A Zack attack


Zack Greinke would look much better in pinstripes and navy than he does in royal blue. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

What if? What if? What if? What if Andy Pettitte retires? What if Cliff Lee stays with the Rangers? What if the Yankees are left empty-handed on the open market and are forced to contemplate a rotation with only CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and a whole lot of question marks? Those are the questions of which nightmares are made for Yankee fans.

As the ALCS plays out, the Yankees know they have a mini pitching problem on their hands. Last year, they used just three starters en route to their 11-4 run through October, and this year, they saw A.J. Burnett spit the bit in a pivotal Game 4, which also happened to be his first start since October 2. Their supply of reliable pitchers has dwindled, and that number could sink even further.

We’re awaiting the end of a series against Cliff Lee, and many in baseball seem to think that Game 7, if it comes to it, could be the last time Cliff Lee faces the Yankees for a few years. If you can’t beat, the saying goes, throw enough money at him so he’ll join you. If it’s about the money, as Patrick Rishe at Forbes explored earlier this week, Lee will land in New York. He could make around $180-$200 million in salary and endorsements if he signs with the Yankees, and the Rangers, despite their new-found wealth, can’t even begin to approach a $25 million annual commitment for Lee.

But it’s baseball, and we can’t predict it. If Lee re-ups with Texas, the Yankees will look to the trade market, and as we know, the Royals will listen to offers for Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award. The mercurial right-hander is owed $13.5 million in 2011 and 2012, and the perennial small-market Royals would love to clear some salary.

On the surface, Greinke is an alluring target. Despite suffering through a down-year — by his standards at least — the 27-year-old has some impressive numbers over the last three seasons (and for what’s it worth, Buster Olney’s sources think that Greinke’s numbers were down because he was bored in Kansas City last year). He’s made 98 starts with an ERA of 3.25 and a FIP of 2.98. He’s given up less than a home run while averaging 2.2 walks and 8.4 strike outs per 9 innings. He won’t come cheap, and because my trade proposal is bound to suck, there’s no point speculating. If the Mariners wanted Jesus Montero plus for three months of Cliff Lee, we can only imagine what the Royals should want for two full years of Greinke.

Olney, who first broke the Greinke story, listed his most likely destinations a few days ago. Interestingly, the top 13 unlikely destinations are mid-market teams that are a player or two away from competitiveness. Those are the franchises that could truly stand to benefit from a Greinke trade. The Yankees and Red Sox, says Olney, are among the ten teams with the pieces to land Greinke and perhaps the need too. He writes:

The first question that both teams would ask before seriously pursuing Greinke is how they think he would adapt to their high-pressure markets. Keep this in mind: The Yankees do have excellent catching prospects, and the Royals need catching, and even if they sign Cliff Lee, they would not hesitate to make a Greinke deal if they thought he could adjust to New York. GM Brian Cashman always has believed in shooting for high-end pitching.

Therein lies the rub — or two rubs. As Jon Morosi reported yesterday, Zack Greinke has a restrictive no-trade clause. This year, he can block trades to 20 teams; next year, that number sinks to 15. Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are on that list and seemingly for a good reason. Greinke has suffered from a social anxiety disorder and depression, and the various beat writers and scouts who have at least a passing knowledge of Greinke and his make-up question whether or not he would be able to handle the pressure of pitching for the beasts of the AL East. Think Javier Vazquez Redux.

In an ideal world, the Yankees would be able to separate Zack Greinke the pitcher from Zack Greinke the person. They could trade from their depth and take on Greinke’s modest salary. After all, he’s making less than A.J. Burnett and is a near-lock to outperform A.J. over the next two seasons. But it’s impossible to take Greinke’s arm without his head, and that might very well be a deal-breaker. Greinke is an appealing name for the Yankees, but it just wouldn’t work out for those two.


  1. mike c (LETS GO YANK KEEEZ) says:

    felix>>>>greinke anyway

  2. JobaWockeeZ says:

    I honestly don’t know how much SAD and his depression will affect him. He’s a beast and people will know he has an issue so people won’t bash him on the airwaves for pitching a ball.

