Entering the offseason Royals fans knew that there would be one major issue that would shape the offseason for the Kansas City Royals. Most blogs have already touched on the subject and I realize that I am a bit late in getting my thoughts out there, so as a primer for the Winter Meetings here it goes: my thoughts on whether or not the Royals should move Zack Greinke.
The Royals are presented with the luxary of not having to trade Greinke this offseason, because theoretically they still have three more opportunities after this offseason to do so: the 2011 trade deadline, the 2011 offseason, and finally the 2012 deadline. If the Royals elected not to trade Greinke at any of the aforementioned opportunites they could either attempt to resign him or offer him arbitration and likely obtain two first round draft picks for his services.
I think that an extension would be unlikely and perhaps not even possible given the likely demands that Greinke would have for a contract. Plus the Royals will hopefully be pitching heavy like the Rays currently are which could enable them to not be too devastated by losing Greinke. This would also free up money moving forward for extensions or free agent signing in an attempt to find a missing piece.
Let me preface my thoughts by saying that should the Royals choose to keep Greinke around for the duration of his current contract I do not think it would be a bad decision. In no way would that hurt the organization or prolong the current timeline until contention. Perhaps the stars would even align and grant the Royals with a few breaks enabling the team to contend in 2012, at which point Greinke would be extremely valuable.
If the Dayton Moore and company dealt with it in this way then they could let Greinke walk and use the two extra first rounds picks in the 2013 draft to begin to build a new wave of talent to replace the wave that should be arriving in Kansas City in 2011 and begin departing around 2017. Based off the current timeframe for prospect development in the organization, four years would be enough time for those 2013 picks to develop and then begin arriving in Kansas City in 2017 to replace the current wave that has Kansas City fans so excited about the future.
Based on the front office's current ability to draft and develop talent in comparison to evaluating minor league talent for trades I could see why many would prefer the two years of Greinke and two draft pick route. However, I have not seen many people considering that in addition to the two full seasons of Greinke the Royals would also get the two draft picks, but it is something that should be considered.
Plus if Bud Selig gets his way and Major League Baseball implements a hard slotting system for the draft, the Royals will lose their ability to nab first round talents late in the draft due to signability. This would mean that high draft picks would become much more valuable and compensation picks would become even more important in order for teams to acquire top tier talent.
My last thought on the benefits of keeping Greinke is that as a Royals fan I grow sick and tired of opposing teams' fans' taunts of the Royals being a minor league team. Or if I am wearing a Greinke jersey and I have to listen to a Yankees fan ask when will he be traded to New York. Or a Cardinals' fan's snide remarks about how the Royals have to get rid of their players as soon as they get good. Perhaps this is due to Cardinals and Yankees fans superiority complexes. But it is extremely irritating.
Sure the Royals have been an inept organization when it comes to trading away talent and keeping "talent." Many fans that do not know the current situation of the organization and view the potential Greinke trade as just the latest start to a rebuilding process in Kansas City. Most of these same fans also couldn't explain to you how service time, and arbitration works. So I shouldn't expect these fans to realize the degree to which the Royals organization has changed financially since Dayton Moore has taken over.
If the Greinke trade is completed it will not be fueled by financial motivations. Instead it will be because the trade gives the Royals the opportunity to accelerate the countdown to contention and that's why I am so excited.
I do believe that signs are beginning to point to a Greinke trade being inevitable. There is so much talk about it that teams are going to make sure that they put their best deal on the table to insure that they aren't the team that is left behind.
After Cliff Lee the 2010-11 free agent starting pitcher class is an incredibly weak group. Because of this Zack Greinke becomes the second best arm available and because there is only one other high quality arm, the Royals are garunteed that the team that misses out on Lee will still have a desire to acquire a frontline starter.
