To Greinke or NOT to Greinke - ZACK is the Question!

By David Rubin

Okay, let's get one thing out of the way- as much as I like "playing GM" in my OWN head, I hate reading about potential deals that always have the other team taking our "left-overs" and "never-were's" in exchange for star player X. Like "let's send Jordany Valdespin & Brad Holt to the White Sox for John Danks" - and, scarily, I saw that one a few weeks ago online. I also enjoy playing "MLB Front Row Manager" on my X-Box, where you are the GM of any team and have to draft, trade, etc...but even in that game, lopsided trades are rarely accepted. Therefore, last week, when a good friend of mine asked why the Mets didn't immediately make a deal for the Royals ace, Zack Greinke, I wanted to yell at him and beat him over the head with my 70's era plastic Met batting helmet- until I stopped to think about what, exactly, was keeping the Mets from pulling off such a deal.

History states that it's hard to pull off the same "heist" twice- imagine a second "Great Train Robbery" if you will...and, by all accounts, the trade that brought ace Johan Santana, injuries and all, can still be looked at as a "heist." When none of the players the Twins received in exchange ended up panning out, other teams probably began looking at Met prospects more as "suspects" and were, it seemed - and rightly so - less inclined to take more on.

With Omar gone and a new regime in place, you'd think that some adventurous General Manager would attempt to fleece Alderson and company's pockets of at least one young player they had their eyes on - but other then the loss of Elvin Ramirez in the Rule 5 draft, that hasn't happened yet, either.

Faced with a rebuilding process that needs to happen "on-the-fly" in order to keep a disgruntled (and rightly so) fan-base from revolting, the new management team was under immediate scrutiny, as the expectation was that deep pockets would once again "win out" and the Mets, in spite of sitting on a number of less-than-desirable long-term contracts, would once again play "checkbook poker" and overwhelm a free agent with $$$ to head to New York. Rather then bowing to "peer pressure" and spending good money after bad, the new exec team, led by Sandy Alderson, let it be known from the get-go that they were not going to be in play for any big-ticket free agents this off-season, setting a tone that a great deal of Met fans were not happy to hear. As we know, every action has an "opposite and equal reaction" - and the new regime is having to deal with that "reaction" right now, in the form of reducing payroll and refraining from adding to the pile of long-term contracts already on the books. So Cliff Lee is available? No, thank you. Carl Crawford? Not gonna happen. Carl Pavano? Okay, just checking to make sure you're still with me! So we know that signing a free agent during the '10 - '11 off-season is not going to happen, unless it's a pitcher coming off an injury with something to prove, a la Chris Young. Fine- at least we know what we're dealing with.

Next we have a farm system that has both yielded a number of major league-ready players this past season (finally) but that features a glut in two areas (middle infield and outfield) while being light in two key areas- pitcher and catcher. One look at the Kansas City Royals minor league system, and you'll notice that they are pretty deep in corner infielders, outfielders and pitching, but suffer from a lack of top-notch middle infield prospects. Hmmm....might there be a potential match brewing?

Now the game begins...what prospects do the Mets have that might be enticing enough to tempt the Royals to trade a player who is one year removed from being the best pitcher in baseball? Wait- what did you say? He not only has a "no-trade" clause that may preclude him from even being able to come to New York, but he is also recovering from "social anxiety disorder" and playing under the media and fan scrutiny in New York might not be the best thing for him? Well, he is signed for two more seasons at a very "reasonable" (by "Ace" standards) $13.5 million per- after which, he will be able to test free agency for the first time. So, essentially, the Mets are buying 2 years of Greinke's services for a gaggle of prospects?

So far, here's what we know: the Mets are attempting to pare excess payroll from the roster to eliminate their "dead weight"; their minor league system has already produced a number of major league-ready talent, but is light on top pitching and catching talent; the Royals, owners of star pitcher Zack Greinke's services for 2 more seasons, have a glaring need for middle infield talent, a strength of the Mets system; and Greinke, recovering from "social anxiety disorder" is a free agent after the 2012 season. What we don't know? What would it take to acquire Greinke?

