The Milwaukee Brewers say they have not yet made a decision on whether to trade right-hander Zack Greinke or any other player.
But two rival executives said Tuesday that the Brewers are preparing to move Greinke if they are unable to sign him long-term before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Greinke, 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
“They’re definitely expecting to move him unless something changes and they re-sign him,” one rival executive said.
The executive described the Brewers as “very realistic” about their position with Greinke. The San Francisco Giants awarded right-hander Matt Cain a six-year, $127.5 million contract in early April, likely inflating Grienke’s value.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin declined comment on the team’s negotiations with Greinke, who is represented by Casey Close.
Melvin, however, said the Brewers still “haven’t really made a fundamental decision” on whether to trade Greinke or any other player.
“I haven’t sat down with ownership,” Melvin said. “I haven’t talked to any club yet to say, ‘Give names.’ I haven’t had that conversation.”
The Brewers fell to 7 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central after losing to Cincinnati on Tuesday night. They are 5 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, trailing eight teams for one of the two spots.
“We’ve got to make a decision on what we’re doing overall,” Melvin said. “We’re hoping we can put a good week together. If we don’t, we’ve got to be prepared to go both ways. A lot more clubs are starting to call now. Clubs are calling on different players.”
If the Brewers kept Greinke, they would need to make him a one-year qualifying offer of approximately $12 million to qualify for draft-pick compensation if he left as a free agent.
But the sense among executives is that the Brewers do not want to completely rebuild, and would prefer to trade Greinke for more immediate help rather than wait for draft picks to develop.
Besides Greinke, the Brewers could draw interest in three other potential free agents — right-hander Shaun Marcum, who currently is on the disabled list with an elbow injury, left-hander Randy Wolf and right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
Greinke, though, would be far the biggest prize.
The Brewers acquired Greinke and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt from the Kansas City Royals on Dec. 19, 2010 for a package of four players — right-hander Jake Odorizzi, shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress.
At the time, Greinke had two years remaining on a four-year, $38 million contract. He would command less of a return now that he is a mere months away from hitting the open market. A team that acquired him also would not receive a draft pick if he left as a free agent according to a new rule in the collective-bargaining agreement.
The prospect of a diminished return could motivate the Brewers to act sooner rather than later — a team might offer more for Greinke if they could get him for say, four additional starts. Melvin once took that route as a buyer, acquiring left-hander CC Sabathia from the Indians on July 7, 2008.
If the Brewers choose to trade Greinke, Melvin said he would talk only to select clubs that he viewed as a potential match, rather than make him available to every team.
The Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals both had strong interest in Greinke when the Royals traded him after the 2010 season. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are among the teams in the market for starting pitching.