The market for Zack Greinke

Posted by Steve

I’m doing it. I’m going there.

It’s still not completely impossible for the Brewers to come back and reach the playoffs, especially with that fifth playoff spot this year, but every time I mention this their odds just go down. I’m also doing it because my own personal interest has shifted from the performance of the team to the potential trade targets.

Baseball Prospectus still, somewhat amazingly, gives the Brewers a 13.4% chance at reaching the playoffs. There are nine NL teams with better odds, and 11 NL teams have better records than the Brewers right now. Couple that with the way the Brewers have looked lately, and can you blame me for focusing on trades?

Naturally, the guy teams are first going to be interested in is Zack Greinke. This is doubly true now that Shaun Marcum is on the DL (please return before the trade deadline…).

We’re seeing national reports within the past week or so confirming that the Brewers will deal Greinke if they don’t have an extension in place by the deadline. I would argue that the return would be better if they were willing to trade Greinke earlier than that. We saw this from the other side when Doug Melvin upped his return for CC Sabathia in 2008 in order to get Sabathia in early July rather than at the July 31 deadline.

Of course, I was hoping the Brewers would be able to sign Greinke before the season started. Then the Matt Cain deal happened, and just about all realistic hope of re-signing Greinke went out the window. The Brewers can’t afford to pay Greinke $125 million. I was thinking 90-100 mil before the season, but all he’s done now is raise his value. He’ll reach the open market, and he’ll most likely top Cain’s deal.

That sucks, but compounding the problem would be hanging on to Greinke, missing the playoffs (a very likely outcome), and only getting draft picks for him. The Brewers need to realize that they have a good opportunity in front of them. For the last several years, while still doing a solid job, Doug Melvin has largely built his team for the short-term rather than the long-term. Major acquisitions, like those of Jeff Suppan, Aramis Ramirez, Randy Wolf, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Eric Gagne were done with short-term results in mind over a long-term view.

Now, Melvin has the chance to take a long-term approach that could really help the team if he hits on some trades. Since the Brewers don’t seem interested in a long-term rebuilding project, trading for prospects at, say, the AA level will speed up the process quicker than getting compensation draft picks for their free agents.

Therefore, there is no reason impending free agents should be kept. Greinke is obviously the big prize, but Marcum could net something valuable as well if he can get himself healthy. Wolf, K-Rod, and Morgan don’t have a ton of value, but there is no reason to keep them around this year either.

To be honest, the only guys close to untouchable on the entire team would be Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy. I don’t expect Hart, Weeks, or Axford to go, but I’d certainly listen to offers. A good trade piece would also be Norichika Aoki.

This is all a post for another day, though. I have to think the first one to go would/will be Greinke, so let’s focus on him. I want to take a look at the teams who might be interested in Greinke.

First, let’s determine who the “contenders” are. These teams are within five games of their division leader OR had real playoff aspirations to start the year and aren’t yet buried:

Yankees
Orioles
Red Sox
Rays
White Sox
Indians
Tigers
Royals
Rangers
Angels
Nationals
Braves
Mets
Reds
Cardinals
Pirates
Dodgers
Giants
Diamondbacks

First thing that comes to mind when I look at that list: That’s a lot of teams. Most of MLB is on that list, because more teams are within reach in their divisions than in a normal year. Combine that with the extra playoff spot, and the Brewers might find themselves with more potential suitors than normal.

Obviously, we can still narrow that list down.

The Royals aren’t drowning yet because that division has been disappointing. The Tigers will pick it up KC isn’t going to make the playoffs, so they won’t be mortgaging their young talent to get Greinke back.

The Mets are doing well, but they aren’t there quite yet. That division will come down to the Nats and Braves.

Same with the Pirates. Nice season, nice pitching staff, but just not the offense. If anything, they’ll try for hitting. They’re out.

Then we can go to teams who don’t have real needs at SP/have much bigger needs on offense. Those would include: The Rays, White Sox, Red Sox, Braves (even with Brandon Beachy going down for the year, their rotation goes about 7 guys deep), and Giants.

Let’s look at the revised list:

Yankees
Orioles
Indians
Tigers
Rangers
Angels
Nationals
Reds
Cardinals
Dodgers
Diamondbacks

Down to 11, but that’s still too many. There won’t be 11 serious suitors. Let’s keep going.

Even though I would have no problem trading Greinke as a rental within the division, I really doubt Melvin would do it. That eliminates the Reds and Cardinals. Even though Cleveland is in second place, they’re only .500, and I don’t see them making a splash after the Ubaldo Jimenez trade from last year blew up in their face. The Nationals have a good rotation already; they won’t make a huge play for Greinke (at least I don’t think). The Dodgers lost their lead to the Giants today, and have now lost Andre Ethier for a period of time in addition to Matt Kemp. I didn’t buy them as a good team anyway; I fully expect them to fade.

That leaves:

Yankees
Orioles
Tigers
Rangers
Angels
Diamondbacks

Six teams. I see these teams as the most likely to trade for Greinke. If you haven’t had enough, now I’m going to handicap them based on need, likelihood of reaching the playoffs, and whether they have a good enough farm system to get Greinke.

