The Kansas City Royals have made it clear that they are ready to trade star pitcher Zach Greinke right now, or maybe they won't. Or maybe they will, only later, sometime around next season's July 31st trade deadline.
Or not. They have him under contract for two more seasons at $13.5 million per year.
That sounds a lot like the Toronto Blue Jays just hours before Roy Halladay was shipped to the Philadelphia Phillies for a truckload of prospects.
Ken Rosenthal of foxsports.com reported last week that the Royals were seeking 4-5 players in return for their Cy Young award-winning pitcher. Today, he wrote that in return for Greinke, Kansas City would want:
- a starting major-league pitcher to take his place,
- a speedy center-field prospect,
- a young middle infielder and
- a catcher who isn't too far away from the major leagues.
Though Greinke is just 26, he has been pitching in the major leagues for seven seasons. Over his first three years, he wasn't very good, averaging just 8-14, 4.63, 10.0/2.3/6.4. Since 2008, however, he's been superb, going 14-12, 3.25, 8.5/2.2/8.4.
So, just like Jayson Werth, the Nationals would be paying for just three good years.
Let's assume the Royals would accept four players. They would first need a major-league pitcher to replace Greinke. That would probably be John Lannan. Their "speedy center fielder" could be Eury Perez (Low-A) if they didn't need a major-league ready pitcher or Roger Bernadina if they did.
They would probably be given their choice of middle infielders Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa or Stephen Lombardozzi. They would certainly accept either Wilson Ramos or Derek Norris as their catcher.
So basically, it would cost the Nationals John Lannan, Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina and Wilson Ramos to get Zach Greinke.
Is it worth it?
Certainly, the loss of John Lannan would hurt. Over 162 games, he has averaged nine wins and a 4.10 ERA with a slash line of 9.4/3.3/4.6. He's just 25 and would be an ideal No. 3 or 4 starter for a good Nationals team.
The Royals have a decent shortstop in Yuniesky Betancourt (.259-16-78 but with a .298 on-base percentage) but he's 29 and is due to make $6 million in 2012. That's just not going to happen, not in Kansas City. Desmond would be an able replacement.
But the Nationals could easily make due without Desmond. Danny Espinosa, who has good power, a great glove and strikeout problem, could move to short and Stephen Lombardozzi (.293/.387/.415 in the Arizona Fall League) could take over at second base.
Roger Bernadina could become a .290-20-80 with 20 steals kind of outfielder or he could become a total bust. The Royals might see that too and prefer Eury Perez, the 20-year-old Dominican who just completed his fourth year of professional ball. He's averaged .312/.390/.402 along with 17 doubles, seven triples, five homers, 55 RBI and 65 stolen bases.
I'm not sure which catcher the Royals would prefer. Derek Norris will begin the season at Double-A Harrisburg and has averaged over 162 games .261/.414/.462 with 33 doubles, 25 homers and 88 RBI. He is just 21.
Ramos is just a year older and over five minor-league seasons has averaged .285/.332/.431, 23 doubles, 14 home runs and 80 RBI. His defense is much better than Norris and already has 79 at-bats in the major leagues.
Because they need their catcher sooner rather than later, they'd likely pick Ramos (although Norris will end up being a much better hitter).
So the Nationals can add a great pitcher to the rotation and give up Lannan, Perez, Desmond and Ramos to get him. The team can afford to lose Lannan, especially when Stephen Strasburg returns. They won't miss Bernadina and no one even knows who Eury Perez is yet. And chances are that Espinosa and Lombardozzi will be the team's long-term double play combination anyway.
And assuming that Jesus Flores is healthy, the Nationals can wait on Norris for another year, maybe two.
Finally, after five years of waiting, Washington finally has enough prospects that they can make one of those four-for-one or five-for-one deals. But should they?
In a word, no.
Over the last three seasons, Zach Greinke has averaged 13 wins to John Lannan's nine. The fact that both pitchers play for bad teams cancels out that part of the equation. That means that Greinke is worth about five more wins per season than Lannan.
That's one win for Ian Desmond and one for Wilson Ramos, one more for John Lannan and the last one for Eury Perez.
It's just not worth it. There were rumors that the Nationals could have gotten Tampa's Matt Garza (15-10, 3.91) for Desmond and Tyler Clippard. That makes more sense. That's the kind of trade the team should jump on.