    Maybe a full stadium is different but it’s not like Greinke never pitched in a big city before.

    • Klemy says:

      I’m with this. It would seem to me that more if made of the SAD than it’s affects would actually be. I would gamble that he’d be fine in pinstripes. Of course, with his no-trade including the Yanks, the point is probably moot.

    • Zack says:

      He’s a beast and people will know he has an issue so people won’t bash him on the airwaves for pitching a ball.

      Yeah right. That’ll be Lupica/Francesa/Sherman/etc #1 mission- Operation Break Zack.

      • I am not the droids you're looking for says:

        Yeah assuming that folks will treat him with kid gloves is a massive misread of the NY MSM (and fan) market.

        Regardless, I don’t think he’s worth the price UNLESS he pitches a second year closer to his 2009 performance, and less like his 2008 and 2010. Don’t get me wrong, those two years were great, but 2009 was scary elite. So if we are being asked to pay scary elite prices, I would strongly prefer to know which performance level can be expected. Another 2008/2010 then I think that’s what you’re getting. Another 2009 and you have better reason to believe that it can happen again, SSS be damned.

    • chris c. says:

      Why bother. It would be nice if Cashman did his due diligence and came to the conclusion that Greinke is a great pitcher but a terrible fit for NY, instead of the usual belief that anyone will fit here because they’re the Yankees and have great clubhouse support.

      Doesn’t matter anyway……Greinke will just refuse any deal to the Yankees.

  3. CP says:

    It probably won’t matter (since the Yankees will probably be on both lists), but does anyone know when the no-trade list changes?

  4. It'sATarp says:

    It might not necessarily need to include montero..i mean the angels got Dan haren foe Joe Friggin Saunders…/peeved we didn’t offer a better deal

    • Am I the only Kevin? says:

      The fact is, guys like Saunders (young, established innings eaters) have significant trade value – more so than “close to ready” prospects like Nova, Noesi, or even higher upside guys like Warren. This is why I keep harping on giving the #5 rotation spot (when open) to a prospect/young guy (i.e., Joba in 2011) instead of a veteran retread. Even if your prospect develops only into a back-rotation guy, that still has significant value for trade purposes.
      Middle to small market teams are constantly looking for reasonable salary guys to plug into their rotation, so it makes sense to use your #5 rotation spot to develop them.

      • Thomas says:

        Joe Saunders isn’t a young innings eater though. He is 29 and he has only broken 200 IP once (this year). Also he hasn’t posted an ERA+ of over 100 since 2008. He has little to no upside.

        Most importantly, he is entering his 2nd year of arbitration meaning, which considering he made $3.7 million this season, he won’t be particularly cheap.

        Joe Saunders as a centerpiece for Haren is awful.

        • Joe Saunders as a centerpiece for Haren is awful.

          He wasn’t the centerpiece, though. He was an important part of the package designed to fill a specific and real need, and they wouldn’t have done the deal without him (or someone like him), but he wasn’t the centerpiece.

          The prospects were.

        • vin says:

          Yep, not only will he get relatively expensive the next 2 years, but he’ll be a FA after that… a 31 (32 in June) year old FA.

          Not sure what the DBacks were thinking. They got some salary relief, but Saunders won’t help them long term. And among the two young players they received, one has some upside but is still in A ball, and the other is an unimpressive 25 year old in AAA/MLB. Hell, the DBacks gave up the best prospect in the deal, Tyler Skaggs.

          Not 100% sure what the Yanks were willing to offer, but that return isn’t very impressive. Especially considering they traded the following players to acquire him (and Conor Robertson) in 2007…
          Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith.

          • Am I the only Kevin? says:

            What TSJC said above. Saunders wasn’t the centerpiece. He was, however, a deal maker guy. The Diamondbacks wanted prospects AND someone they could plug into their rotation to replace Haren who would be league average (4 years prior to trade ERA+ of 102, 131, 98, 88, in 107, 198, 203, and 120 innings, respectively). The last numbers are for only his part 2010 year in LA. How is this not league average? Further to this point, post trade, Saunders pitched 82 innings for Arizona to exactly a 100 ERA+.

