Every team in baseball would see an immediate improvement in their pitching rotation if they were able to pry Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. The question is, what would it take for the Brewers to part ways with their soon to be free agent staff ace?
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is reporting that the Brewers are making one last ditch effort to sign the 28-year-old right-hander. Despite the $100 million offer from the Brewers, Heyman thinks it is likely Greinke prefers to test the waters in free agency. If Zack Greinke indeed desires to be a free agent, rather than resigning with the Brewers or any team, then his value is some what diminished.
A rental player does not demand the same trade value when compared to a player that would be under a team's control for more than a single playoff run. A perfect example of the cost disparity between a rental player versus a non-rental player in the trade market is the Atlanta Braves' infamous trade for Mark Teixeira in 2007.
When acquired from the Texas Rangers, Teixeira was under contract until the end of the 2008 season. To pull off a trade for one of the game's best first baseman, while still under contract, the Braves paid a hefty price. The Braves gave up Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to land the star first baseman.
The Atlanta Braves failed to make all their postseason dreams come true in 2007, despite the acquisition of the productive Teixeira. When they saw that their 2008 season was to also share the same ill-fate as the 2007 season, they decided to make Teixeira available. At the end of the 2008 season, Mark Teixeira was going to become a free agent, and demand a price well beyond what the Braves front office was willing to pay. The Braves would have been left with absolutely nothing if they let Teixeira walk off at the end of the season. In order to retain any semblance of value from their previous trade, the Braves shopped the All-Star first baseman.
As it so happened, the Angels were in the market for an offensive difference maker in 2008, even if they were only able to rent him for their last 54 games. When the Braves traded off Teixeira, they were only able to get Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek in return. As you can see, trading for a rental player doesn't require anywhere near the same cost as trading for a controllable player does.
For something a little more recent, you can look at the San Francisco Giants' trade at the end of the 2011 trading deadline. The Giants only shipped the Mets a single pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, in return for one of the game's best outfield bats—Carlos Beltran. While Wheeler was considered a top 100 prospect—according to the 2011 MLB.com prospect tracker—he isn't the talent equivalent of Carlos Beltran.
It is important to keep in mind that Greinke would only be traded as a rental player and not a player who is controllable over the next few seasons.
The Brewers are also not guaranteed to be sellers with this new wild card system. It is logical to assume that they would hold out as long as they could, when trading away players, to give themselves the best chance at getting back into the playoff race.
If the Brewers decide not to pull the trigger on a deal involving Greinke until the last day of the trading deadline, the Braves would only have 59 games left to play in the regular season. Factoring in that Greinke will be pitching every fifth day, you are looking at him only taking the mound for 11-12 starts before the playoffs.
With those facts in mind, let's continue with the possible deals.
Randall Delgado is currently the odd man out in the rotation with the recent acquisition and promotion of Ben Sheets. As long as Ben Sheets is able to throw that wicked snap dragon—his really good curveball—the Braves will continually run him out to the pitching rubber every fifth day. Just because Delgado was squeezed out of the rotation doesn't mean he wasn't talented enough to keep his spot. It seems that Mike Minor's ability to throw left-handed is the only quality that kept him on the roster—so far.
Delgado has done much better than his critics give him credit for—and is a lot more valuable than you think.
The National League average ERA is 4.00 while Delgado sports an ERA of 4.52, only half a run higher. Mind you, as of eight starts ago, the Brewers other ace, Yovani Gallardo, had a 4.50 ERA.
Delgado's 1.45 WHIP is only 0.14 points higher than the league average of 1.31. While he is higher than the league average in both categories, he is still out pitching the Brewers third starter, according to their depth chart, Randy Wolf.
In 17 starts, Randy Wolf is 2-6, with a 5.80 ERA and 1.57 Whip. Even though Randall is not having the rookie success that Jarrod Parker of the Athletics is having, he is still highly regarded as a pitching prospect—as he finished last year as the Braves' No. 3 overall prospect in 2011 according the prospect archives of MLB.com.
