SI.com's Jon Heyman was the first to report that former Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke had invoked his partial no-trade clause to block a trade to the Washington Nationals, writing on Twitter (@SI_JonHeyman) the morning that Kansas City's deal with the Milwaukee Brewers was announced that the, "Royals were close to deal w/ Nats, but Greinke had right to reject trade to [Washington] and told KC he wouldn't go. He approved Crew, tho." The SI.com writer followed up on the initial report by explaining that the 27-year-old one-time Cy Young Award winner, who wanted out of another rebuilding year in Kansas City, "...rejected Nats but accepted Brewers [because] he believes Milwaukee can win sooner, i hear. Also said to like city."
Now he's back with more, reporting tonight that via Twitter (again @SI_JonHeyman) that, "Word is, Nationals offered Greinke big extension to entice him to come. He still rejected them, then accepted Brewers."
And if that wasn't enough, to make you feel a little worse about your team, the SI.com writer would just like to make sure we're clear about the fact that the, "reason Greinke wouldn't go to Nats is he didn't believe they could win. It was never about the money for him." The Nationals offered a package, or were willing to, that included, according to most reports, some combination of shortstop Danny Espinosa, reliever (and '09 1st Round pick) Drew Storen and according FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal report after Greinke's block in an article entitled, "Rosenthal: Notes on Greinke trade", right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Eury Perez," but not all of them. "[They] never reached agreement on an actual trade before the pitcher vetoed the idea of going to Washington," Mr. Rosenthal wrote.
The only way a trade like that would make sense for the Nationals would be for them to sign Greinke to an extension that would keep him in the nation's capital beyond the end of the 2012 campaign when his current deal expires. The Nats, who've been fairly open about the fact that they don't expect to be competitive before the 2012-13 window when all the talent currently on the roster has [hope]-fully matured couldn't make a 4-or-5-for-1 deal like that which was rumored without knowing that Greinke would still be around when Stephen Strasburg was back, Bryce Harper was up and Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and whichever prospects take over in the infield and outfield by that time were ready to make a run, and it's no surprise that Greinke looked at Washington and saw exactly what he was asking to get out of in Kansas City, a two-year wait after seven years of not making the playoffs with the Royals...
The Nats knew it was a longshot too. In a December 16th chat entitled, "Ask Boswell", Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote that the Nationals, "...think Greinke is better than [Cliff] Lee and four years younger and are far more interested in him," but as Mr. Boswell quoted Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explaining, "'Their evaluation of Greinke is the same as ours. It will take a king's ransom to get him. And it should [be] a 2-3-or-4-for-1 trade," Rizzo told me the other day." If the Royals were willing to give Greinke up for prospects, Rizzo was going to try because, as Mr. Boswell wrote, " Rizzo hates the words 'prospect' and 'potential,'" and, "He loves the phrase 'proven major-league production.' You ALWAYS trade the former for the latter."
For the Nationals the move would have been one for the future, just like the Jayson Werth deal isn't necessarily expected to pay off in 2011. Greinke's no doubt heard enough about building for some undefined future time at which he'll be allowed to test himself under pressure against the game's best, and wants to win now. There's little mystery there, but why is it that the Nats' attempts to better themselves angers teams and writers around the country. There was a firestorm of criticism after Washington failed to trade Adam Dunn at the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, with one anonymous rival executive telling SI.com's Jon Heyman in an article last July entitled, "MLB executives assess teams' performances at trade deadline", that, "'What they did with (Adam) Dunn is a sin,'" :
"'They had the most attractive trade piece and kept him. Kenny Williams (of the White Sox) is the most aggressive GM in the game and he acquired a pitcher (Edwin Jackson) to set himself up for a (Dunn) trade. It can't be him...'"
Mr. Rizzo's response to criticism like this? In a post by the D.C. GM and MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, the General Manager reacted to the reports around the league of rival GM's anger with the way the Nationals conducted themselves, by explaining that for any such unnamed angered executives, "'...there was a way to get the player if you really, really wanted him,'" :
"'And there was no ambiguity about what the player was. The teams knew exactly what they had to do. If they give us this player, we make the trade. Without this player, there was no trade to be made. And giving us three or four names instead of the name we want wasn't going to work.'"
The reason the White Sox' GM wasn't willing to give up what Washington wanted? [And it was Gordon Beckham in my and other people's opinions.] Ken Williams had to know there was a possibility Adam Dunn would become a free agent and he would have a chance to sign him for nothing but cash and a draft pick rather than giving up the prospects or proven young talent it would have taken to make a deal at the deadline, and he did just that, signing Dunn for 4-years/$56 million this winter after failing to work out a deal in July. Rizzo didn't apologize when Dunn walked and the signed with White Sox either, instead thanking the slugger for his contributions and explaining that they'd offered what they thought he was worth and were rejected.
When there was criticism of the size of the deal the Nationals gave to Jayson Werth, the D.C. GM acknowledged in another article by MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling entitled, "Rizzo: "I don't apologize for signing Jayson Werth", that he could, "understand some of the comments, but we're taking care of ourselves,":
"We're trying to build something special here, and we thought this player exemplified what we're trying to do. I don't apologize for Jayson Werth. We're a better ballclub today than we were yesterday without him."
The Nats didn't apologize for not trading Dunn, they didn't apologize for signing Werth flat-out outbidding everyone and they won't apologize if they overpay for Adam LaRoche or bring Carl Pavano to Washington by offering an extra year for more money than Minnesota's willing to give. I think the league's forgotten that this franchise isn't in Montreal any more. They're not a farm system for the league. Mike Rizzo and his Front Office know what they want and they're willing to do what they have to do to get it. There's no reason to apologize for making a run at Greinke, or to be embarrassed that a package of prospects and an offer of an extension couldn't get the deal done. Greinke saw what Nats fans see, and what the team themselves have admitted, they're not there yet, but they'll do whatever it takes to get there.