            Prior to this season, we have not had any established pre-arbitration pitchers in our rotation since Wang. If you remember, every time there were rumors of a trade for a high end starter, Wang was asked for.

            Don’t get me wrong. Do I want Saunders on the Yanks? No. He is just a fungible, low risk, and relatively cheap arm – little downside and little upside. His trade value is high, however, because some other team has taken the training wheels off.

  5. Hughesus Christo says:

    Who Cares?

  6. dan genovese says:

    we do not need to trade the best hitter we have developed since cano for a head case.

  7. RobC says:

    He should be able to find a good psychiatrist in NYC and maybe do the Steve Carlton thing and stick cotton in his ears when he pitches.
    Also do not read the newspapers

  8. Zack says:

    Questions about his performance suffering because he was bored as a major leaguer?

  9. Steve O. says:

    If Clee Lee signs with the Yankees and Andy Pettitte comes back, then no, I don’t want to give up many key farm pieces for Greinke.

    If Cliff Lee doesn’t sign, and Pettitte comes back, then I still don’t want to give up key farm pieces.

    If neither Pettitte nor Lee come to the Yankees, then yes, I’d be willing to swing a deal for the young(relatively) right hander.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      To me it would all depend on which pieces. If both Lee signed and Pettitte comes back… then probably no (would mean trying to unload some of Burnett’s deal). If there’s an open rotation spot (+ open $) and the Royals will take an offer the Yankees feel is less valuable than Greinke, then why not?

  10. tc says:

    It’s much more likely we’ll see Lee in pinstripes next season than Greinke. Where’s the Posada retirement discussion?! Surely he must retire, my grandma can run and throw better, though he can admittedly still hit a baseball. Cervelli’s got seniority but he gets no love from youze guys on this blog (I useta think youze was all crazy but lately I’m not so sure), so who do you want to be our catcher, assuming we DON”T win the Series this year? A rookie?! OK, a very good hitting rookie (per the scouts) but one who has never called a MLB game? You want a rookie catching Lee? Oh, yes, well there is that Buster Posey thing. OK, I’m fine with it!

    • Steve O. says:

      Posada has another year left in his deal. No way he gives up 13MM, because your grandma can ‘run and throw better’. And Posada/Montero/Backup C that isn’t Cervelli will share the position.

    • mike c (LETS GO YANK KEEEZ) says:

      i’m in favor of signing buck to C, and have montero/posada split reps at C and DH

      • CP says:

        Why waste the money on Buck for a third catcher? Not to mention the issue of why he would want to come to the Yankees to be a third catcher, when he could probably find a starting role somewhere else.

        Montero and Posada can split the catching and DH spots, and leave only a handful of games for a third catcher. Cervelli can fill that role well enough.

        • Steve O. says:

          It’s not a ‘waste’. Cervelli stinks, and a third catcher will help mitigate his awfulness. When Montero comes up you flip Cervelli or the third catcher. Everyone could use a catcher.

          A road block in this is that why would someone come here to backup at C? There’s ample playing time, look at Cervelli, but even then, I suspect he’ll be cautious.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            You are aware that Buck is an All-Star C who had a 115 OPS+ this season, right?

            No other team is going to offer an All-Star C more money and years to be their starting C than the Yankees will to be one of 3?

            The reason to call it a “waste” is that the $10+ mill Buck is going to get might be better spent elsewhere. It might not. Depends on the Yankees plans (I wouldn’t mind seeing Montero spend most or all of next season in AAA, for example). I’ll spend money on Lee, Jeter, and Mo before Buck, though.

    • It’s much more likely we’ll see Lee in pinstripes next season than Greinke. Where’s the Posada retirement discussion?! Surely he must retire, my grandma can run and throw better, though he can admittedly still hit a baseball. Cervelli’s got seniority but he gets no love from youze guys on this blog (I useta think youze was all crazy but lately I’m not so sure), so who do you want to be our catcher, assuming we DON”T win the Series this year? A rookie?! OK, a very good hitting rookie (per the scouts) but one who has never called a MLB game? You want a rookie catching Lee? Oh, yes, well there is that Buster Posey thing. OK, I’m fine with it!


