Lost in all the, "the Nationals are better off not gutting their roster" talk which followed the Milwaukee Brewers' acquisition of now-former Kansas City Royals' right-hander Zack Greinke here and elsewhere, is the fact that D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was willing to make the deal and would have if the 27-year-old one-time Cy Young award-winner hadn't used his no-trade clause to block a move to the nation's capital's Nats. Zack Greinke would be a Washington National right now. Washington was one of 15 teams the pitcher contractually had the right to say no to, and according to reports from SI.com's Jon Heyman which were later confirmed by MLB.com's Bill Ladson, that's just what Greinke did. The Nationals made the best offer, or at least the one that Kansas City's general manager Dayton Moore liked best, but the deal Greinke signed with the Royals ultimately allowed him some power to determine his destination and he used it to avoid being dealt to Washington.
"Royals had been talking about getting RHP Drew Storen, SS Daniel Espinosa, others from #nats, but Greinke said no to Washington," SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) wrote on Twitter shortly after the deal between Kansas City and Milwaukee became official Sunday morning, "Greinke rejected Nats but accepted Brewers [because] he believes Milwaukee can win sooner, I hear. Also said to like city." Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt in a blog post yesterday entitled, "Nationals opened door for Brewers", wrote of how Brewers' GM Doug Melvin, "jumped in the breech to acquire [the] right-hander," but only, "after Greinke nixed a proposed trade to Washington," which depending on your sources could have included Espinosa, Storen, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, catching prospect Derek Norris, or potential future outfielders Michael Burgess or Destin Hood. (Yes, someone mentioned Hood.)
After a career of losing in Kansas City, the Royals' '02 no.1 overall pick reportedly saw the Brewers as a more competitive team, with a chance of making a run at the post season in the near future. "Apparently," the Journal-Sentinel's Mr. Haudricourt wrote, Greinke must have, "...figured Washington was not on the verge of doing so, and I think most baseball people would agree." The 27-year-old right-hander had to look no further than the Nats' skipper Jim Riggleman if he wanted to know how the Nats view the own prospects for future success.
In a late October interview with 106.7 The Fan in DC's Mike Wise Show w/ Holden Kushner, the Nationals' manager told the shows hosts when asked (as recounted by Washington Post D.C. Sports Bog writer Dan Steinberg in a post entitled, "Riggleman: Nats will make move by mid-'12"), that with recent success in the draft and the continued improvement of the prospects already on the roster, "'I think that by the middle of the year '12, [the Nats] ballclub could really be putting some pressure on the rest of the division.'" Which is exactly what Greinke said he didn't want to wait for in Missouri.
Greinke's heading into the final two years of the 4-year/$38 million dollar extension he signed in 2009 to avoid going to arbitration with the Royals. The deal would end by the time either the Royals or Nats believe they'll be ready to compete, and though I'd always assumed Washington wouldn't have made a deal without at least the promise of an extension in place, there's been no such talk out of Milwaukee in the forty-eight hours since reports of the deal first broke. According to at least one reporter's sources, however, if the Nats have been able to sign another pitcher this winter, or he had chosen another home, the Nationals might have found their ace.
Though there's been no confirmation, outside of what Jayson Werth and once-again Phillies' lefty Cliff Lee said about possibly signing in the same city in their press conferences, that Lee had once seriously considered Washington as a home, MASNSports.com's Phil Wood wrote early Sunday morning in an article entitled, "Greinke goes to Milwaukee, assist to Cliff Lee" that his sources tell him Greinke at one point considered D.C. an acceptable destination:
"He'd previously shown a willingness to come to D.C. - until Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies.
"According to sources close to Greinke, the Nationals, following the acquisition of Jayson Werth, looked like a solid spot, but that Lee joining the Phils' rotation changed everything. The road to a NL East postseason berth narrowed considerably in Greinke's mind, but the NL Central? That's a winnable division, possibly as soon as this season."
Having lost out on Greinke, will the Nationals turn to the top free agent left on the market and sign soon-to-be 35-year-old right-hander Carl Pavano? Though Pavano's name has been mentioned in connection with the Nationals' search for a starter, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote in an article entitled, "After Greinke deal, Pavano-Twins reunion more likely", that his own, "...sources say the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals – who had attempted to acquire Greinke – haven’t seriously pursued Pavano," though he expects they might now that Greinke's no longer a possibility. The Nationals would now have to outbid not only Pavano's former team, but every other club still in search of "front-line" pitching.
The Nationals were willing to deal some of the top talent in their system to acquire Greinke. They were willing to sign Cliff Lee if he would have come to D.C. They expressed interest in potential international free agent Yu Darvish before he decided to remain in Japan at least until next winter. The Nats might still make a deal with Tampa Bay for Matt Garza if the Rays decide they are willing to part with a starter, or they could just wait.
When confronted with the reality of the pitching market at the GM Meetings early last month, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo recognized what was going on out there and as he told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, as quoted in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "The Nationals' search for a top starter won't be easy", though he recognized the need for a top of the rotation arm, and was willing, "... to go every avenue to get that player," they might just have to, "...wait until  to obtain it, [when] Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann become that 1 and 2." Go ahead and sign Pavano if you want, and he'll be a strong no.3 in the second and third year of his deal, or wait and see what's available next winter. There are other holes to fill on the Nats' roster. Having failed to sign or acquire a pitcher, address those.