The asking price for Zack Greinke

(Steve Ruark/AP)

Yesterday we were all a little shocked to see the Royals trade Zack Greinke to the Brewers. That led to two inevitable questions. First, could the Yankees have topped Milwaukee’s offer? Second, what players would it have involved? As normally happens with these situations, at least one of those questions got a bit clearer the day after. It started with SI’s Jon Heyman reporting that the Royals wanted Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez. But, while he reports that Greinke would be amicable to a New York move, the Yanks “weren’t convinced NY was right for the kid.”

Before we jump to conclusions about what this means, let’s make sure to note the caveats that go along with Heyman’s statement.

1) The Royals might have wanted Montero and Nunez, but they likely wanted more than just those two.

2) There’s no guarantee that the Royals would have even taken the Yankees package had they offered it.

3) We don’t know what he meant by the Yanks not thinking NY was right for Greinke. We also don’t know where that information originated.

Let’s start with the last point first. Might social anxiety disorder have affected Greinke to a greater degree in New York than elsewhere? Maybe. Maybe not. To make an assumption either way is a folly. For most of the off-season we’ve heard comments about how Greinke couldn’t handle the pressure of New York, with the only evidence being SAD. But SAD comes in many varieties, and literally no one making such a comment has any idea what Greinke has experienced. Any presumption of his reaction to New York, then, is further folly. The only things we know about Greinke involve his performance on the pitcher’s mound.

That works both ways. After reading Joe Posnanski’s brilliant profile of Greinke on Friday, I was even more convinced that Greinke would be a fit in New York. A guy who despises losing above all? That seems to fit right in with the New York mindset. Yet to think that his SAD wouldn’t affect him in New York is as great a folly as assuming that it would. We don’t know what it would do. Again, all we can do is judge him as a ballplayer. That moves us to the first point.

That goes back to the argument that Joe Sheehan made, and that I echoed, last week: only trade Montero for the very best. In many ways, Greinke ranks among the very best. But in other ways he might not. The biggest obstacle here is not Greinke’s performance or his health issues, but rather his time under team control. He becomes a free agent after the 2012 season, which means the Yankees would be giving up six-plus years of Montero for two of Greinke. During that time span Greinke will make $27 million. Montero likely won’t make $27 million total until, at the very earliest, his second year of arbitration. And if he made a cumulative $27 million after his second year of arbitration, he’ll have put up some absolutely insane numbers.

Then there are the other chips to consider. As Joel Sherman notes, the Yankees view Nunez as a starting shortstop. He might not be as good a prospect as Alcides Escobar, even in the Yankees’ lofty estimation, but if they view him as a starter they shouldn’t treat him as a throw-in for every potential trade. On top of that, the Royals probably wanted one of the Yankees’ many right-handed arms. At this point we’re at a pretty substantial package. I’d argue that Montero, Nunez, and a RHP — whether it be Betances, Warren, or whoever — can provide more value to the Yankees in the next six years than Greinke will. That might come through performance, or through inclusion in another trade. But when we add up the value these players will provide, I’m confident it will be more than Greinke’s value in the next two seasons.

The Yankees have a difficult balancing act right now. They have a small window for their current crop of superstars. But then they have to reload for the next window. If they trade Montero for Greinke they lengthen the current window, but they hamper their chances of re-opening one soon. That might be tough for many of us to reconcile. After all, we want them to have the best possible team in 2011. But holding onto Montero is the correct move here. His bat will help replace the production of their current aging superstars. That should help them maintain a top team for years to come.

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Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

(Update, 10:31am): Turns out the Royals are getting a player to be named later, not Jeffress. The bigger news is that the Royals had a trade worked out with the Nationals, but Greinke told them he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go there, presumably because they aren’t a contender. Jon Heyman says Greinke also told the KC braintrust that he wouldn’t mind coming to New York, but it was his family members that had reservations. A deal was never close with the Yankees anyway.