      • Ted Nelson says:

        I don’t really see the problem with off topic comments. If someone has a thought I don’t see why they should have to wait from a RAB writer to introduce a thread on it (which may never happen). If you don’t care to discuss that topic, ignore it. If I wanted the discussion topic dictated to you I’d head to a MSM site. I come to blogs to be part of the discussion.

    • Tom Zig says:

      At least he didn’t say “this is off topic, but……”

  11. Enoch44 says:

    If the Yankees actively pursue Greinke, I’d hope they’d continue to try to pry Soria away as well. It’d be worth the high cost of talent.

  12. Mister Delaware says:

    I’d root against it just because the non-baseball downside is so high.

  13. steve s says:

    The Yanks drafted and then unceremoniously released Greinke’s brother Luke after a short stay in the system. I’m sure that left an unfavorable impression on the Greinke family.

    • pat says:

      Unceremoniously? He sucked. That’s business.

      • Steve O. says:

        This. The Yankees weren’t going to keep Luke Greinke on the payroll in future hopes of being able to acquire his brother. That’s insane.

        • steve s says:

          Who said they should? The point is Greinke’s feelings about playing for the Yanks (never something that seem to be positive anyway) could have been adversely affected by what happened to his brother. That’s not too much of an inferential leap.

  14. paul says:

    pass on greinke..doesnt have the mental makeup for NY…

    • Steve O. says:

      How is that? I can see this being a problem for a middling pitcher, but an ace like Greinke? He wouldn’t fail much, and the crowd would embrace his awesomeness. We’ve got the best fans at times, and we’ve got the worst fans at times. AJ Burnett’s year was terrible, but how many times was he booed miserably? Not many. Greinke would have to be monumentally bad to receive boos from the fans.

      This whole ‘mental makeup’ stance is overblown.

      • Sayid J. says:

        But it’s not just about being booed. It’s also just about the general pressure of being in NY and the media and headlines after a bad start, things like that. I really don’t think the mental makeup aspect is overblown. He’s been quoted as saying he isn’t sure if he can handle NY, there’s a reason NY is on his blocked trade list.

  15. A.D. says:

    One can ask the question if his mental make-up can fit in NYC, without him having controlled or uncontrolled depression or SAD, just as it’s asked of almost any big ticket name brought to NY, “can he perform here”.

    • Here’s my take on it:

      The SAD issues alone aren’t enough to make me say no. The prospect cost alone isn’t enough to make me say no.

      The two of them together is enough. His SAD issues is like doubling-down on the risk factor involved in trading away talents like Montero + other dynamite stuff (Banuelos?) for one single guy.

      • Steve O. says:

        I agree. Although I don’t think his SAD issues will come to fruition in NY because he’s so damn good.

        • Your idea that the fans won’t get on his case because he’ll be good is one I don’t buy.

          Yankee fans are notorious idiots (like every other fanbase in sports). Greinke could go 20-11 with a 3.65 ERA and fans will be pissed that he didn’t go 24-7 with a 2.41 ERA.

          He can have 10 great starts in a row and get booed when he gives up 6 runs in the 11th start.

          • Steve O. says:

            Really? I thought about it your way, then I thought that they never boo CC Sabthia and Andy Pettitte.

            Your point is valid, though maybe I underrate the idiocy of Yankee fans?

            • vin says:

              It’s because CC and Andy don’t have the history and/or perception of being “weak” (mentally, physically, whatever). The idiot fans prey on those who they’ve been conditioned to hate, or at least question.

              I honestly don’t think the constant articles questioning whether Javy can pitch in NY won him any favor with the fans.

            • Zack says:

              I’m pretty sure CC got booed. Mariano’s been booed, Jeter’s been booed, the entire 25 man roster for the last 9 years has been booed.

            • Sayid J. says:

              I think another part of the issue is that because people are already starting say they don’t know if he can handle it, his first bad start will confirm this, and the boos will grow from there. Sorta like Javy this year, he could’ve started off this year really well and a ton of people would still be waiting for him to falter so that they can jump on him. Greinke would be much the same, at the first sign of trouble, SAD is all you’d hear about.

