Now, don't everyone gang up on me. I'm just thinking out loud for a minute.
Since the end of the season, the Washington Nationals have been chasing a bevy of top-flight starting pitchers including the Royals' Zach Greinke. The 26-year-old is so good that the asking price for the former Cy Young Award winner is four top prospects.
And that's the starting point.
The Royals have been clear as to the type of players they would want in return. From the Nationals, they would want a replacement starting pitcher (possibly John Lannan, but probably Jordan Zimmermann), a middle infielder (most definitely Ian Desmond), a major league outfielder (Roger Bernadina and/or Mike Morse), a catcher (Wilson Ramos because Derrek Norris is still two years away) and a lower-level minor league outfielder, perhaps someone like Eury Perez.
I doubt they would take Lannan, who is a good number-three starter, but just a number three. Jordan Zimmermann is a borderline top-of-the-rotation starter but with Stephen Strasburg on the mend, he'll slide down to the two-spot next season.
Though he is considered one of baseball's best pitchers, Greinke has had only one outstanding season. In 2009, he was Cy Young himself, going 16-8, 2.16. Very impressive, indeed.
But in his other six seasons, from 2004 to 2008, and 2010, Greinke pitched well but wasn't a star. He gave no indication that he could carry a team in a pennant race.
The Nationals have on their roster a pitcher who has done fairly well in parts of two seasons in Washington. J.D. Martin is a former first-round pick and has produced as a minor-league free agent who made it to the majors without his 96 mph fastball.
Let's compare Greinke's numbers (all except those from that magical 2009 season) and compare it to Martin's efforts, both based a full 162-game season:
Greinke 10-13, 4.25, 9.6/3.4/7.4, 1.35 Whip (base runners per inning)
Martin 9-13, 4.13, 10.2/2.5/4.9 1.34 Whip
To be fair, Greinke's sample is six times larger than Martin's and I am in no way suggesting that they are equals when on a major league mound. That said, the internal numbers aren't that different. Greinke gives up fewer hits but walks more batters. Their base runners allowed per inning is almost identical. And Martin's ERA is a little lower as well.
I didn't include Greinke's Cy Young Award season in his career numbers because I am not sure that he can ever duplicate it. In that one season, he allowed 1.4 fewer hits and .3 walks per nine-innings while striking out 2.1 more batters. His ERA was 1.66 runs lower than his career average.
Last season, all of his internal numbers returned to career form and his ERA was the highest its been since 2005.
It seems like the Royals want four or five prospects for a pitcher that doesn't exist. They are negotiating a trade for the 2009 Greinke who may never, probably will never, return.
Matt Garza of Tampa Bay, whose asking price is probably half that of Zach Greinke, has very similar career numbers. Let's compare them based on a 162-game season:
Garza: 12-13, 3.97, 8.7/3.2/7.1, 1.31 Whip
Greinke: 11-12, 3.82, 9.1/2.3/7.6, 1.36 Whip
Both players are 26-years-old, both players allow about the same number of base runners per game, and both players average about the same number of wins per season.
Garza hasn't had that really special season like Greinke but neither has he totally bombed (Greinke went 5-17, 5.80 in 2005).
I don't understand all the love for Greinke. One season does not a career make. If the Nationals really want to trade for a pitcher, let it be Garza. He's just as good as Greinke and can be had for much less.
And really, how much better would either of them be over a full season than J.D. Martin, at least based on past history? If they all start the same number of games, I'd say four or five games.
Is the $12 or $13 million in additional payroll costs worth four or five games next season?
Perhaps 2011 should be the last season that the Nationals can afford to look closely at pitchers like J.D. Martin, guys who aren't great but can do quality work from the back of the rotation.
Martin is capable of a 10-10, 4.10 type of season, the kind of pitching most good teams have at the back of the rotation.
Forget Greinke, consider Garza, and give Martin a try. That's my take, anyway.