Knowing that the Royals are going to require some top level, middle-infield talent, we know that Wilmer Flores (SS, for now) is going to have to be the centerpiece of any deal. Furthermore, the Royals are going to need talent that is even more big league-ready, so we'll have to include second base prospect, Reese Havens. Realizing that Jenrry Mejia couldn't be in a deal where you're only guaranteed 2 years return, but also recognizing that the Royals will still need some pitching to replace Greinke down the road, the Mets would have to include Juan Urbina, still a number of years away from the bigs but also possessed of one of the best 3 "live arms" in the Mets system. Adding some power to the equation would be a necessity, so include power bat Lucas Duda, who would probably do extremely well as a DH in Kansas City. Finally, since we are receiving a pitcher, we'd have to add another to the deal, and therefore Jeurys Familia would also become property of the Royals. So, at the end of the deal, let's see what we have:

Royals Get:
Wilmer Flores (SS)
Reese Havens (2B)
Juan Urbina (SP)
Lucas Duda (RF-DH)
Jeurys Familia (SP)

Mets Get:
Zack Greinke - $13.5 million, through 2012

With no guarantees that they'd be able to sign him past '12, after investing $27 million dollars, and losing prospects #2, 3, 6, 14 & 20 from a mid-level farm system, would the Mets be any better off then they were if they hadn't made the deal??? Chances are, none of the prospects going the other way would end up like Carlos Gomez, and most probably at least 2 will end up as quality major league performers. Even with a first round and sandwich round pick coming back should Greinke leave as a free agent after the 2012 season, the loss of 5 top prospects is more then the current Mets system could bear right now.

Prospects serve one of three things- filling a role at the major league level, serving as trade-bait to acquire a major league ready ballplayer, or filling out a minor league roster so that true prospects have a full team surrounding them. Other then Familia, I'd bet that the other 4 potential players in this trade have major league careers ahead of them, and is that worth 2 years of Greinke at the top of the rotation? That depends upon one further variable- IF GM Alderson decided to fill out the rest of the roster after the 2011 season with additional, higher-priced talent, and utilized the New York market at its greatest potential and leveraged his competitive advantages to put a better team on the market in 2012, then by all means, make the trade. However, if there's even a CHANCE that the team is NOT going to spend heartily after the 2011 season, which is how the team is currently poised, then trading 5 top-level prospects for a 2-year rental of Greinke is NOT a trade worth making.

Reality is always the bitterest pill to swallow...and, sadly, trading for Greinke, it seems, would end up as yet another bitter pill for Mets fans to swallow...not an easy thing to read or hear, I know, but the truth is we already have one high-priced SP1 (Santana) who is on the disabled list for at least half of the 2011 season, and while it would be amazing to be able to bring in another SP1, doing so at the cost of a ton of top level prospects in exchange for only 2 guaranteed seasons seems a bit too much to give up at this point. Remember- the Royals will have their choice of player packages - so anything less then what we've proposed here wouldn't even register as a "blip" on their radar screens...now come back to me after the 2012 season, when Greinke is a free agent and would only cost money, and we'll have an entirely different opinion on things!

A few hours after posting this, I happened to look at an email from Bleacher Report, and was presented with EXACTLY the kind of trade post that I am talking about. The writer, Zachary Ball, listed as "Orioles Featured Columnist" - posits that the Twins and Mets should make a deal with starting pitcher Kevin Slowey going from the Twins to the Mets in exchange for 2B/SS Reese Havens, 3B Jefry Marte & reliever Eddie Kunz. How the Twins would take 2 "iffy" prospects, at best, along with Havens would baffle the sanest of men - and, quite frankly, I'd make this trade so fast that I'd actually have all 3 in Twin unis before they even landed in Minnesota!! And would pay for their first class airfare to get there!!! For a link to BR's post, click here

The best columnist in baseball, Joe Posnanski (in my opinion, anyway) just posted an article about Greinke and it's a must-read - you can read it by clicking here


Mack Ade said...

there are a lot of players in the Mets system that have the talent to someday play in the majors, but are not in position to be a Met.

Players like Ruben Tejada, Zach Lutz, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Josh Satin, Eric Campbell, Jordany Valdespin, Robbie Shields, Kai Gronauer, Lucas Duda, Brandon Moore, Robert Carson, Chris Schwinden, Mark Cohoon, adn Eric Beaulac could be packaged, but it would take a lot more than that.


Jose Reyes, Jenrry Mejia, and Lucas Duda.

David Rubin said...

First, you'd have to eat a good portion of Reyes' contract, and I don't see the Royals wanting him for the simple fact that they'd have to sign him to the same long-term contract that they don't want to pay Greinke for. If they DID accept Reyes, the Mets would probably have to pay 1/2 his 2011 salary, which means Greinke costs $20 mil for 2011 AND the Mets don't have a major league shortstop in place. Mejia is a long-term stopgap, so I wouldn't trade him unless I knew for sure that Greinke would sign a 6-year deal to stay with the team. Duda is a given.

Mack's Mets © 2012