(Original Post, 9:02am): Is this a crazy offseason or what? Late last night a blog by the name of Bernie’s Crew reported that the Royals and Brewers had agreed to a trade involving former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but everyone was understandably skeptical. When I woke up this morning, Buster Olney had already confirmed it, so Greinke is in fact joining the Brewers. Kansas City will receive SS Alcides Escober, CF Lorenzo Cain, and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Milwaukee will reportedly receive Yuniesky Betancourt and $2M as well.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the trade, I want to congratulate Jim Breen at Bernie’s Crew for getting the scoop. Independent bloggers get written off all the time because some schmucks out there throw out bad information as an attention grab, and it reflects poorly on all of us. Breen’s scoop gives him some big time credibility, and I’m genuinely happy for him. This blogging stuff ain’t easy if you want to be taken even remotely seriously.

As for the actual move, it really puts the Brewers right in the mix of NL Central contention. They picked up Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays earlier this year and just added a bonafide number one guy that they run out there every five days. Yovani Gallardo drops back into the number two spot, a job he’s overqualified for, and Randy Wolf becomes one of the better fourth starters in the game. They’ll have that rotation for the next two years (before Greinke hits free agency), but I suspect they’ll make some moves to really go all-in this season before Prince Fielder becomes a free agent next offseason.

Kansas City gets a young everyday shortstop and centerfield with five years of team control left each, plus one huge power arm in Jeffress (legitimately can touch 100, especially in relief) and one of the game’s better pitching prospects in Odorizzi. Their farm system was the best in the game before the trade, but it was lacking when it came to up-the-middle players close to the big leagues. Escobar and Cain help correct that, and dumping the Yuni-Bomber is a net positive as well.

The Yankees were never really a serious contender for Greinke’s services, even after Cliff Lee headed to the Phillies. They were concerned about his ability to handle New York, and while I don’t necessarily buy those concerns, the team had them and acted appropriately. I’m not sure the Yanks could have matched that package anyway since they don’t have a big league ready shortstop to send to the Royals (sorry, Eduardo Nunez fans). If the Yanks weren’t going to get Greinke, the next best thing would be for him go to the National League, and that’s what happened.

I was really hoping that Greinke would get traded to a big market just so he could put this “can’t handle the pressure” stuff to bed, so now I’ll hope for the Brewers to make it to the postseason and for Greinke to wreck the Phillies. Twice.

Rumor Round-up: Lee, Greinke, Downs

Slowly, slowly, the Hot Stove League is beginning to heat up…

Rangers to offer Lee five years

If the Yankees want to sign Cliff Lee, they’re going to have to make a significant commitment to him. While George A. King reported yesterday that the Yanks seem to have an easy path to landing Lee, today, he notes that the Rangers are set to offer five years to Lee. King believes the Yanks are willing to go six years for Lee at around $23 million per, and the Rangers are not expected to meet that offer.

The Rangers, says King, will try to convince Lee that he’s better off in a state that features lower taxes and is closer to home. But Lee seems to want the dollars. If it’s only about the money, the Yankees will land their guy, but I can’t be the only one nervous about paying yet another guy on the wrong side of 30 more than $20 million annually through 2016.

Yanks wary of Greinke’s Bronx desires

Yesterday afternoon, we reported on a rumor involving Zack Greinke. Supposedly, the Royals’ ace claimed he was amenable to pitching in New York despite earlier reports to the contrary. In the same King story linked above, The Post scribe notes that the Yanks are still wary of Greinke’s make-up. The Yanks, he says, “don’t buy it.” They believe he “does not want to pitch under the burning lights of the Yankees’ universe.” The Bombers are also unwilling to give up Jesus Montero, and it is believed that any package would start with the Yanks’ young stud.

Scott Downs, Type A, too costly for Bronx bullpen

With Damaso Marte out until forever at least the All Star Break, the Yankees want to find another southpaw to complement Boone Logan. To that end, Scott Downs is an appealing target. He’s been very effective for the Blue Jays for the past six years, and lefties in 2010 were just 12 for 79 (.152) against him.

Yet, the Yankees, says Ken Davidoff, will probably not pursue him. For one, Downs will turn 35 shortly before Opening Day, and for another, he’s a Type A free agent who declined arbitration. If the Yanks sign Cliff Lee, they’d give up a second-round draft pick for Downs, and if they don’t land Lee, Downs would cost them a first-rounder in a talent-rich draft. Cashman, says Davidoff, “doesn’t want to give up the draft pick.” Giving Downs the Damaso Marte money he’ll want and having to surrender a draft pick makes this alluring free agent simply too costly.

