Royals being patient with impatient ace

Published Nov. 22, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

Sure, right-hander Zack Greinke was frustrated last season, and for good reason — the Royals lost 95 games.

But why would Greinke, with two years left on his contract, want to leave a team that according to Baseball America, is sitting on the game's deepest farm system?

And why would the Royals, unless they get offered an irresistible package, rush to trade their ace right-hander when they stand a decent chance of breaking through in 2012?

The answer to the second question is easy: so the Royals can get more young players to go with their emerging core of third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and left-handed starting pitchers.

The trade offers for Greinke will only improve after free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee chooses his next team. No other free-agent starter is close to as good as Greinke, and the Royals will be in position to make a favorable deal.

Yet, there is no urgency here.

Greinke, 27, is under contract. He needs to pitch well next season to prove that his regression in 2010 was merely an aberration. He doesn't necessarily want out. He wants only to win.


That's why Greinke voiced his frustration over the Royals' slow progress in an August interview with the Kansas City Star, expressing doubt that the team would be competitive by the time his contract expired.

Reasonable doubt, considering the Royals have produced only one winning season in the past 16 years — an 83-79 campaign in 2003 that qualified as an absolute rampage.

But perhaps Greinke's opinion will change come spring training, once he sees how close the Royals' prospects are to the majors. Perhaps he will even grow open to signing a contract extension, if not right away, in the near future.

If not, the Royals can trade Greinke at the All-Star break, or next offseason. But first, club officials might want to say, “Zack, take a look around. You've waited a long time for us to get good. And we're just about there.”

Upton talk: Slowing down?

Two general managers who spoke with the Diamondbacks' Kevin Towers in recent days described him as growing more pessimistic about trading right fielder Justin Upton.

The Blue Jays have enough young pitching to satisfy the D-Backs, but it's unclear whether they would want to make such a deal for Upton. Teams such as the Reds and Nationals, while possibly interested in Upton, do not appear to match up for one reason or another, sources say.

The D-Backs likely will lay low until the winter meetings, then resume active discussions. One problem: A high-revenue team such as the Red Sox might prefer to sign free agents rather than give up talent for Upton.

Under baseball's inequitable rules of compensation, the Sox would come out ahead in draft picks if they lost catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Adrian Beltre and replaced them with two other Type A free agents.

They would gain two first-round picks plus two supplemental picks for losing Martinez and Beltre while forfeiting only a first- and second-rounder for signing two other Type As.

D-Back's Reynolds an option for O's

The Orioles are sifting through the available names at first and third base, two positions where they want to improve. Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds is a trade possibility under discussion, but a realistic only if the team's offseason unfolds in certain ways, sources say.

Free agents routinely spurn the O's when they have better alternatives, which is why it might make sense for the club to take a chance on Reynolds, who hit 32 home runs last season but batted .198/.320/.453 and struck out more than 200 times for the third straight year.

If the Orioles acquired Reynolds and signed, say, free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena, they would be getting two boom-or-bust offensive players. But Pena is an excellent defender and advanced metrics show that Reynolds is improving at third.

Would either be a perfect fit? No. But the Orioles are unlikely to sign Paul Konerko or Victor Martinez to play first, and they probably would prefer third-base prospect Josh Bell to get additional time at Triple A.

Reynolds, 27, grew up in neighboring Virginia and is signed for $5 million next season and $7.5 million in 2012 with an $11 million option for '13.

This Duke is not No. 1

Left-hander Zach Duke had a rapid fall, going from an All-Star appearance in 2009 to being designated for assignment over the weekend. Some rival executives say the Pirates should have traded Duke at his peak; the Pirates contend that they did not receive quality offers.

In any case, one executive who knows Duke well believes that the pitcher can still be serviceable at the bottom of a rotation. The Marlins, looking to add rotation depth, are the kind of team that could give him a chance.

“Is he still left-handed?” one exec asked.

Well, yes.

“I might take a shot at him then,” the exec said.

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