The Orioles and 5 Dark Horse Candidates to Land Zack Greinke

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

The Orioles and 5 Dark Horse Candidates to Land Zack Greinke

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    Zack Greinke, who sits atop the wish list of every MLB fanbase this holiday season, is up for bids.

    While teams like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are consistently talked about as the three most likely landing spots for the 29-year-old ace, the fact of the matter is that any of the 30 teams in MLB could wind up with Greinke atop their starting rotations in 2013.

    Of course, some destinations, like those previously mentioned, are far more likely than others.

    But if we've learned anything from following baseball over the years, it's that anything can—and usually does—happen.

    Let's take a look at six teams, including the Baltimore Orioles, who could wind up shocking the world this winter.

Minnesota Twins

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    It's a pretty well-known fact that the Minnesota Twins need starting pitching in the worst possible way, and GM Terry Ryan isn't hiding that fact.

    Ryan said as much while talking to John Shipley of the Pioneer Press, saying, "Anybody who is a starting pitcher that we've identified as having some ability, you can assume we've touched base with them."

    Minnesota would be the kind of smaller market that many believe suits Greinke better than the bright lights of a major city, and while the Twins typically don't spend big money, they have in the not-so-distant past.

    It was only two years ago in 2010 that they worked out an eight-year, $184 million extension with Joe Mauer (h/t USA Today) and only four years since the six-year, $80 million extension that they worked out with Justin Morneau in 2008, 

    Granted, those were their own players and not free agents, but if the Twins believe they are only a front-of-the-line starter away from getting right back into the thick of the playoff race in the American League, this isn't as far-fetched a scenario as you might think.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Back when the Milwaukee Brewers had Zack Greinke on the trade block, the Baltimore Orioles were heavily involved in talks with the Brewers to try and bring the former AL Cy Young Award winner to Baltimore, and at one point, even thought to be the favorites to land him (h/t Baltimore Sun).

    Peter Angelos might be reviled as the owner of the team, but he has spent money in the past. We need look back no further than the six-year, $85.5 million extension that the Orioles signed centerfielder Adam Jones to this past May for the latest example (h/t ESPN).

    Baltimore not only fits the mold as a smaller market, but it is a team that is clearly on its way up, evidenced by its unlikely—and incredibly exciting—run at the AL East crown this past season.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Before trading Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this past season, the Milwaukee Brewers offered the righty a contract extension worth at least $100 million, reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

    Greinke himself later confirmed Heyman's report to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I can say Heyman is pretty accurate with what he's saying, but nothing else."

    More recently, Heyman says that Greinke and Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke, though nothing substantial is believed to have come of their conversation:

    #brewers melvin talked to greinke. said greinke "didn't tip hand." nor did melvin. said he just likes talking ball w/zack

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 6, 2012

    It's true that money is an issue for the Brewers:

    no surprise, $ an issue for milw. asked if they're a long shot for hamilton, melvin said "very." hope may be market, narron

    — Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 6, 2012

    But it should be noted that discussion about money revolved around Josh Hamilton—not Greinke.

    It's entirely possible that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio might be willing to go a bit more than his previous offer to bring Greinke back to the Brew Crew, a team that needs pitching far more than it needs another big bat.

Washington Nationals

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    Many forget, but for a brief period of time, Zack Greinke was on his way to the Washington Nationals, something Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reminds us of.

    In the winter and early spring before the 2011 season, Zack Greinke managed to both formally reject and theoretically embrace the idea of playing for the Nationals. In December 2010, the Nationals agreed to a trade with the Kansas City Royals that would send them the former Cy Young winner, only for Greinke to turn down a $100 million contract extension and unravel the deal.

    Three months later, in March, Greinke reflected on the process with the Nationals. They were at that point coming off a 93-loss season, and he wanted to play for a team with more favorable odds of contention. But when he looked into the future, he could envision making another choice about playing in Washington and arriving at a different decision.

    “Maybe it works out better that the deal [with Washington] didn’t go through,” Greinke told colleague Dave Sheinin back then. “In two years I might be a free agent, and then they get to keep the players [who would have been] in the trade. And some of those guys could end up being key players for them.”

    Well, it's two years later, the Nationals are coming off of the first NL East title and playoff appearance in team history and have money to spend—and an opening in their starting rotation with the expected departure of Edwin Jackson via free agency.

    Can you imagine how ridiculous Washington's already ridiculous starting rotation would look with Greinke?

    Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler.


Toronto Blue Jays

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    Baseball is still abuzz about the 12-player blockbuster deal that the Toronto Blue Jays worked out with the Miami Marlins, one that landed them two quality starting pitchers in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and added a significant amount of money to their books for the foreseeable future.

    But nobody's asking a pretty simple question: What if Toronto isn't done spending?

    They've been linked to Greinke before, both when he was available in trade and as a free agent prior to the blockbuster going down (h/t Fox Sports).

    Adding Greinke to a rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow would push Toronto to not only the front of the AL East, but perhaps the front of the entire American League.

New York Yankees

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    Nobody expects the New York Yankees to get involved with Zack Greinke for two reasons: their quest to get their payroll under $189 million in 2014 and the fear of how Greinke, who battles anxiety, would handle the bright lights and intense pressure that comes along with playing for the Yankees.

    But here's the thing.

    No matter what the team says—or doesn't say—it remains in the game until Greinke signs elsewhere.

    It wasn't in on Mark Teixeira prior to the 2009 season, and lo and behold, who did Tex wind up signing with?

    The Yankees.

    Not only that, but the Yankees rotation is currently in flux. Let's say that Hiroki Kuroda signs elsewhere and Andy Pettitte retires.

    That leaves the Yankees with two holes in their starting rotation and no real in-house candidates to fill them.

    You're telling me that they wouldn't at least have a conversation with Greinke to see what the deal is?

    Anyone who believes that is kidding themselves.