Source: Greinke says he ‘likes New York’

Here’s one from Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan that’s just designed to send Yankee fans into a tizzy: A source close to Zack Greinke says the mercurial ace would consider pitching in New York. “I wouldn’t put it past him to go to New York,” Passan’s source said. “I don’t think he’d rule out anybody. He says he likes New York. Especially because they’re winners. He wants to go to a team that wins. He’s got a list, but in the process, a lot of people have lists.”

This development essentially flies in the face of everything we’ve heard about Greinke so far. The right-hander, who has struggled with social anxiety disorder and depression, has reportedly been adverse to joining the Yankees, and his no-trade clause requires him to consent to a deal to the Bronx. Still, Passan reports that the Yanks and Royals have discussed Greinke and that the no-trade clause ” isn’t the impediment it’s been made out to be.” If Cliff Lee slips through their fingers or Andy Pettitte retires, the Yanks could very well begin to explore packaging some young talent for Greinke.

Link Dump: Catcher Defense, Downs, Greinke

Need some help passing the time? I got you covered…

Catcher Defense Rankings

Over at Beyond The Box Score, Matt Klaassen posted catcher defense rankings for the 2010 season using a weighted formula that includes stuff like throwing errors and passed balls and what not. Unsurprisingly, both Frankie Cervelli and Jorge Posada ranked near the bottom. Cervelli was tied with Jeff Mathis (Nichols Law poster boy) and Ryan Doumit for dead last at -9.4 runs, while Posada was right behind them at -8.6. Frankie and Jorge placed 119th and 117th out of 120 qualified backstops, respectively. Ho boy.

Don’t expect the Yanks to pursue Scott Downs

We know that Brian Cashman wants to add another lefty reliever to his bullpen this offseason, but Ken Davidoff says not to expect him to pursue Scott Downs. Downs held left-handed batters to a .241 wOBA last year, but he’s a Type-A free agent that will surely be offered arbitration by the Blue Jays. Cashman simply doesn’t want to surrender a high draft pick to sign a guy that will pitch about four percent of the team’s total innings next year. Can’t say I blame him. I’m sticking with my Randy Choate endorsement.

Blue Jays check in on Greinke

Zack Greinke is unlikely to accept a trade to New York, but the Jays are interested in seeing if he’ll go north of the border. Bob Elliott (h/t MLBTR) reports that Toronto has put a call in to the Royals about Greinke as well as Alex Gordon, though nothing is remotely close to happening. Dayton Moore is supposedly asking for a king’s ransom for his ace and with good reason, but if the Jays are willing to part with Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider (my speculation), you’d have to figure they’d get Kansas City’s attention. Imagine a staff headlined by Greinke, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, and Brandon Morrow. Yikes.

Rockies interested in Vazquez

Talk about a match made in what-the-hell-are-they-thinking heaven. Troy Renck (again, h/t MLBTR) says the Rockies are interested in signing two-time former Yank Javy Vazquez to solidify their rotation. Forget what happened in 2010, even if Javy rebounds back to his career norm, he’s still a fly ball pitcher (41.3% over the last four years, skewed by his 34.8% mark in 2009) that would be going to a homer haven park, humidor or not. Vazquez wants to pitch on the East Coast to be close to his family in Puerto Rico, so I can’t imagine he’d entertain the thought of joining the Rockies. Still, what the hell are they thinking? Does not compute.

Baseball America on Yankee prospects

Although the list hit the intertubes last week, BA officially released their list of the top ten Yankee prospects yesterday. Accompanying the list was a chat with author John Manuel and an article on the team’s pitching depth. Both are subscriber only, but here’s the gist: the Yankees have a ton of depth when it comes to middle-of-the-rotation and back-end starters thanks to a strong player development system, but expect them to trade a few guys to maximize value since those kinds of arms have little value to a perennial contender. Adam Warren was mentioned prominently in that scenario. That’s what farm systems are for, to plug holes and make trades, and the Yanks certainly have the inventory for that.