Rosenthal: Notes on Greinke trade

BY Ken Rosenthal • December 20, 2010

Leftover notes from the Zack Greinke trade, as compiled from discussions with major league sources:

• Yes, the Yankees had the right pieces to satisfy the Royals — catcher Jesus Montero, shortstop Eduardo Nunez, a pitcher such as lefty Manuel Banuelos or righty Dellin Betances, maybe even outfielder Brett Gardner.

But the talks, according to multiple accounts, never got serious. The Yankees simply were not comfortable with Greinke pitching in New York.

Greinke told the Royals he was willing to approve a trade to the Yankees, who were one of 15 teams on his no-trade list. Others who know him, however, question whether he actually would have embraced the idea.

The Yankees had targeted Greinke in the past, inquiring about him several times and making a strong push for him last July, according to one source. But at that time, Greinke could block deals to 20 clubs, including the Yankees, and did not want to leave the Royals.

• The Blue Jays never had a shot at Greinke; they, too, were on his no-trade list, and the pitcher was not interested in playing for Toronto.

The Royals liked the Jays’ prospects, but the package they received from the Brewers included players who were closer to the majors.

The Jays could have offered shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, center fielder Anthony Gose, a catcher such as J.P. Arencibia or Travis D’Arnaud and a young pitcher.

Hechavarria, 21, is 2-1/2 years younger than Alcides Escobar but has yet to play above Double A and is more expensive — he is entering the second year of a four-year, $10 million contract. Gose has yet to play above Class A and is not as good a bet in the short term as Lorenzo Cain.

• The Nationals expressed a willingness to put together a package that would have brought them Greinke, but they never reached agreement on an actual trade before the pitcher vetoed the idea of going to Washington.

The Royals wanted a package that included some, but not all, of the following players: Right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, right-handed reliever Drew Storen, infielder Danny Espinosa, catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Eury Perez.

• The Royals, rather predictably, received several trade inquiries on closer Joakim Soria shortly after trading Greinke.

But Soria, who will earn just $4 million next season, remains quite affordable and will not be moved anytime soon.

The Royals hold club options on Soria for $6 million in 2012, $8 million in ’13 and $8.75 million in ’14.

Soria, unlike Greinke, also wants to stay in Kansas City. He is an example of excellence to the team’s younger players. And the Royals, who intend to contend as soon as ’12, ultimately will need a ninth-inning anchor.

• The Royals wanted Cain in part because a future trade for a center fielder such as the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury would be too costly in prospects, and because most quality free agents would seek better options.

Kansas City's Wil Myers, who just turned 20, eventually will be a corner outfielder — Baseball America said last year that “his rangy body draws comparisons to Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth, two tall catchers who ended up moving to the outfield.”

And, though sabermetric types will snicker, the Royals believe that either Melky Cabrera, 26, or Jeff Francoeur, 26 — or both — could fulfill their early promise.

Cabrera, who weighed 225 pounds on the final day of last season, is down to 211 with the goal of reaching 205. Francoeur’s leadership qualities would be welcome on a young club.

• As for the Brewers, perhaps the most impressive aspect of their immediate future is that all of their core players are under 30.

Greinke is 27; right-hander Shaun Marcum, 29; right-hander Yovani Gallardo, 24. First baseman Prince Fielder is 26; second baseman Rickie Weeks, 28; left fielder Ryan Braun, 27; right fielder Corey Hart, 28. Closer John Axford is 27.

Granted, Fielder almost certainly will depart as a free agent after next season, and Weeks could leave, too. But all of the others will be part of the 2012 club, as will left-hander Randy Wolf, who is 34.

• Another thing about the Brewers: They again should boast the best-hitting pitching staff in the National League.

Brewers pitchers combined for a .536 OPS last season; the Diamondbacks’ staff was the next closest at .450.

Marcum was a good hitter at Missouri State. Greinke, too, is excited to contribute offensively — he’s 4-for-24 in his career with two doubles and a home run.

• On the negative side, some rival executives were disdainful of the Brewers for obtaining shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt along with Greinke.

“That basically nullifies the acquisition,” one exec said.

While Betancourt “jumped” his OPS from .625 in 2009 to ‘692 in ’10, he again rated as one of the worst defenders at short, according to advanced metrics.

• One more reason the Brewers needed to load up on starting pitching: They will face some of the best teams in the AL in interleague play.

From June 17 to July 3, the Brewers will play 15 straight games against the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Twins, meeting the Twins twice.

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