Juding by the names that have been thrown around it also appears that Greinke's stock is just as high as it was a year ago and that the Royals will not need to begin the season with him in order to rebuild his value as an ace. For these two reasons I believe that now is the ideal time to maximize the trade value of Zack. If you don't trade him this offseason you run the slight risk that he repeats his 2010 performance in 2011 and at that point his value could truly begin to slip. Not to mention the longer he stays on the Royals, the less he will be with his new team before his contract expires.
If the Royals want to maximize Greinke's trade value then now is the time to do it. It is possible that he is just as attractive at the 2011 deadline, but is it really worth it to run that risk in order to keep Greinke for half a year longer and risk his stock decreasing. I hardly think so. Earlier I mentioned that by keeping Greinke you don't run the risking off lengthening the countdown to contention. But if the right prospects/players can be had in the deal the clock can be shortened.
The two teams that have been discussed the most as bidders for Zack Greinke have been Texas and New York and interestingly enough there are rumors that both teams would maintain interest should they sign Cliff Lee. This is good news for the Royals because if there are two teams bidding for the services of your star pitcher you are going to be at a better position in negotiations.
The rumor is that the Royals are requested a Teixiera type haul for Greinke. As we all know this trade worked out extremely well for the Rangers as they received Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Beau Jones, and Matt Harrison. (In fairness the Braves also acquired the great Ron Mahay.) Given this the Royals can probably expect a return of three maybe four top tier prospects.
It has also been reported that the Royals are asking for two major league ready players, and two top tier prospects. I think that the Royals should be flexible on the readiness of the players that they require. For example at the time of the Teixiera trade Neftali Feliz was a nineteen year old in rookie ball, Elvis Andrus was eighteen and in the Carolina League, Matt Harrison was twenty-one and in double A, and Beau Jones was twenty and still in high A. The only player in the deal that was major league ready and a sure thing was Saltalamacchia and he is probably the biggest bust of the bunch.
The Royals could either take the safe way and acquire a top prospect that is Major League ready, or they could take the more ballsy approach and get multiple top guys with high potential that are a bit farther away and more of a risk. The interesting thing about this is that the two interested parties each represent one of these trading strategies.
The Yankees have the elite prospect that is major league ready. His name is Jesus Montero and he has received comparisons with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Piazza. He is listed as a catcher but his defense leaves much to be desired, but if his bat plays the way most scouts predict then it will more than compensate for his poor glove. Given the readiness and quality of Montero the other players in the Yankees deal would not match the depth and overall potential of a Rangers deal. However, it would probably be a safer bet. I can't help but get giddy about a middle of the order that includes Moustakas, Montero, and Hosmer by the end of the 2011 season.
The other names that have been suggested in a Yankees trade are Dellin Betances, a 6-8 righty, and Slade Heathcott a potential five tool centerfielder. Both of these players sound very intriguing but Betances has struggled with control in his professional career with a 4.1 bbs per 9 innings rate and Heathcott has makeup concerns and hit just .258 with a .712 OPS and 101 strikeouts in 351 South Atlantic League plate appearances.
As for the Rangers the centerpiece of the deal would likely be twenty-one year old outfielder Engel Beltre or seventeen year old shortstop Jurickson Profar. If the Royals could somehow acquire both in the deal it would be very exciting, but I think that they are going to be forced to choose one or the other. Both of these players possess five tool potential and could be game changers as premium positions for the Royals.
In addition to either of the aforementioned position prospects the Royals would likely acquire two starters. These could be come from a group that includes: Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Tommy Hunter, Robert Erlin and Eric Hurley. It has also been suggested that the Royals could get a fourth player: either Julio Borbon or Craig Gentry.
Beltre comes in as the third best prospect being discussed as a centerpiece to these deals, but I would love to acquire either Profar or Montero. The key is going to be what else the deals can offer but I can assure you that the rest of the offseason should be very exciting for Royals fans.
I also plead with Royals fans not to look at a Zack Greinke trade as just the latest sign that our organization will never be able to compete and keep its star players, but instead as an opportunity for this organization to continue to jump the gap and become a contender once again. We all know that Kansas City and Royals nation deserves it.