This report would be much longer if this were a Royals newsletter.
One league executive tells ESPN's Buster Olney: "I have no doubt they're going to trade him this winter."
They are the Royals.
It makes too much sense to get all skeptical or grain-of-salt on the idea.
For one, Cliff Lee will only choose one team, and Zack Greinke, who didn't turn 27 until the day before Texas eliminated the Yankees to earn its first World Series berth, is on at least one tier above Jorge De La Rosa and Carl Pavano, who stand fairly well alone as the next-best free agent starters on the market, a crop that's pretty thin overall, especially with Ted Lilly, Kiroki Kuroda, and Jake Westbrook having re-signed with their 2010 clubs.
It would make sense from a timing standpoint for the Royals to take advantage of that.
Greinke is locked up through 2012. Kansas City could trade him a year from now, but at the moment that winter's free agent crop looks stronger than this one: Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Joel Pineiro, Wandy Rodriguez, and, yes, C.J. Wilson could be on the market after the 2011 season. So could Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt, if St. Louis and Philadelphia decline $15 million and $16 million options for 2012.
Even if interested teams evaluate Greinke ahead of, say, a healthy Pineiro, the choice between trading two or three blue-chip prospects and another couple pieces for one year of Greinke on the one hand, and getting three or four years of Pineiro without having to forfeit anything but a draft pick? Some teams, particularly those whose farm strength would be turned upside down after a Greinke trade, might choose the latter.
There's also this: Kansas City has the best farm system in baseball. Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein has already said so. Baseball America probably will when it delivers its farm system rankings later this winter. BA's J.J. Cooper said this week that first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Wil Myers, third baseman Mike Moustakas, and lefthanders John Lamb and Mike Montgomery are "the best top five among all of this year's Top 10s, and that will be reflected when the Top 100 comes out."
But none has reached Kansas City, and it's unlikely any will start the 2011 season with the Royals, with the possible exception of Moustakas. The other four are expected to begin the year in AA. Best case scenario, they all arrive in Kansas City sometime or another in 2012, when Greinke will be riding out the final year of his current contract, before leaving for monster money that the Royals won't be able to afford paying, just as their own window of contention draws within sight.
Olney was told by "[a]t least two rival GMs" that "Texas is the best match for Kansas City" should the Royals choose to trade Greinke now. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote: "The team to watch is the Rangers, particularly if Lee goes to the Yankees." T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, in a Tuesday article whose subhead reads: "Club trying to land starter, could use deep farm system as bait," doesn't mention Greinke by name but writes: "The Rangers would rather look at an impact pitcher [than a mid-rotation type]. With their deep farm system and their new financial resources, they no longer have to settle for second- and third-tier material when making offseason decisions."
Unless Florida shockingly relents and discusses Josh Johnson, or Seattle takes the public relations risk of trading a second ace to Texas in the space of half a year, Greinke is who Sullivan is talking about.
Remember also that Greinke has hinted at an aversion to playing in a massive market, and there have been reports that the Yankees and Red Sox are among the 15 teams his contract allows him to block trades to over the next year. There are teams out there who can afford the $27 million he'll earn the next two seasons. But some of those teams won't be able to get around his 2011 no-trade clause.
And as we talked about last week, it would stand to reason that Greinke will push for a trade in July, if not before, because after the 2011 season goes away, so does his no-trade clause, meaning Kansas City would be able to ship him to New York or Boston or anyone else next winter, or in July 2012, and he wouldn't be able to prevent it.
The consensus among writers is that to trade for Greinke it would take something similar to the packages it took for Texas to get Lee and Philadelphia to get Roy Halladay (or Atlanta to get Mark Teixeira), and in Kansas City's case probably one that's heavy on young pitching.
OK, here we go.
First, a quick rundown of the Greinke trade proposals I've thrown out there the last two-and-a-half years (note that I wasn't necessarily advocating the trades for one side or the other, but instead imagining what it might take for Texas to get a deal done):
June 20, 2008: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley, John Mayberry Jr., and Warner Madrigal for Greinke (who was then 6-4, 3.33 for the season, and 27-39, 4.40 for his career)
August 27, 2008: Saltalamacchia, Harrison or Hurley, Mayberry or Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Arias, and the Royals' choice of a lower-level pitching prospect - Zach Phillips or Carlos Pimentel or Miguel De Los Santos or Geuris Grullon or Julio Santana or Matt Nevarez - for Greinke and reliever Ramon Ramirez
May 7, 2010: (1) Tommy Hunter or Martin Perez; (2) Wilmer Font; (3-4) either Julio Borbon and Max Ramirez, or Cruz and Engel Beltre; (5) Leury Garcia; and (6) Brennan Garr for Greinke and reliever Juan Cruz
Notice the stakes, at least in my baseless little exercise, keep getting higher.
Look again at that peerless top five Royals prospects and you'll recognize where Kansas City is relatively deficient, developmentally: up the middle, which is where Texas has killed it in the acquisition of minor talent the last few years. Yes, there's 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon (number six on the BA Royals list), and he'll be fast-tracked, but there's some thought that he'll eventually have to move from shortstop to second base.
How would you feel about: (1) Derek Holland; (2) Martin Perez; and (3-4) either Jurickson Profar and Craig Gentry, or Leury Garcia and Engel Beltre, for Greinke and out-of-options backup outfielder Gregor Blanco?
By the way, that story about Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and Chuck Greenberg flying to Little Rock on Monday to have a very long lunch with Cliff Lee and his wife and agent at the Copper Grill & Grocery may be wholly unrelated to all the above, the idea of which fires me up to no end.
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(c) Jamey Newberg