6. New York Yankees

The Yankees just lost Andy Pettitte for about two months, and that’s in addition to losing Michael Pineda before the season even started. The need is there, however, I’m not sure how much else matches. Right or not, there is a stigma that Greinke wouldn’t handle a large market well. I don’t really buy it, but it exists. Pettitte is due back, and most importantly, the Yankees have built themselves a fairly cushy A.L. East lead. I don’t think they’ll be desperate enough to make a big play for Greinke.

5. Baltimore Orioles

A surprise suitor on this list, Baltimore has enjoyed a surprising season. I have them this high, because in the A.L. East, they might not have a chance this good for a while. They have a stud shortstop prospect in Manny Machado. It’s very unlikely they trade him, but with J.J. Hardy locked up for the next few years, desperation could possibly win out. Pitching phenom Dylan Bundy isn’t going anywhere either. It’s tough to see a deal without one of those players in it, though. The Orioles only have one other player in Baseball America’s Top 100 list, Jonathan Schoop, and he has struggled this year in AA. They could go for a quantity over quality offer, but I hope that’s not as attractive to the Brewers.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

They’ve also had a frustrating season. I expected them to win the N.L. West, and be even better than they were last year. Instead, they’re in third place with a 39% chance at reaching the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus. They just received bad news, as Daniel Hudson will need Tommy John surgery and is lost for the year. I still expect them to pass the Dodgers and give the Giants a run for their money, though.

The Diamondbacks have three great young pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Archie Bradley. Bauer is out of the question; he makes his MLB debut tomorrow, just over a year after being drafted. Skaggs is only 20 years old, yet he is excelling at AA. He would be an amazing prize for 3-4 months of Zack Greinke, although stranger things have happened. Bradley may be more likely. He’s the youngest of the three, and the Diamondbacks may feel safest about losing him with the other two in the fold. He is struggling mightily with walks, though, and he is still a couple years away from the majors. I’d be surprised if the Brewers settle for him unless they were getting more in return. 3B/1B Matt Davidson could be another target. Still, Skaggs remains the remotely attainable pipe dream if Arizona and the Brewers are a match.

3. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have made a charge back into contention in recent weeks, and with that extra playoff spot this year, they sure look like they’ll be in the conversation the rest of the way. The player who comes immediately to mind with the Angels is Jean Segura, and shortstop/second baseman. He is considered the Angels’ best prospect now that Mike Trout is dominating the big leagues. Segura is not a power hitter, but projects to be a solid middle infield starter. A player to keep an eye on is C.J. Cron. I lobbied for Cron to be the Brewers’ first round pick last year, but they instead took Taylor Jungmann. Cron is off to a solid start to his pro career and would supply an impact power bat to the system.

2. Detroit Tigers

These next two I see as definite favorites for Greinke. The Tigers are desperate to win now, as their aging owner splurged for Prince Fielder in the hopes of winning a World Series this season–so the desperation is there. Desperation really helps the sellers in these scenarios. They have a big need, as their rotation is pretty ordinary after Justin Verlander. They have the prospects, too. Jacob Turner is a 21-year-old starting pitcher who is having success at AAA. I actually expect him to be called up yet this season, so he is probably untouchable in a trade. Never know though, I suppose.

A great, and possibly more attainable trade target is 3B Nick Castellanos. Castellanos was recently promoted to AA after hitting .405 in A+ ball this season. He’d be ready to take over at third base most likely by the time Aramis Ramirez’s contract expires, and very well even before then. I’d be very happy with him in a trade.

1. Texas Rangers

The desperation is there after losing the last two World Series. More importantly, the prospects are certainly there. The Rangers are stocked with elite prospects, which is why the news of them scouting Greinke today was both exciting and unsurprising. Shortstop Jurickson Profar is a top five MLB prospect and is almost not worth mentioning, because he’s that good. He’s 19 years old, is a plus defender, and has an .832 OPS in AA. Profar would be an absolute grand slam.

Another great prize, and perhaps more realistic, is 3B Mike Olt. Olt is crushing AA with a 1.009 OPS. He’d probably be MLB ready by next year sometime.

SP Martin Perez is another highly ranked prospect in the Rangers’ system, although his numbers this year in AAA are underwhelming.

Leonys Martin is a highly ranked outfielder who is excelling at AAA and would be a valuable player as well. That’s four highly ranked players that the Rangers could offer. Olt is the best player who is realistic.

It’s hard to say who would be unrealistic and who wouldn’t. One thing to consider is that with the new CBA, the team that trades for Greinke wouldn’t receive draft picks–only the Brewers would if they kept him and offered him arbitration. Still, last year the Giants traded Zack Wheeler, a great young pitching prospect, for three months of Carlos Beltran, despite language in Beltran’s contract that prevented them from offering him arbitration. If the Brewers could get that type of talent for Greinke, I’d be thrilled.

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2 responses to “The market for Zack Greinke

  1. I don’t have anything to add other than this is great, thanks for the in-depth analysis.

  2. Pingback: Bravo, Doug | Brewers! Brewers! Keep Turnin' Up the Heat!

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