The Greinke Question

Clark FoslerCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2008

October is always a slow time of the year in Royals Universe.  The playoffs are in full swing, and our team is once again at home watching the games.  The free agent market doesn’t take shape until after the World Series and then you have the winter meetings in December.  Then you have the first of the year and the Fan Fests and various hot stove topics which lead you into February and pitchers and catchers.  It seems like a ways off, but it’s closer than we think.  Which is a good thing.

So as we count down the days to Halloween, we’re left to scour the interwebs for anything Royals.  But aside from Dayton Moore saying he’s tired of losing (Hey Dayton, those of us who have been around have been saying that for the last 22 years.) and the odd Zack Greinke noise from national baseball writers, all is quiet on the Royal front.

But today, I’d like to address the Greinke rumors.

His name has started to pop up with regularity when the discussion is starting pitchers who could be available this winter.  Get used to it.

I can be accused of being myopic or too close to the situation since I’ve been watching Greinke ever since he arrived in Kansas City, but I don’t think I’m over stating it when I say he’s one of the top five young arms in the game.  That’s a fairly rock solid statement that even the East Coast Baseball Elite can get behind.  (I also have election fever, but that’s another story entirely.  You bet’cha!)

Then there’s the little situation of Greinke’s contract.  He’s eligible for his second year of arbitration and is due a tidy little raise from the $1.4 million he collected this year and is now two years from selling his services on the open market to the highest bidder.

Combine his talent with his contract situation and you have the perfect storm of rumors.

This will continue all winter.  The Royals would be prudent to take the steps to resolve this situation so it doesn’t hang over Greinke and the team.  The longer it continues, the more of a distraction it will become.

The Royals have two choices.

First, they can trade him.

Sam Mellinger had an excellent article where he talked to an unnamed scout about Greinke’s value.  (Poor scouts.  They’re always without a name.)  According to Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers made an offer a couple of months ago that he described as “big.”  Of course, that’s a relative term.  Obviously, the Royals didn’t think it was “big” enough because Greinke is still in Kansas City.

If the Royals swing a deal for Greinke, they will look for a Santana type package meaning they need one or two major league players and a couple of high level prospects.  That’s the kind of trade where one exceptional player can net four quality players.  I know we’ve been burned before with the Beltran deal where the Royals received two middling to below average hitters and a pitcher who’s no longer in the big leagues.  That was a horrible trade made by a GM who was out of his depth and who was under the gun to get something - anything - for their outfielder.  It was a perfect storm of suck.  Baird’s hands were tied by Boras, Beltran and his own incompetence.  GMDM is in a completely different situation.  Greinke has made zero noise about going after a big paycheck.  Sure, it has to be on his mind, but at least he’s not saying anything publicly.  Also, he’s two years out from free agency which gives the Royals time to ratchet interest in their starter without feeling they have to make a deal.  And finally, GMDM isn’t batting 1.000 on his trades, but he’s made a few good ones.

If they move Greinke and find a willing partner, they would have a chance to fill three or four holes on the roster.  That’s significant for a team with plenty of room for improvement.

Second, they can sign him to an extension.

The Royals have shown a willingness to lock up quality arms to a long term contract when they extended Joakim Soria’s deal last summer.  It was a smart move, but it left me wondering why they would approach Soria before they sat down with Greinke.  It’s small things like that that can impact a player and how he feels about management and the organization.  Greinke has been around for several years.  He’s had his ups and downs, but overall his track record is solid and impressive.  If you were the GM, who would you have approached first?

If you can’t tell, I would have gone for Greinke.

What’s it going to take to extend his stay in KC?  Seven million for the next two years where he’s eligible for arbitration and then $10 million for his first three free agent years?  That’s a $44 million package over five years… Maybe I’m crazy (feel free to let me know in the comments) but that’s a huge bargain.

It seems as though every start he makes, his value takes a step forward.  The longer the Royals wait, the higher the price.

Personally, I hope that Greinke remains in KC.  If the Royals netted a killer return in a trade, I wouldn’t be upset.  (In fact, I’d probably turn a cartwheel.  Or at least fall on my head trying.)  But to me there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing someone progress through the organization and succeeding in the big leagues.  As a fan, that resonates and makes the connection between the player and the team even stronger.  It’s fun to root for guys like Greinke.  It’s easy, too.

Greinke turns 25 in a couple of weeks.  He’s thrown over 650 big league innings spread over five seasons.  He’s about to break out in a big way.  GMDM needs to decide if that’s going to happen in KC.