SI.com's Jon Heyman, if recent reports are accurate, had it right from the start. The fact that the Washington Nationals and D.C. GM Mike Rizzo were interested in now-former Kansas City Royals' ace Zack Greinke this winter and were actively pursuing the former Cy Young award-winning right-hander, is common knowledge at this point. On the day he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers this past winter, Mr. Heyman, on Twitter (@SI_JonHeyman), explained why Greinke had rejected the Nats' advances:
"Greinke rejected #Nats but accepted #Brewers [because] he believes Milwaukee can win sooner, i hear. also said to like city..."
The SI.com writer, according to a report last night by Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin in an article entitled, "Desire to win now kept Greinke from joining Nationals", was also close when in an early January report entitled, "Angels top teams with shopping left to do before spring training", he wrote that though, "GM Mike Rizzo said he didn't want to discuss something that didn't happen," his sources were telling him that Mr. Rizzo had the finances available to land the right-hander: "...sources suggest they offered something along the lines of $18 million annually on a long extension, believed to be for about five years."
In the Washington Post article published last night, Mr. Sheinin wrote that the Nats made, "an offer of a $100 million contract extension," to Greinke and confirmed that the Nats were willing to put together a package for the Royals that would have included, should the 27-year-old have agreed to waive his no-trade clause and agreed to accept a move to the nation's capital, a selection of players expected to have a significant impact in D.C. this season:
"The Nationals indicated to the Royals that they were willing to part with Jordan Zimmermann, one of their top young pitchers, and discussed other names such as reliever Drew Storen and second baseman Danny Espinosa."
The problem? As Greinke saw it, the Nats were on their way, but not quite ready:
"'Not saying [the Nationals] don’t have a chance, but I was trying to get to a team that was looking really good at the moment. And I believe [the Nationals] will be good eventually.'"
All of this was reported in detail over the weeks and months that followed the Nats' attempts to acquire an ace to go with their big free agent outfielder Jayson Werth, though some of the other names that they targeted and some of the prospects that might have been included in any deal with Kansas City varied according to the source of such reports. Mr. Sheinin's colleague at the Washington Post, writer Thomas Boswell, in a January 5, 2011 article entitled, "Adam LaRoche signing shows Washington Nationals now know nothing is free", wrote that one thing was clear when the dust settled, "it's now indisputable that the Nats really were set for an offseason of fireworks, including those "top of the rotation pitchers" that Rizzo talked about seeking."
Greinke says much the same in the Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin's article:
"'The Nationals got Jayson Werth, and if they got me to come there, then free agents and other players start thinking, ‘Hey, Washington’s getting some players,’ Greinke said. 'I think that was a big reason they wanted me — to convince other players to come.'"
Mr. Boswell's premise in the article on Rizzo's big plans, however, was that the Washington Nationals might have paid the price this winter for their reluctance to spend the big money in the past, but perhaps the aggressive approach to acquiring an ace on Mr. Rizzo's part will pay off in the end. Greinke tells the Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin that he liked what he saw when he met with the Nats and owner Ted Lerner:
"'What got us talking seriously was the fact their owner wants to win really, really bad," Greinke said, referring to Nationals managing principal owner Theodore Lerner, with whom Greinke met in person. 'They convinced me they were really trying, and I believe them.'"
As SI.com's Jon Heyman had originally written, it was the fact that the Nats weren't ready to win now that influenced Greinke's decision. The Nats would have been parting with important pieces of their future plans in order to bring in an ace when they aren't an ace away from competing. Greinke said much the same to the Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin, telling him, "'The Nationals are trying to build a winner,' Greinke said, 'and if I’m going to go there, I didn’t really want them to trade away the players they were going to build around. That hurts their team.'"
But in 2012-13, when Greinke, who hasn't yet signed an extension with Milwaukee, is playing out the final year of his current deal and looking at free agency, and Stephen Strasburg is (hopefully) back pitching alongside a more-experienced Jordan Zimmermann and whichever prospects the last few drafts produce, could the Nationals have impressed the right-hander enough that he'll consider Washington as a home? Greinke's response when asked:
"'Maybe it works out better that the deal [with Washington] didn’t go through,' Greinke said. 'In two years I might be a free agent, and then they get to keep the players [who would have been] in the trade. And some of those guys could end up being key players for them...'"
Maybe? [Rizzo points to future.]