Ready To Go

Twitter more or less exploded a few times with a few reports that Zack Greinke would be willing to accept a trade to a big market team.

Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports reported a quote from a source (anonymous, of course) that Greinke likes the Yankees “because they’re winners” and that the 2009 Cy Young winner just wants to win.

This is a change from past reports that Greinke has a number of big-market teams on his no-trade list, but if this source is correct and reliable, Greinke could approve a deal to the Yankees.

With each passing day, I accept a little bit more that Greinke’s current contract, structured as it is, will just miss out on the start of the Royals real ascent towards legitimacy. Unless the Royals can extend him past 2012, he won’t be around to pitch alongside most of the upcoming prospects in games that mean anything for the standings. With Greinke making $13.5 million in the next two seasons, an extension beyond that point would be pretty pricey, perhaps too high for the Royals to pay.

That’s the start of a familiar script for Royals fans. Royals develop young star. Young star reaches end of contract. Royals trade young star. Fanbase weeps. Royals continue to rebuild.

It was that pattern that led to Greinke’s comments last August when he hinted that he didn’t want to be in Kansas City if it meant waiting on a winning team past 2012.

So now Royals fans get to speculate on what happens next. Dayton Moore has correctly been saying the right things in regards to trading Greinke, and it’s clear to teams in baseball that Greinke can be had – but it’s going to cost. There are few teams that can afford the prospect haul that Moore would require to move his ace, but it just happens that the Yankees are one of those teams.

Ken Davidoff at Newsday in New York heard from an NL executive that a deal of catcher Jesus Montero, outfielder Slade Heathcott and pitcher Dellin Betances would get the deal done.

In last season’s Prospect Handbook, Baseball America ranked Montero as the Yankees top prospect, Heathcott as their ninth overall, and Betances at #28.  Not bad.  In 2011’s rankings, they’re all in the top ten.  Even better.

With every whisper of a Greinke trade rumor, Dayton Moore’s been linked to saying he wants major league ready talent and high-level prospects. I think that offer would be pretty close. It’s not quite the “two starters with Greinke-like ceilings” we’ve heard about, but it would be a strong group of prospects.

Montero is among the top hitters in the minors. Ranked as the fourth overall prospect by BA going into 2010, he only put up an .870 OPS as a 20 year old catcher in Triple A. He knocked out 21 homers and 34 doubles in the process. Montero is a strong enough hitter that the Yankees have him penciled in to be the Opening Day starter behind the plate, shifting long-time catcher Jorge Posada to DH. That may be a path Montero is on down the line, as well, as his catching skills aren’t the strongest. Many believe he’ll move to first base and then to DH in the Yankees system (and BA’s projected 2014 lineup has him at DH with Gary Sanchez behind the plate).

Heathcott is projected in that same 2014 lineup as the Yankees starting centerfielder and he’s listed as being the best defensive outfielder in the organization. At barely 20 years old, Heathcott would probably start out in High A or Double A at first after a decent but not great season at High A Charleston. He put up a solid walkrate, but struck out nearly a third of the time. He also got thrown out in 40% of his stolen base attempts. He’s not a lock, but he’s coming off his first professional season at the age of 19, so he gets a few mulligans.

Betances is credited with the best fastball in the Yankees minor league system and at 6’8″ 245 lbs, he’s an intimidating force on the mound. Since becoming a pro in 2006, Betances has struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings. He’s walked 4.1 batters every nine innings, but he’s balanced that out by surrendering only 7.2 H/9 and 0.5 HR/9. With the Yankees High A team last season, Betances put up a 1.77 ERA and a 0.873 WHIP over 71 innings. He made three starts for Double A Trenton and gave up three homers over 14.1 innings, but also struck out 20 batter while walking just three. Betances had Tommy John surgery in 2009, so he’s not without risk. BA’s 2010 Prospect Handbook likens him to Daniel Cabrera, who had the look of a star pitcher and the stuff of an ace, but had no command (unless he faced the Royals). There are also concerns with his delivery and landing. All that considered, his stuff gives him the upside to be a #2 or #3 starter in the big leagues.

No matter who the Royals get back, I’d be a bit upset if they traded Greinke. I remember listening to his first major league start on the radio while assembling a desk in May of 2004 and I’d like to see him stay to see things turn around. It’s up to Dayton Moore and the other general managers if it happens.

And also Cliff Lee. If Lee signs with a team other than the Yankees, it may force them to offer more to snag an elite starter to complement C.C. Sabathia. Even if Lee did sign in New York, it’s not like that limits the Yankees from continuing to make an offer for Greinke. A Sabathia/Greinke/Lee rotation would be pretty sick, but the Yankees have the payroll and prospects to make it work. There’s also the possibility that the Rangers, if they lose the bidding on Lee, could offer a package of players to the Royals to lure Greinke away.

It’s going to be an interesting December, and these rumors aren’t going away any time soon. Brace yourself.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Cliff Lee Dayton Moore Dellin Betances Jesus Montero Kansas City Royals KC MLB New York Yankees Royals Slade Heathcott Zack Greinke

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