Milwaukee Brewers right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke has been one of the most accomplished starters in all of baseball over the past few seasons. After winning the 2009 AL Cy Young award in historic fashion, he's put together two respectable seasons that many pitching-needy teams would give an arm or leg for.
The good news for those teams is that Greinke could be on the trading block this season. If the Prince Fielder-less Brewers slump early in the regular season that could make way for GM Doug Melvin to open up trade-talks for the veteran right-hander.
Needless to say, teams with postseason aspirations can't get enough pitching, particularly starting pitching. But which contending teams will be hard-pressed to pursue Greinke this season? Let's rank five with the good shot.
The New York Yankees were in desperate need of starting pitching this winter and they were able to mitigate their woes on the mound by trading for 23-year-old Michael Pineda.
While the addition of the 6'7", 260-pound right-hander will no doubt provide young stability to their rotation, there still remains the question of A.J. Burnett and whether or not they plan to retain him. As recent indications prove, though, they are very willing to deal Burnett and that could make way for adding Greinke into the fold later in the season.
Greinke has proven that he's worth his weight in gold (he led MLB with a 10.54 K/9 IP last season) and there's no reason to believe Brian Cashman wouldn't be willing to take on around half of Greinke's $13.5 million salary next season.
As sad and unethical as it may seem, the Philadelphia Phillies could still be in the market for more starting pitching. The departure of Roy Oswalt suggest the Phils could be looking to bolster the No. 4 slot in their rotation.
Yes, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley are each more than capable of being at the very least serviceable at the end of Philadelphia's rotation. But if the impossible happens and the Phils start to slip early on, they may take to the trade market, possibly dealing Blanton, for a rental of Greinke's caliber.
The Phillies are near stacked with young minor league talent that the Brewers would be more than intrigued in acquiring through a trade. The only question is whether or not Philly can take on Greinke's contract, though I doubt they'd turn away from a deal that takes them a step closer to a World Championship simply because of financial constrictions.
The Washington Nationals managed to significantly upgrade their starting rotation this past winter by selling the farm for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson, but in a stacked NL East division, the Nats are going to need a whole lot more pitching talent if they expect to contend.
A five-man rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan is respectable but not quite postseason worthy. The addition of a Cy Young-caliber right-hander would certainly put the young Nationals up with the Phillies and Braves of the baseball world.
The Brewers are desperate to restock their devoid farm system and Washington has a number of prospects Milwaukee would be interested in. And seen as how GM Mike Rizzo was near ready to sign Prince Fielder, one can only assume the Nats have the capital to take on Greinke's weighty contract.
The Cleveland Indians were a team on the fringe of making the playoffs last season with much hope heading into 2012. But with the Detroit Tigers' addition of Prince Fielder, the only way the Tribe can expect to compete in this season is through their starting rotation.
Trading for Ubaldo Jimenez at the deadline last year will help bolster their staff comprised of Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Kevin Slowey. Going out and trading for Derek Lowe in October will also prove to be a crafty move. But can the Indians honestly expect to compete for the division title with just these pieces?
Going out and getting Greinke as a rental-type addition would significantly help Cleveland's chances at either the AL Central title or the AL Wild Card spot. Moreover, the Indians compass a bevy of prospects such as Dillon Howard or Zach Putnam that would appeal to the Brewers.
Dealing away Ubaldo Jimenez last summer may have replenished the Colorado Rockies' farm system, but it also left their starting rotation in shambles.
Currently, 24-year-old Jhoulys Chacin and trade pickup Jeremy Guthrie top off Jim Tracy's underwhelming rotation. If that remains, the postseason will be but a pipe-dream for the Rockies.
Post All-Star break last season, Colorado garnered the NL's worst team ERA (4.82) despite having the league's best run-support average (0.27). With the addition of a power-type arm of Greinke's caliber, the Rockies' chances of taking the relatively wide-open NL West division would skyrocket.
The offensive pieces are already in place and if the Rockies find themselves relatively close to the division lead come the trade deadline on July 31, there's no question they would be willing to ship off a few top prospects in return for Greinke's services.