Greinke ups value in strong return

Greinke demonstrated his health to every interested general manager and scout with a command performance Tuesday night.

Apparently, Zack Greinke is healthy.

Now it gets interesting.

After a 10-day layoff — reason: battery recharge — Greinke demonstrated his health to every interested general manager and scout with a command performance Tuesday night. He allowed one run on three hits over seven innings in Philadelphia; he struck out five, walked no one and hit a home run — off Cliff Lee — for good measure.

Greinke’s Brewers lost, 7-6, after the bullpen imploded. That only reinforced what has become a fait accompli: Milwaukee, loser of five in a row and 12 1/2 games back in the National League Central, will be a trade deadline seller.

Greinke is general manager Doug Melvin’s most tradable commodity. He is 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts and will become a free agent at season’s end. Once Phillies lefty Cole Hamels finalizes his extension, Greinke will be the most desirable pitcher on the trade market — that is, unless the right-hander signs a new deal of his own.

It’s unlikely — but not impossible — that Greinke will agree to an extension with the Brewers during the next several days, according to one source familiar with the conversations. He already turned down an offer of more than $100 million, according to CBSSports.com.

So, there’s an excellent chance Greinke will be dealt before next Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline. He might even be traded before his next scheduled start, Sunday at home against Washington. Accordingly, scouts from teams in need of starting pitchers — the Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, Braves and White Sox — were in attendance at Citizens Bank Park.

And what did they see?

“He was very poised,” one scout told my colleague Ken Rosenthal. “He had very good mound presence, very good focus. I think he’s playing to get out of there, go pitch in the playoffs and make a boatload of money.”

The scout said he has worried in the past — as many observers have — that Greinke becomes bored and disengaged at times, particularly when his team is playing poorly. That wasn’t an issue Tuesday, when Greinke looked “outstanding” and “very athletic” in the field. (Not to be overlooked, he put a ferocious swing on the home run ball and is batting a respectable .212.)

Greinke’s status should come into focus in the next 24-48 hours. By then, Hamels (extension) and Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (via trade to the Dodgers or Braves) could be off the market.

The Rangers are perhaps the most obvious fit for Greinke, having recently lost fellow right-hander Colby Lewis to a season-ending elbow injury. Melvin will be inclined to deal with the Rangers, because they have perhaps the deepest farm system of any contender in baseball. Still, it is unlikely that Milwaukee will obtain either of Texas’ top position players — shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt — in a deal for Greinke.

Of note, Greinke is said to be an admirer of the Angels and Braves organizations. If he is traded to one of those places, the team may have an advantage in trying to re-sign him after the season.

 

AFTER ADDING WANDY, ARE PIRATES DONE?

 

In announcing the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday he had been open to trading for a pitcher or position player. In the end, he found the pitching market more “plentiful” in general and the cost for Rodriguez to be reasonable. The left-hander is likely to replace Erik Bedard or Kevin Correia in the Pirates’ rotation.

Still, sources say the Pirates would like to add an outfield bat under the right circumstances. The Pirates have scored a total of four runs over their past three games, including two losses to the Cubs.

Scouts who watch the team wonder how much longer No. 3 hitter Andrew McCutchen will continue seeing pitches to hit, given the lack of protection behind him.

With Justin Upton likely remaining in Arizona, the most intriguing names for the Pirates may be a pair of right fielders who are eligible for free agency after next season: Philadelphia’s Hunter Pence and Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians, though, have yet to make Choo available.

 

SEVEN SHOPPING DAYS REMAINING …

 

… A trade between the Dodgers and Cubs for Ryan Dempster remains “realistic,” according to one person with knowledge of the talks. The Cubs have asked for a package centered on Class AA right-hander Allen Webster, so it’s possible for the sides to complete a deal without the inclusion of Dodgers pitching prospect Zach Lee.

Webster, 22, is valuable in his own right, striking out roughly one batter per inning this year while maintaining one of the Southern League’s best groundball rates. He’s currently slated to start Thursday. (Dempster is the Cubs’ scheduled starter Wednesday afternoon.)

… Alex Rodriguez could miss a month or more with a broken left hand, and now the Yankees have less than a week to explore the trade market. Padres third baseman Chase Headley is the ideal fit, because he could move to a corner outfield spot when A-Rod returns, but the price has been high on him all month.

… The Tigers aren’t necessarily done adding, after acquiring Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins. They have interest in a right-handed-hitting platoon outfielder who could start against left-handed pitching. Cubs veteran Reed Johnson is a potential fit.

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