Zack Greinke reportedly is one of the most coveted players in this season’s trade market. Greinke is a free agent at season’s end and is just 28. He already has five seasons of an ERA+ in the 120’s (park-adjusted ERA 20 percent better than league average). This season his ERA+ so far is 205, which means his park-adjusted ERA is 105 percent better than the National League average.
For his career Greinke has struck out 8 batters per 9 innings pitched, walked only 2.3 per 9 innings and given up 0.3 homeruns per 9 innings. His career ERA+ is 116. His career pitching Wins Above Replacement ranks 20th among active pitchers. There isn’t a younger pitcher ranked higher on the active list. The only pitchers in the top 25 younger than Greinke are Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain. If Greinke is not a legit ace, he’s pretty close.
There are whispers that Greinke wants to pitch for the Braves and some rumors that the Braves have some interest. But it would likely be tough for the Braves to give up the prospects required to get Greinke if they are only guaranteed 2-3 months of his services.
Honestly I don’t know how much a team may know behind the scenes, as far as whether a player is likely to sign with their team. There are obviously rules against negotiating with a player while he’s playing for another team and I’m sure no team would risk any sort of severe punishment for getting in to serious talks with an opposing player’s agent. Plus, it would ruin the player’s leverage in contract negotiations if he made his intentions known that he really wants to play for a particular team.
But perhaps the Braves realize Greinke has some interest in playing for them and strongly suspect he would sign with them at a reasonable cost. If such stuff goes on behind the scenes, teams and players likely would keep it under wraps to a very strong degree to avoid getting anyone in trouble. So we will never know it that kind of stuff goes on.
One option for the Braves, if they want Greinke, is to ask the commissioner for a time frame to negotiate an extension once a trade is agreed upon. This happened with Alex Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox during the 2003-04 off-season (before the players’ union wouldn’t allow him to restructure his contract and he was traded to the Yankees) but I can’t remember this happening with an in-season trade. With a star player like Greinke, it’s possible that the commissioner would give the Braves permission to negotiate but, again, I honestly don’t know if there is any precedent for this, in-season.
The Braves could just make the trade and risk losing Greinke after the season. If this would assure them of a World Series title, maybe even just the NL Pennant, of course they should go for it and not look back. The problem of course is that nothing is guaranteed and you would hate to lose talented young arms like Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado for just 2-3 months of Zach Greinke without winning anything.
If the Braves are pretty sure they can sign Greinke to an extension and are willing to go all out to sign him, I’m all for going for it. It will probably take a Teheran or a Delgado plus 2-3 lesser prospects. I would give Milwaukee it’s choice of Teheran, Delgado or Minor plus throw in 2-3 lesser prospects; perhaps even Teheran or Delgado, plus Minor and a lesser prospect or two.
This isn’t a Mark Teixeira trade. The Braves can’t make that type of trade simply because they don’t have those types of prospects. Also, the Braves would give up young pitching in a Greinke deal for a proven pitcher who really isn’t that old. Young pitching is a huge risk. Unless you have a clear-cut, absolute stud in your farm system, you should not be afraid of parting with young pitchers in the right deal.
Of course the fact that Greinke is a free agent at season’s end would be the hang-up. It’s hard to know for sure what the Braves are thinking when it comes to re-signing Bourn or signing some of their young talent to long-term deals, buying out arbitration years. If they don’t see any fairly cheap, quality centerfield options out there, they may need to pass on Greinke and go hard after Bourn. And it’s impossible to know what kind of maneuvering they could do with some players, in the way of trades, to free up some budget space. (Personally I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they explored an Uggla trade this off-season to clear some payroll, in a move somewhat similar to the Derek Lowe trade.)
If the Braves feel pretty certain they can sign Greinke, they should be willing to give up one of their young pitchers with stud potential. That young pitcher would likely be Julio Teheran.