What should the Royals do with Zack Greinke?
It’s become a hot topic not just in Kansas City but across the landscape of baseball as a whole. From the moment he signed his contract, I’ve been dreading this day. By that I mean the day when the question would be raised on a regular basis. The day when he would be lumped in with Royals stars destined to go elsewhere as was the case of Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran among others.
Whispers of this very question started to circulate among the Royals fanbase before the ink on the contract was completely dry. But now, several months before pitchers and catchers report to the 2011 edition of spring training, the Greinke rumor mill is spinning out of control and there is little consensus on which way GM Dayton Moore and the Royals front office is leaning.
On November 14th, Joel Sherman wrote the following in a New York Post column:
"Greinke has a no-trade clause to 15 teams and clearly does not want to go to a major northeast club such as the Yankees or Red Sox, which hurts the bidding. Also, the Royals don’t want to disenchant their fans further by trading their best player. An NL executive said the Royals “are starting from a position of not wanting to trade [Greinke], and when you start there, it is hard to get anywhere.”"
Then just five days later, Sherman wrote the following in another Post column:
"Those who believe the Royals will move him think now is the best time, not only because Greinke is two years from free agency and unlikely to stay with Kansas City long-term, but because the falloff from Cliff Lee to the next-best available starter is gigantic this offseason, meaning Greinke’s value is at a peak.Those who do not expect the Royals to deal the righty think that the organization is not emotionally to alienating their fan base by giving up their best player. But an AL executive brought up two interesting reasons why he thinks Greinke will be traded:1) He said the success of the Giants pitching in the postseason, Lee’s impact on Texas and the impact of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt on the Phillies have reinforced to contenders the value of ace-level pitching, and that will motivate big bids the Royals cannot ignore.2) The Royals, in the words of the executive, are “spooked” by what happened to David DeJesus . They had a deal worked out with the Rays as the trade deadline approached last season, but on July 23, DeJesus tore tendons in his right thumb and the deal had to be scratched. “They can’t afford Greinke to have a mental relapse or a physical issue and his value to go to zero,” the executive said. Greinke has a well-documented battle with anxiety in his past."
Then there is this tidbit thrown onto the rumor mill today which will inevitably be way overblown in its potential impact if for no other reason because the Yankees are involved.
Bottom line here is that there is a huge variance in opinion on whether or not the Royals will trade Zack Greinke this offseason. Nobody knows what Dayton Moore and the Royals will do because the fact of the matter is that he’s never dealt an elite player before. We have no precedent or track record to fall back on and as a result anyone who thinks they know what will happen probably has just as much of an idea as you or I whether they are a baseball executive, insider or just a fan. The waters on this topic are further muddied because Zack is signed through 2012 and there is a glimmer of hope that 2012 will be the year that the Kansas City Royals start to flip the script and return to the late 70s/early 80s run of dominance the organization experienced.
We also cannot disregard the fact that a new CBA will be in place as all of these things play out. The changes that are a part of that new CBA could make it more likely that the Royals could keep Zack in the fold. I’m not so foolish to think that a salary cap or complete revenue sharing plan will be a part of the next agreement, but I do believe that hard slotting of draft pick bonuses is a near inevitability. I also believe that the Type-A/Type-B free agent compensation system will be radically altered or eliminated altogether. Just these two changes could have a real impact on whether or not the Royals keep Greinke. The largest impact will come from changes to the draft. If hard slotting in the draft comes to pass, the Royals will no longer be able to outspend most organizations through the draft. Recently the organization has used the current draft setup to exploit the market inefficiencies that exist within. If those inefficiencies are taken away, they will be forced to shift the direction and allocation of their resources and that could be to the benefit of young talented players like Zack Greinke and Billy Butler. The specter of a world draft also looms large in this discussion but that is likely a ways off and is a discussion for another day.
If the Royals are legitimately competitive in 2012, there is no doubt in my mind that Zack would be willing to sign an extension with the organization that stood by him during his struggles on and off the field. Greinke is a unique character and he comes off as a bit goofy, but make no mistake, he is an exceedingly intelligent player who has a very solid understanding of the workings of the game. He’s honest, he’s loyal, he speaks his mind and I believe he is a player who is completely comfortable with who he is. Greinke wants to win and he wants to pitch for a competitive team, but he also wants to do it on his terms and in a place that suits his style and personality. We already know that the Royals and Kansas City meet his terms, style and personality very well. All that is missing is the competitive aspect of the team. As the wave of young talent from the now top-rated minor league system in all of baseball starts to graduate to the parent club in 2011 and 2012, Greinke will likely become more open to remaining with the team.
Obviously I don’t believe the Royals should trade Zack Greinke and I don’t think they will unless a truly ridiculous offer comes their way from one of the teams not on Zack’s no-trade list. By truly ridiculous I’m talking about something in excess of what the Montreal Expos gave up to acquire Bartolo Colon in 2002. Something in excess of what the Atlanta Braves gave up to acquire Mark Teixeira in 2007. I don’t believe any team will meet Dayton Moore’s atmospheric asking price and I don’t believe that Dayton Moore will pull the trigger on a deal unless that lofty price is met.
