As the 2010 home schedule came to a close, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo informed reporters that the Washington Nationals' number one priority of the offseason was adding a no.1 starter to the top of the rotation, "...to put everybody in what we feel is their proper place in the rotation," as Mr. Rizzo said then. Following the GM Meetings in early November, the tone changed somewhat, as the second-year general manager and career scout surveyed the pitching landscape this winter and determined true aces were in short supply. Mr. Rizzo told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "The Nationals' search for a top starter won't be easy", that a trade was the most likely route for acquiring the pitching they desired, but the team had to decide if, "to fill that hole, that No. 1 starter," would, "..create so many other holes in you ball club that it's not worth it?" Could the Nats simply wait a year (one in which they're not expected to compete) for the return of Stephen Strasburg, whose departure left the void at the top of the rotation they were seeking to fill?
The Nats' general manager, who's spent the last five years helping to rebuild the organization from the ground up, told the Washington Post writer that he was willing to deal prospects from, "'certain positions on the team where we have great depth,'" while noting that obviously, "'Those are the decisions that you have to make based on the player or players that they're asking for.'" The focus of the trade talk had always been Tampa Bay Rays' right-hander Matt Garza and the Kansas City Royals' Zack Greinke. While the Rays have wavered on whether or not they'll deal Garza, the Royals' situation with Greinke, the 27-year-old former Cy Young winner, who's reportedly unhappy in the AL Central's cellar, seemed likely to demand Kansas City deal their ace.
As ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote this morning, in an article entitled, "The accelerated market for Zack Greinke", the Royals' situation just got a little more desperate. Last night reports surfaced that Greinke had fired his representatives and hired new agents, "Jeff Berry and Casey Close of CAA (Creative Artists Agency)." FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi reported the change in representation last night in an article entitled, "Sources: Greinke asks Royals for trade", where he reported that Greinke had not only switched agents but also (as the title hints) officially requested a trade:
"After Greinke switched representation from SFX Baseball to CAA, a high-ranking executive from another team told FOXSports.com, "He really wants out of K.C." Separate major-league sources confirmed that Greinke has unequivocally asked the Royals to be traded."
As ESPN.com's Mr. Olney sees it, this forces the Royals' hand. They can trade Greinke now, (with their leverage lessened some by his demand), or suffer through Spring Training where all eyes will be on Greinke and all the talk will be about his future with the team. The Royals might want to deal the pitcher now, however, before he takes the mound again and potentially lessens his value further if he underperforms as he did last season when he was reportedly unhappy with the direction of the team and their prospects for the near-future when he'd be in his prime. Mr. Olney writes that the Texas Rangers, oft-mentioned as a potential destination, "made what they considered to be an aggressive offer for Greinke during the winter meetings, only to learn that they were far short of Kansas City's expectations." Mr. Olney (on Twitter @Buster_ESPN) had previously reported that the Royals asked the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Kyle Drabek, a key piece of the deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philly, and Travis Snyder, an '06 1st Round pick who's got 183 MLB games and 25 HR's on his resume.
SI.com's Jon Heyman, writing in the "Around the Majors" section of an article entitled, "Beltre and Soriano now focus of attention in surprising offseason" quoted an anonymous general manager who said the Royals were, "'...asking for a lot more than [Drabek and Snider].'" According to Mr. Olney, the Washington Nationals already know what it will cost them to acquire Greinke:
"The Nationals were told that in order to get Greinke they would have to surrender Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, and second baseman Danny Espinosa."
While Mr. Olney suggests that the Royals will, "gradually reduce their demands, until they can make a deal they find acceptable," Kansas City Star writer Sam Mellinger, whose story this morning entitled, "Greinke changes agents, still wants to be traded", Mr. Olney links to, quotes KC GM Dayton Moore saying, "'Nothing’s changed...if and when we decide to deal him, it’ll be a deal that makes sense for the future of our organization that blends in with the talent we have."
The top pitching prospect in the Nats' system heading into the '09 season, who's fully-recovered from Tommy John surgery, will turn 25 next May and is expected to pitch at or near the top of Washington's rotation this year. The Nats' second '09 1st Round pick, a 23-year-old major-league ready closer who has only to claim the job this Spring for it to be his. The top infield prospect in the Nats' system, who made his MLB debut at 23-years-old last season and figures to start at second if he's not dealt. How much do the Nats want Zack Greinke? Can they afford to wait til the price possibly goes down? Is there any way D.C. GM Mike Rizzo gives up Zimmermann, Storen and Espinosa to get the Nats a top-of-the-rotation arm? And is there any chance Zack Greinke would approve a trade to the Nats, who are on his no-trade list, if Mr. Rizzo agreed to part with that package? In Rizzo We Trust?