  16. MikeD says:

    Is Greinke a beast? He certainly had a great 2009, but basically had a pedestrian 2010. Looking at his career in total, it’s clear 2009 was an outlier. I believe he’s a better pitcher than the league-average 100 ERA+ he tossed up this year, but before the Yankees make a trade, they need to assess exactly how good they think he’ll be in coming years, and what’s the price to put on that talent.

    Second, I noticed when Mike posted the original Greinke story there were a few comments that people here (on RAB) are ignorant of social anxiety disorder and shouldn’t be commenting on it how it will impact Zack Greinke in NY. Hmmmm, ok, sure, that’s true, yet there was nothing said on why a pitcher with social anxiety disorder would necessarily make a good match for the NY Yankees. According to one definition on the interwebs, “social anxiety disorder typically involves a persistent, intense, chronic fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by one’s own actions.” I don’t know if that’s what Greinke has, but if it is, I can certainly see pitching in New York as an additional substantial challenge for someone with that condition. This place has broken many a man. Also, the fact that Greinke’s subpar year in 2010 might be attributed to boredom doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies about his mental fortitude.

    All these things need to be taken into account, and then the leads to the most important question. What price? To what level will the Yankees strip their farm system of top-level talent? Montero, Brackman, Banuelos, Sanchez?

    • To what level will the Yankees strip their farm system of top-level talent? Montero, Brackman, Banuelos, Sanchez?

      I don’t think I’d accept that deal if I was Dayton Moore. Especially since I have Will Myers hitting .346/.453/.512 in Hi-A. Montero has to be included, but you’ve got to give me a legit MLB talent in addition to him; the Brackman/Banuelos/Sanchez lottery tickets probably won’t cut it (even though they’re really good lottery tickets).

      • Sayid J. says:

        Montero, Hughes, Gardner?

        • vin says:

          That’s way too much, IMO.

          I don’t really see the Yanks trading Hughes, even straight up, for Grienke. Especially when you consider the various factors – contract, age, temperment, etc.

          Zack is great, but his contract will expire just as their team will start to get really interesting. Grienke came along about 5 years too soon for that franchise.

      • vin says:

        “you’ve got to give me a legit MLB talent ”

        Gardner? Joba? Robertson? The Yanks are short on affordable MLB talent. Gardner probably represents the best fit. Joba is going to start getting expensive, especially if he gets moved back into the rotation. Robertson is just a reliever.

      • MikeD says:

        …which is understandable on the part of the Royals. Yet that gets back to my concern. I’m not comfortable trading most/all of our top minor league talent, and including a legit MLB talent to get him. I think I’m in the minority on this, as the prospect of having Greinke seems to excite many. I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the Yankees. I’m just not convinced it will be a good match based on the price we’ll have to pay in talent.

  17. John D says:

    sad to say this reads more like a typical MSM tabloid column. it starts out promising, but abruptly out of nowhere at the end you just drop in, “it just wouldn’t work out for them” and the only rationale given is that he suffered from social anxiety disorder in the past and some vague passing reference to Vazquez. i’m not saying it’s necessarily a good fit, just do a better job of supporting your theory. give more sound, thoughtful reasons. any comments from doctors? any thoughts from KC beat writers who have followed him closely over the past 2-3 years? etc. why would or wouldn’t it work? not a very well thought out post.

    • MikeD says:

      Benjamin’s post was reasonable, touching on the positives of Greinke, while also acknowledging his social anxiety disorder. A statement such as “But it’s impossible to take Greinke’s arm without his head, and that might very well be a deal-breaker” is not a firable offense…unless he works for NPR. (red meat).

    • any thoughts from KC beat writers who have followed him closely over the past 2-3 years?

      As I said, none of the people who have covered or spoken with Greinke believe he can succeed in New York. I’ve spoken with a few of them and the thinking is unanimous.

      What more would you want? I can’t pick up the phone and call Greinke’s psychiatrist, but I’ve spoken with enough people who cover both baseball nationally and the Royals to get a sense that Greinke’s mental demons and the way they’re manifested in the no-trade clause should give the Yanks pause before going after him.