Look at the year Tampa Bay Rays super prospect Matt Moore is having so far. At 23 years old, the talented pitcher has a record of 5-6, with a 4.42 ERA, and a 1.455 WHIP. While Moore is striking out one and a half batters more per inning than Delgado, Randall is doing a better job of keeping the ball inside of the park and issuing fewer free passes. As far as statistics and ability, these two pitchers are pretty similar. The Tampa Bay Rays are so high on their young pitcher that they have already locked Matt Moore down for the future with a multi-million dollar extension that lasts until 2019. Yet, the Braves can't seem to find room on their roster for this similarly talented player.
If the Brewers are looking for MLB ready talent and an arm that can slot into their rotation (now if needed or in the future), then Delgado would be more than enough. But would the Braves be willing to part with this 22-year-old pitcher for a max of 12 regular season starts with Zack Greinke?
Granted, his 1.1 IP outing against Boston left much to be desired, Delgado has had his flashes of brilliance. There was a reason why he was considered untouchable last year and it's not because of the pitcher he is today—but what the talent scouts believe he can become. Don't let his 4-9 record fool you. The Braves only average 2.93 runs per game in his starts. In 11 of his 16 starts, Delgado has given up three or fewer earned runs. The Braves are in the enviable position of having an abundance of very talented young pitchers in their organization.
Are the Braves desperate enough to land Greinke that they would be willing to part with a player that has all the makings of becoming a future staff ace?
While this package lacks the obvious big names, it does address specific issues for the Brewers' organization.
With Tyler Pastornicky's starting job now firmly in the hands of Andrelton Simmons, the Braves previous SS heir apparent is now on the outside looking in. If it weren't for his struggles with the glove, Pastornicky probably would have maintained his starting position all year for the big club. If Tyler never gets sent down, Andrelton Simmons may have never been called up, and Simmons may be the tradable shortstop stuck in the minors.
The Brewers biggest need (other than for Rickie Weeks to turn his season around) is at the SS position.
The Braves decided to replace Alex Gonzalez with Pastornicky, as he was seen as an overall improvement. The Brewers then signed Alex Gonzalez, who then promptly landed himself on the DL. Right now the Brewers SS duties are split between Caesar Izturis and Cody Ransom, hitting .215 and .187 respectively.
While most Brewers fans think Pastornicky holds little value, he could step into the line up today, and be hitting 32-60 points higher than the teams current options. At only 22 years of age, Pastornicky is ready to contribute at the big leagues while he finishes polishing up his game. This gives the Brewers a reliable SS now and the near future. The Brewers number one SS prospect, Yadiel Rivera, isn't projected to be MLB ready until 2015, according to the 2012 prospect watch on MLB.com.
Todd Cunningham is a speedy OF who hits for average and could very well be a leadoff hitter in the future. Cunningham is currently fourth in the Braves minor league system with a .315 batting average with Double-A Mississippi. Adding his bat to the Brewers farm system adds much needed organizational depth, as the Brewers farm system ranks 23rd in baseball according to Keith Law of ESPN. While Carlos Gomez is only 27, he isn't necessarily tearing the cover off the ball. Factor in that Nyjer Morgan isn't that long-term solution for the Brewers in CF, adding a solid bat that happens to be the Braves 14th overall prospect to their farm system stands to improve the ballclub going forward.
Billy Bullock is the Braves 17th overall prospect and is graded out to be a fireballing closer. Drafted by the Twins from the University of Florida, the Braves acquired Bullock in return for Scott Diamond. In the Braves organization, Craig Kimbrel has nailed down his spot as a closer, while John Axford has struggled for the Brewers throughout the 2012 season. By no means would I consider Bullock a replacement for Axford—yet. However, Billy would give the Brewers organization another back end of the bullpen option—a much cheaper option than the disappointing Francisco Rodriguez acquisition. If the Brewers are also able to move K-Rod before the end of the deadline, Bullock could find his way to the big leagues this season.
Bullock is a hard throwing closer that does well at striking people out, much like Axford. Billy Bullock has worked his way up to Triple-A Gwinnett and is waiting in the wings for his opportunity to make it to the big leagues this season (even though he has struggled in his limited time since his promotion to Gwinnett).
This trade makes sense for the Brewers because it provides an immediate upgrade at SS while improving their organizational depth.
Do I think the Braves would be willing to part with their shortstop of the future for a rental player? Absolutely not...or at least I hope not, no matter how good the rental player is.
