Thearon W. Henderson
The Washington Nationals pursued former Kansas City starter Zack Greinke when the then-Royals' right-hander was available via trade in 2010, but the pitcher refused to waive his no-trade clause at the time. Could the Nats pursue the starter again this winter?
When the Kansas City Royals were entertaining offers for a then-27-year-old Zack Greinke in the winter after the 2010 season, the Washington Nationals made a play for the right-hander. As D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained at the time in an interview on MLB Network Radio, the Royals allowed the Nats to talk to Greinke about potentially waving his no-trade clause so that the two teams could discuss a deal:
"It was mostly about waiving his no-trade clause. That was what the conversation was about. And in the conversation we mapped out the plan that we had with Washington. We had a great conversation with him. We brought in not only myself, but ownership. We have two people in our organization who are very close to Zack in [Special Asst. to the GM] Deric Ladnier and [Special Asst. to the GM] Bob Schaefer... Deric drafted Zack and Bob was in Kansas City for a long time. That's about where things ended with Zack because he didn't waive the no-trade to allow us to make a deal for him. But he's a great young man. We would love to have him anchoring the top of our rotation and we wish him well until we play him."
According to reports at the time, the Nationals were willing to offer the '02 1st Round pick and '09 Cy Young award winner a 5-year/$90M dollar extension to get him to come to the nation's capital and pitch atop Washington's rotation. When Greinke was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause, however, discussions ended. Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote in a chat at the time that, "... the Nats and Royals never got anywhere close to picking the actual Nats players in the trade," and dispelled rumors that any deal would have included the likes of Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa and Drew Storen:
"... it is incorrect to think that the Royals were going to get ANY three they wanted or the BEST three __like Z'mann, Storen and Espinosa. No way. They'd probably have gotten ONE of them, plus a Bernadina and perhaps a cacther (not Ramos)."
It never got as far as discussing names though. When the WaPost's Mr. Boswell's colleague, Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin talked to him several months later, after the right-hander had been dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers, Greinke told the reporter that his decision ultimately was about a desire to win sooner rather than later. The Nationals in Greinke's opinion, would be good soon, but the Brewers were more likely to compete immediately. The prospect of joining the Nats' rotation was apparently enough to pique the pitcher's interest, however, as he explained to the WaPost reporter:
"'It wouldn’t have gotten as far as it did [with the Nationals] if it wasn’t appealing,'" Greinke told the WaPost's Mr. Sheinin, but after meeting with the Nationals at a hotel in Orlando at the Winter Meetings, he decided that the deal didn't make sense for him, or, in his mind, for Washington:
"'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.'"
Asked if he would consider signing with the Nationals when he did eventually reach free agency at the end of the 4-year/$38M dollar extension he signed with the Royals in 2009, which was, "... roughly the time the Nationals expect to become legitimate contenders," as Mr. Sheinin noted, Greinke told the WaPost writer he might consider the possibility. "'In two years I might be a free agent,'" Greinke said, "'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.'"
The Nationals became a contender a year sooner than some expected with the help of left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who was acquired last winter in a 4-for-2 trade with the Oakland A's. Washington's once again in the market for a starter with Edwin Jackson and John Lannan considered unlikely to be a part of the 2013 rotation by most writers following the team. Greinke, however, is expected to get a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Angels, if they can keep him, or any other team that manages to sign the right-hander away from LA. The Nationals are said to be after a veteran starter who can pitch alongside their young-ish starters in a rotation that as of now consists of Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.
No one is talking about the Nationals as a potential destination for Greinke this winter with both of LA's teams and Texas mentioned often as being more likely landing spots. Greinke put up a combined (31-11) record with a 3.63 ERA, 91 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 401 Ks (9.40 K/9) in 62 games and 384.0 IP over the last two seasons with Milwaukee and then LA following a trade this past July. ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote in his article on the Top 50 Free Agents this winter that he'd be comfortable giving Greinke a 5-year deal, listing him as the top available free agent this winter.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote earlier this week that the Angels, Rangers and Dodgers could end up in a high stakes bidding war for Greinke's services. The Angels allowed veteran starter Dan Haren to become a free agent yesterday, in part according to reports, to free up cash to pursue Greinke. After Greinke there are still pitchers like, "... Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson [and] Hiroki Kuroda," who could be signed for significantly less by any team interested in pitching, Mr. Rosenthal notes.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo liked Greinke two years ago though, and the right-hander hasn't exactly hurt his value with his production in the two years since the Nationals pursued him, but the addition of Gio Gonzalez last winter may have provided the Nats with the top-of-the-rotation starter they were after when they initially pursued Greinke. Does it make sense for the Nationals to pursue a big-name, no.1 starter like Greinke this winter?