We are very excited to add him to our new rotation.

Zack brings great physical skills and athleticism to the team and is an outstanding competitor. This trade is a credit to our scouting and player development staff as their hard work and judgment provided us the talented prospects that Kansas City will be receiving. I also appreciate the support of ownership in making this deal.”

Royals general manager Dayton Moore indicated it took some direct talks between he and Greinke before the pitcher agreed to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.

“He was very much open to it at the end of the day,” Moore said.

Unlike the Sabathia rent-an-ace deal that put the Brewers over the top in the middle of the 2008 season, Milwaukee will have Greinke under contract for two full seasons.

There are two years left on the four-year, $38 million contract he signed with the Royals in January 2009. He is due $13.5 million in each of the final two seasons, although the Brewers got an undisclosed amount of cash back from the Royals as part of the deal.

Still, there is some risk involved. Was Greinke’s uneven performance last season an aberration?

Greinke was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA for the Royals last season. It was a step back from his standout 2009 season, when he went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and won the Cy Young.

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