Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zack Greinke on the Move? But Where Exactly? More Notes From Around Baseball

Newest rumors out of the mill is that Cy Young winner Zack Greinke has told the Kansas City Royals that he wants to be traded to a team that has a better chance of winning while he’s in his prime. At the same time, he’s also made it clear that he doesn’t want to be traded to a big-market team. Given his issues with social anxiety from earlier in his career, it’s no surprise, but it does severely limit the chances of him going to a winner.

Without the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers or Angels to drive up the haul that the Royals could get in return, who’s left to make the Royals move their ace?

Given that he wants to win now, you can knock off Seattle, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Florida, Houston, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Washington and Arizona from that list. I’d also eliminate Oakland, San Diego, Toronto, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and St. Louis for a variety of reasons (low or tight budget, young pitching depth already, a stud pitcher or two in their rotation already).

Handicapping the teams left who should be in the race for Greinke:

1.       Minnesota Twins – They have the most to gain by making the deal. It would set up the rest of the rotation much better, dropping Francisco Liriano to No. 2 and allowing the promising Brian Duensing to stay as the No. 3 pitcher. Putting a Cy Young-quality strikeout ace at the front of the rotation would make them a much bigger threat in the postseason. The big question here is if they have enough to make the deal after trading for Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes at the trade deadline this year. The Capps deal especially might hurt in the long-term, given that they had to give up Wilson Ramos, a highly promising catching prospect, in the deal.

2.       Colorado Rockies – How much better would the Rockies have been with Greinke behind Ubaldo Jiminez, especially in their relatively mediocre first half? The Rockies are known as an organization that drafts well, so they should have the prospect depth to make the deal. The question then becomes whether they want to develop their prospects from within or make the move for Greinke.

3.       Cincinnati Reds – They have a ton of pitching depth, but they could absolutely use another top-line starter to help seal up their rotation. With an already potent lineup and a ton of young pitching, they could easily make this move, so like the Rockies, it depends on whether they would move their young prospects or develop from within.

4.       Texas Rangers – The bounceback move if they lose Cliff Lee in free agency to the Yankees – like everyone expects to happen, it seems – would be to trade for the best young pitcher available. Just like the Reds, they have the depth in their organization, but unlike the Reds or Rockies, they would face a huge loss in losing Lee this offseason which could immediately be remedied by picking up Greinke.

The big problem in this scenario is that Greinke’s desire to avoid a big market – while a smart idea, given that his makeup seems better for a small market – could very well keep a trade from happening. You have to believe that the Royals would have to be overwhelmed in order to trade a 26-year-old Cy Young winner who is under club control through 2012. I would expect the team to end up with Greinke to give up a Teixeira-to-the-Braves-type of package.

But given the teams I’ve eliminated from contention for various reasons, I could also easily see the remaining teams not coming up with enough to close the deal. This is going to be a story for most of the offseason, but I definitely see the Twins getting it done.

Notes from Around the League

- With all the attention being paid to Greinke all of a sudden, if you’re one of the big-market teams that needs another starter, wouldn’t you make your Greinke-level offer to the Mariners for Felix Hernandez? He’s a better pitcher right now, he’s younger, and he’s not openly available, so maybe you can give the Mariners a huge offer and get the deal done quickly. Two top pitching prospects (or an already-in-the-majors starter plus a prospect) and two position players (catcher and infielder) should get Seattle’s attention.

- Remember, the Phillies traded Cliff Lee because they felt they couldn’t afford him… then resigned Joe Blanton for what Lee was making this year. Add to that the fact that Philly didn’t even get top prospects back for him, and this could be a move that haunts the Phillies for years, especially if they never become the dynasty they had the chance to become.

- One pitch in two games in the ALCS is all the difference right now. Josh Hamilton’s HR off of Andy Pettitte in Game 3 and Bengie Molina’s bomb off AJ Burnett completely changed the complexion of both games, and even though both games had blowout-type finals, neither game really fit the bill of a blowout.

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