Nationals Baseball: The Greinke Options

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Greinke Options

Recently crowned King of All Nationals, Mike Rizzo has made it clear. He wants a #1 starter. He thinks he can get one in a trade. Whether you think it's possible or not (and me along with other bloggers would lean toward the latter), we have to believe he has the green light to try. Maybe what he thinks the term "#1 starter" means doesn't match up with what we think it means, but for now let's think that he thinks what we think. Zack Greinke is a #1 starter available for trade. How can the Nats get him?

The Nats can get Greinke in three ways. They can: (A) Trade Strasburg; (B) Trade Bryce, or (C) Try to put together an appealing package. This has been talked about before sure, but we've been dismissive in all the options. We can't believe the Nats would do A or B, and we don't think they have enough to do C. Let's have the discussion this time, though, where Greinke sits in for any #1 starter. Let's see if we're being overly dismissive. We'll start with the "Nats would never do this" scenarios.

(A) Trade Strasburg.
Why the Nats would do it: Strasburg, for all the talent he brings, is now damaged goods. It's conceivable he won't even pitch until late 2012, making the next two years wasted time. Greinke would give them numbers that they wanted from Strasburg over that time. I'd say there's a good chance he'd be even better. Even when Strasburg does come back there's not telling how well he'll pitch and if he can stay healthy. Very early indications are that Strasburg is a CA boy and wants to get back there as soon as he's a free agent anyway.
Why the Nats wouldn't do it: It's two years of Greinke and that's probably it. Zack is mecurial enough that I wouldn't expect him to give the team that trades for him the inside track on resigning him. Strasburg has shown that he can be one of the best pitchers in the majors. It seems reasonable to believe that will be the case whenever he's healthy. It also seems reasonable to believe he'll recover from surgery. The prevailing thought process for the Nats so far is you pay for hitting (more reliable) and you develop pitching, having a controlled Strasburg would be key. Strasburg excited this town over baseball more than anything since the initial move. It isn't even close.

(B) Trade Bryce
Why the Nats would do it: Bryce has yet to face anyone out of the instructional league. He's still growing, both physically and mentally. Therefore he's the big unknown. He could be great, but he could be awful too. His attitude might be questionable. He's almost certainly a couple years from even appearing in the majors, let alone making an impact. Hitters, even great ones, can be replaced far easier than great pitchers.
Why the Nats wouldn't do it: The Greinke reasons cited above. Hitters are usually far more projectable than pitchers meaning that everyone is probably right and Bryce will at least have major league power and will play in the majors at some point. The history of #1 hitters selected is very good. Everyday hitters like Bryce make more of an impact to a team than pitchers, even great ones.

I don't think the Nats would never make these deals, but I do think it would take tremendous guts to do so. Strasburg showed signs he was, and is a good bet to be in the future, the most valuable commodity in baseball, the true #1. Bryce, is a good bet to be an impact offensive player. Now, baseball "good bets" are really like "there's a 50% chance of this happening" but still Rizzo would be lamabasted across time and space if he ended up on the short end of these deals. Really, though, what I think makes the difference is the 2 years left on Greinke's deal. That's not enough for a team as far from the playoffs as the Nats are.

(C) The Package
What kind of deal would it take? I think it STARTS with Storen, Desmond (could be Espinosa but let's go with Desmond for now), and Norris. STARTS. Some Nats fans would balk saying "that's a future closer, a starting shortstop, and a great young catcher" but that's your own team bias speaking. People on the outside see a untested relief pitcher, an average old-to-be-a-prospect shortstop and a guy with talent, but who's never gotten an at bat in the majors. So you're adding at least someone else to the deal. Zimmermann? Thompson? Willingham? Then maybe, maybe the conversation starts. Let's go with Zimmermann and see.

On the plus side:
For the Nats it's a big cut into the future but nothing they couldn't get over. Storen is just a reliever, Desmond's spot could be given to Espinosa, the Nats are deep at catcher so Norris' loss wouldn't be devestating. ZNN is coming off of injury and if he doesn't turn that corner to be a #2 type guy or better than he's replaceable. For the Royals, you are getting 3 guys that can be pencilled in to next years team. Storen could help you deal Soria. Desmond with even slight improvement after his rookie year would be a step up from Betancourt and they are thin in MI. They have a young catcher they like but it's always best not to pin your hopes on one guy with one good 1/3rd of a season in AA. Pitching is always nice, so of course you take ZNN.

On the minus side:
For the Nats, again - 2 years! While it doesn't kill the Nats in any specific way it kills what little depth they have. In this scenario you are betting real heavy on Espinosa and Ramos to come through because there is no good plan B if they don't. You just got the relief pitching in order and losing Storen may just help put it back in disarray. For the Royals, where's the star? You are getting depth for sure but the guy who's done the best so far in the group is a reliever who put up a 3.50 ERA in the NL. Huzzah. For Greinke you expect the best in return and this... it ain't the best.

If the Nats are to get a #1 pitcher through trade, I think the Nats are more likely to make one of these deals, flooding the offer with their "best" talent. Storen, a talented pitcher but a reliever nonetheless, and Norris, who in theory would be fighting with Ramos and Flores for the same position, would almost have to be part of any deal. They are both attractive and expendable. It builds from there, though, as that in itself is not enough. It seems reasonable that Desmond/Espinosa would be the next cog. Both appear good enough to play in the majors at positions where talent is usually harder to come by. Now we're getting close and the bartering would start.