  18. JM3RR27 says:

    two ways to look at this:

    a) greinke enjoys the challenge of pitching in new york and excels. this is the same guy who was so bored of baseball at one point he’d create games within the games he was starting. maybe hell enjoy the chance of actually winning for a change?

    b) hes not mentally strong enough to handle it and the yanks lose a big prospect package for what ends up being a guy who puts up mid rotation numbers.

    if greinke becomes available to the yanks, it will be a tough call

  19. Johnny O says:

    The Royals will probably trade Greinke to the Sawx for Casey Kelly and an Evil Empire shirt signed by Larry Luchino.

  20. bpasinko says:

    With Myers Hosmer and Butler, do the Royals need/want Montero?

    They need pitching and the Yankees have a lot of young arms. Joba may not have much value, but him Gardner and 2 of the killer B’s could be at least enticing.

    • Gardner and two of the Killer B’s isn’t remotely enough.

      They’d take Montero and then trade Billy Butler.

      • MikeD says:

        I think one reason they passed on Montero for Soria (if indeed that was a legit offer) is Butler. If they viewed Montero as a 1B/DH type, they figured that slot was blocked by Butler. Yet, as you imply, the smart thing to do if they acquire Montero is turn around and trade Butler.

        Perhaps they’re worried about the fan reaction of trading both Greinke and Butler in the one off season. They shouldn’t, but doesn’t mean it’s not part of their thought process.

      • bpasinko says:

        2 B’s, Gardner and Joba.

        I realize it’s maybe not enough, but realistically what offer could top that from another team.

        They get major league ready pieces and some upside pitchers. If Greinke doesn’t want to go to a big market, and the Royals want MLB ready guys, not sure how a non major market could do better.

        If Greinke forces the issue, that seems like a trade they could at least discuss.

  21. Ted Nelson says:

    While I see the pressures of NY, everyone commenting about how Greinke’s head is going to explode the first time he’s booed… guess what? He’s also likely to get booed anywhere he pitches. He might get booed in his home stadium, he might get booed on the road. Anywhere he pitches he’ll be making some of his starts in absolutely packed stadiums in front of 10s of thousands of people. You have to hope that his goal is to pitch for a winner, and any playoff situation is going to bring pressure. In NY your exploits might be more public knowledge among more people, but on a day to day basis I don’t know that it’s going to be anything more than marginally different from anywhere else.

    Also, Javy was injured his first go-round with the Yankees and has clearly lost his stuff. I don’t know that it’s NY so much as luck. Sort of hate everyone throwing around his name as a poster-child for this NYC disease. Not because I particularly like him, just because I think it’s largely speculation.

    A couple people, but not many, have pointed this out: the Yankees also have some positives to offer a pitcher with SAD. He’s likely to win more games with a good offense and solid defense behind him. More wins = more love. He becomes pretty anonymous both in NYC and on the Yankees. He’s probably going to be able to walk right down Broadway without one person recognizing him until he becomes either famous or infamous. As long as he’s not awful, he’s not being counted on for all that much as one of (if Lee signs) 4 aces. On a staff were he is THE ace, that’s a lot more pressure. If he gets a bit rattled during a game (no idea how SAD works), Jeter’s going to walk up to him. He can look around and see All-Stars and future HOFers all over the field.

  22. BigGuy says:

    According to Peter Gammons on Mike Francesa’s show the other day, Greike said he will not sign with any of the big market teams.

  23. Andrew S says:

    What about a third option? Jon Garland, anyone? He’s no ace, but he’ll give you 200 IP with ~4.00 ERA.

    Or perhaps Brandon Webb? He’s a former Cy Young, he’ll be 33 in May, he hasn’t pitched in two seasons, but if he’s healthy he obviously can put up some great numbers. If he gets back to pitching strength I would take a gamble on him for sure. I know it’s an ‘if,’ but if he gets back to being Brandon Webb, he would be one hell of pitcher to be on the Yanks’ staff. Obviously he isn’t left handed, but neither is Greinke… and at least we wouldn’t have to sacrifice much on THIS gamble.

    Just trying to think outside the box a bit :-)

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