Even though he will be out for the next 4-6 weeks due to his fractured pinkie, upon his return, Andrelton will play a key roll in the Braves playoff push. While adding a player like Greinke to the rotation would be a step in the right direction, removing Simmons' stellar defense and surprisingly good bat would be two steps in the other direction.
Could his injury really diminish his value enough that the Braves would consider him expendable? It's possible. If the Braves think that Tyler Pastornicky is actually their SS of the future, and his demotion to the minors was more of a motivational tool (think Jason Heyward in 2011), and if the Braves feel Simmons is playing above his head, they could sell high.
However, due to the fact that Simmons out played Pastornicky in spring training, and was close to breaking camp with the ball club before an injury, I think it is Pastornicky whom the Braves deem as expendable.
The Brewers organization would get one heck of a steal if the Braves did offer up Andrelton Simmons for Zack Greinke.
Read slide two for the reasons for Tyler Pastornicky's inclusion in this package.
Despite the fact that it was Randall Delgado demoted to Triple-A instead of Mike Minor doesn't mean that Minor is a better pitcher. While I think the Brewers would jump on the Delgado offer by itself, the Braves may need to sweeten the deal a bit with Minor.
As far as "stuff" goes, Mike Minor is a very talented young pitcher. He is now going through the growing pains of combining "stuff" with "savvy." Minor is beyond pitching in Triple-A. He can out talent the minor leaguers enough, that his development would be stunted due to fewer legitimate challenges at in the lower leagues.
While in the majors, his bad starts currently out number his great starts—but there are great starts. The second best pitching performance by a Braves starter so far this year was Mike Minor's game against the Yankees here in Atlanta. The first being Beachy's five hit shutout against Miami.
While Minor may be further behind Delgado in the pitching maturation process, he is by no means a slouch. If the Brewers were able land Minor, they would be netting a low risk high reward prospect going forward. I have already written at length about Minor's transition into a big league pitcher, putting his growing pains in perspective to another Braves lefty that also struggled in much the same way Minor has. That other lefty was Tom Glavine.
Many fans are currently down on Minor and would welcome the opportunity to rid themselves of the tempestuous starts of he is prone to deliver. However, I don't think the Braves front office would be as excited on giving up on this guy.
Would the Braves part with Minor? Probably. Would they be thrilled about doing it? Probably not, especially if they believe in all of the scouting assessments compiled by their player development department.
I'm sure they Brewers would be able to coax the inclusion of Pastornicky into the deal because of both prospects recent struggles. Long term, short of Greinke agreeing to sign an extension when traded to the Braves, and a World Series title, I feel the Brewers would be the winners in this deal.
How desperate are the Braves to acquire Greinke? Would they be willing to part with their super prospect?
Considered the number one overall prospect for 2012 by MLB.com, also ranked high entering this season on Baseball America, coming in at fifth.
If a last second bidding war ensued for Greinke between teams, would the Braves' heralded next best thing be enough to put all other offers to shame? Well, that really depends on the other offers, but chances are that no one would be willing to offer up a player that is as highly touted as Julio Teheran.
Why would the Braves even consider making this deal? Teheran is supposed to be as good as they come. Seriously, being considered the best prospect in all of baseball is no small feat. But there is a chance the Braves could sell on this guy.
The reason: Regression
Coming off a dominant 2011 Triple-A season, at just 20 years old, Teheran has really struggled in 2012. His 4.96 ERA is nearly double his 2011 ERA (2.55). He is striking out fewer batters per nine innings, walking more, and giving up six times as many home runs per nine innings than last year.
Even though Baseball America had Teheran entering the season as the fifth overall prospect, his current struggles have led to a falling in the prospect ranks—currently ranked 24th.
Why would the Brewers be interested in making this deal with Teheran's recent struggles? The deal is nothing but upside for the Brewers. The risk on the acquisition is minimal. Financially, Teheran earns close to nothing in the world of mega baseball contracts. The talent is oozing out of this kid, despite his struggles this year. Julio Teheran's statistical regression may only be a product of him working on his delivery or any number of things.
His physical tools are all there, as he can still hit 97 mph on the gun. The Braves are well aware of how special this kid is. (They signed him when he was just 16.) I'm not quite sure the Braves are ready to pick up and move on from the Julio Teheran project quite yet. But if the Braves get desperate enough to land Greinke for this off season push, there would few teams in baseball that have a trade chip as good as Julio Teheran.