At this point the talent level for Nats prospects is not all that great but still I think it's possible for the Nats to reach a deal for a #1, given the right combination of players added to the 3 mentioned. Given the Greinke example you can see it's no slam dunk for either side, but that's what trades are. You have to take a risk and lose something. You can't get something for nothing. The Greinke deal itself, while I would love to see the kid in DC, makes little sense for the Nats. Two guaranteed years just isn't enough. But are you ready to flood Tampa prospects for Garza?


bdrube said...

As much as I desperately want to see the Nats improve sooner rather than later, I agree that I wouldn't do this deal either.

What you would really be talking about is one full year of Grienke during a time when the Nats still have no realistic chance to contend and then in the second year ASSUMING Strasburg is fully back and healthy there will already be Adam Dunn-like speculation about whether the Nats will trade Greinke midseason.

Wally said...

Even if so inclined, I don't think that they can trade Bryce until 1 year after his signing, right?

I also can't see them getting Greinke, but I would do the trade you mentioned, short of including JZimm. A Tampa blogger did a piece recently on trading Garza, and concluded that he would bring back a top 50 hitting prospect. So maybe they can get him without including Desi or Espy, or possibly even Storen. They could build something around Norris, if he holds his ranking from last year. I would probably do that deal too.

Harper said...

bdrube - yep, unless you buy that the Nats are a definitive playoff team this year or next it's hard to get behind a trade for Zack (again - not that Nats are in position that they are driving this)

Wally - true My understanding is he could be traded in early June... if the Nats are so inclined. Ok so he's almost certainly out of a this year deal.

Norris' 2010 was not good with the injury and the not hitting well. He's probably in the Top 50 but more toward the back. Norris and Storen? Norris and a few lessers? I don't do it if I'm TB but maybe I'm overrating Garza.

hondo69 said...

Wally, you are correct in your assertion about Bryce Harper being traded. Harper, you should know that Bryce CANNOT be dealt until ONE YEAR after he signs his initial contract, which, in this case, would be August 15.

As far as Greinke goes, I think he can be had for cheap, cost-controlled A & AA prospects or a combination of a couple of ML players & prospects. After all, you're dealing with Drayton Moore, a GM who's under pressure to reduce payroll. I would love to also acquire OF David DeJesus, whose option was recently picked up by KC.

I think we could get Greinke & DeJesus for a package of 4 or 5 players. DeJesus could be our leadoff hitter & everyday CF. Rizzo could offer a list of 8 to 10 players/prospects in which KC could select the 4 or 5 they felt would be fair compensation. (Possible players on that list: Storen, Norris, Michael Burgess, Craig Stammen, Bernadina, Nyjer Morgan, Balester, Danny Rosenbaum, Marrerro, etc.) Those type of players would be under club control for a few years. I'm of the opinion that our farm system has been greatly upgraded over the last couple of years and could absorb this kind of hit while greatly improving our ML team. I also think Greinke could be persuaded to sign an extension with us, once he sees how bright our future looks. He wants out of Kansas City badly and I think there's plenty of room to negotiate a fair trade to benefit both teams.

We would be getting a stud #1 starter and a very solid, underrated OF/leadoff hitter who can play all 3 OF positions. Plus, we could solve our "Nyjer" problem at the same time, provided that KC wants him in the deal.

I've been thinking about this sort of trade for a while & I believe Rizzo could pull it off. What does the rest of NatsTown think about this possibility?

Wally said...

Hondo69 - my two cents, I think you are underselling Greinke. I think he is in that second tier of ace pitchers, below Halladay, Lee, Lincecum, but together with Price, Jimenez, the St Louis guys. They bring back maybe 3 top 100 prospects, depending on age and years of control? We only have Norris in the top 100 (and that assumes continued success in AFL). I do think that he is the main piece they are hoping to build a trade around, though

timber said...

hondo, I live close to KC and can tell you for sure that Dayton Moore (no, it's not Drayton) is under no pressure to reduce payroll. The Royals payroll, even with Greinke, however, will be going down by around $15 million anyway, due to natural attrition from some players that have been traded away in the last year. The Royals can well afford Greinke.

As for persuading Greinke to sign an extension by impressing him with the Nats bright future, think again: No team has a brighter future than the Royals, who have the #1 farm system in baseball. He has been very clear that he's not impressed by their future, which won't arrive for a couple more years; why should he be more impressed by the Nationals, which is at least that far away as well?

Harper said...

Hondo - is it from contract signing or from draft date? With moderate searching I couldn't verify either way.

As for your deal, I agree with everyone else - 4 or 5 from that list might get the Nats Greinke, let alone Greinke and DeJesus. Now, add the Hammer in there and I think it gets done, but let me remind you DeJesus would be a free agent after NEXT season. So you are looking at convincing two guys to sign with the Nats.

TheYellowSlant said...

I feel like this is Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and CLIFF LEE for...wait for it....Bartolo Colon.

Harper said...

I guess it's possible but to be a little fair to Minaya everything went wrong there. You might have seen Phillips coming but Lee came out of nowhere and Sizemore hit his best case scenario projections.