Those are my thoughts on the matter, but I don’t want to just stop there so I wanted to present the thoughts of a few of the other FanSided writers unfiltered in response to my opening question:
I think the best place to start is Kings of Kauffman lead writer, and Call to the Pen columnist, Michael Engel:
"I’ve said in the past that now is not the time to deal Zack Greinke unless the perfect deal comes along. At 27, he’s an ace – a rare commodity – with great stuff, consistent numbers, mechanics that are both repeatable and free from any apparent injury concerns and a growing knowledge of how to get batters out. Unless the Royals get a slam dunk deal that loads them up with two high-ceiling pitching prospects and at least one rapidly rising hitter, they need to keep him around.Greinke’s under contract for two more seasons and considering the pitching market, he’s a bargain under his current extension. The Royals aren’t in a situation right now where they either need to deal him or lose him. They have the luxury of seeing how things develop in 2011. If the bevy of prospects struggles or shows signs of a slower arrival than expected, then Greinke could go to another team around the All-Star break and still command a hefty return. But, if the prospects are continuing on the path they’re headed down now, it might be enough hope to compel Greinke to re-extend with the Royals, and they owe it to themselves to see if that’s a possibility.Greinke wants to be on a winner. His comments in early August gave some the impression that he wanted out, that he wasn’t going to go through another rebuilding period. The group of potential major leaguers is more than just a rebuilding program, though. It’s a wave of talent that might mirror the talent Kansas City hasn’t seen on the diamond since George Brett and Frank White were in the same lineup with Willie Wilson and Amos Otis. If you get the chance to combine Greinke with Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Danny Duffy, you do it.A lot has been said about Greinke’s makeup and his personal issues over the years. In baseball’s tough-guy environment, the concern is that Greinke can’t bear down and be a winner when it gets tough. There’s concern that he might flake out and try to walk away again.I think it’s the other way around.How difficult is it for a person to stand up and admit what many others have probably stifled? Baseball loves its characters, but it also looks at them with a sideways glance. They never quite fit in. Greinke’s a little weird, from discussing his love of Chipotle to his obsession with World of Warcraft, but there’s no denying he has a strength of character that many before him didn’t have. Mental issues, anxiety issues, personal issues, these don’t surface much in baseball because the reaction is to “suck it up” or “play through it”. In an environment where injuries are masked, Greinke had the strength to stand up and say he wasn’t strong enough to handle it all. Yet. Since his issues have come to light, we’ve seen other players step out and make similar admissions. Khalil Greene missed time last season with depression, and even National League MVP Joey Votto has talked openly about his dislike of the spotlight. I’m not saying Greinke’s the Curt Flood of bringing these issues to the game, but he had the strength to be first. And I want that guy on the mound for me if I have the chance."
Let’s face it. Michael and I are both probably too close to Greinke-ganda to be completely objective here so next up are some thoughts from Cubbies Crib lead writer, and Call to the Pen columnist, Jordan Campbell:
"The Kansas City Royals should not trade Starting Pitcher Zack Greinke. Because, I have always believed that if you trade pitching, you should at least get pitching back. And, from what I have gathered from looking at other teams farms systems, there really is no pitching prospect in my opinion that would warrant the Royals trading Greinke. Another reason I believe the Royals should hold onto Greinke is because they are on the verge of completing their rebuilding process. Now it probably will not be this year, but I would look for them to be a surprise team in 2012. They have a young talented first baseman in Billy Butler, a top closer in Joakim Soria, and have prospects withing their farm system that are close to being Major League ready. With Greinke only being 27, he would still be in his prime when the Royals are finally ready to be contenders. Which is why, the Kansas City Royals should not trade Zack Greinke."
Finally, here are some thoughts from Climbing Tal’s Hill lead writer Evan Riney who takes the question and goes off in his own direction:
"The Kansas City Royals should not trade Zack Greinke. Not because he’s an untouchable talent and not because he has a team friendly deal. They should keep the ace because they have a better, more valuable commodity at a deeper position. The Royals have the pleasure of boasting one of baseball’s best farm systems. With first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, and catcher Wil Myers, the future is promising for the Royals. But with DH Billy Butler and 1B Kila Ka’aihue already in the majors, not to mention third baseman turned leftfielder Alex Gordon, there could be a log jam of quality young bats at the corners. And this is if Moustakas and Myers can stick at their current positions.Lucky for the Royals, I’m in the business of solutions, not problems. My remedy, you ask? Trade the most proven hitter of this group to a contender. That player is Billy Butler (Hear me out!). Butler is in his first arbitration eligible year and under team control until 2014. Teams love cost-effective young talent and the DH position was weak in 2010 to put it mildly. Ask Mark Kotsay. The Royals could get a king’s ransom for Butler.With two years left on Greinke’s deal they can hopefully increase his value from its perceived low-point following the 2010 season. Greinke didn’t have a great season but wasn’t nearly as bad as people think. Selling low could end up looking pretty foolish. Also, his $9.5 million a year is not a bad price for a top flight starter and nothing Kansas City can’t handle. Even with his contract, the Royals payroll sits at $37.8 million. That’s roughly half of their projected 2011 payroll of $73.8 million. By the time Greinke’s contract expires, Kansas City’s stellar farm system will have a great wave of young pitchers to graduate onto the big league staff. These prospects are highlighted by Danny Duffy, John Lamb, Michael Montgomery, and Chris Dwyer; all throw with their left hand, the opposite of Greinke. Being able to throw different types of starters at a team during a series can make a huge difference. Need another reason to keep Greinke? He could be a great veteran presence for these youngsters.The Royals have the enviable problem of having too much talent. I’m a big Billy Butler fan and I think he’s going to make a lot of All-Star teams during his career. However, the overall Kansas City system would be best suited with the return they could get on their DH."
So with all of the above added to your existing thoughts on the matter, I’ll ask the question to you our wonderful readers: