Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Mound Money

Fifty-one weeks ago the Toronto Blue Jays shattered the collective heart of its fan base when the club sent Roy “Doc” Halladay packing, leaving the team without a sure-fire ace in its starting rotation.

Despite the loss of their star player, it was still a pretty average year for the Jays, who toil in arguably the toughest division in all of baseball; but there’s no question that Halladay was missed on the mound.

Well, it’s now exactly fifty-one weeks later, and a replacement may finally be on the way!

Word out of the MLB Winter Meetings is that Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos is actively pursuing 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke of the KC Royals, one of the two big name pitchers available this off-season.

The Blue Jays sent pitcher Shaun Marcum, who picked up 13 wins last season, to the Milwaukee Brewers for Canadian second base prospect Brett Lawrie this week. That’s a deal that some believe is a precursor to a move that would see the Jays landing Greinke.

Here’s what the Royals are after for their prized possession though: two impact prospects, one being a pitcher, and another mid-level player or two to sweeten the pot.

What can the Jays offer? The Kansas City Star reports the Royals want pitching prospect Kyle Drabek (who came over in the Halladay deal) and outfielder Travis Snider – the Star say if those players became available a deal could “come together in a hurry.”

What exactly would the Jays get in return?

Zack Greinke is one of those special players who can surrender batters at will when he’s on his game. An example? When he won the Cy Young two seasons ago, he went 43 straight innings without giving up an earned run (September 2008-April 2009) and 111 innings without allowing a homer.

Fun Fact: The Blue Jays ended both of those streaks for him!

If you trade for Greinke you’re also getting a player who is coming off a sub-par season that saw him drop from a 16-8 record with 242 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.16 to 10-14 with 181 strikeouts and a 4.17 ERA. Then again, those numbers could be a product of a team that is gearing up for yet another “rebuilding phase” – something Greinke has been vocal about not wanting to be a part of. Here’s a telling quote from the KC Star back in August:

“This is at least the third full re-start/rebuilding phase since I’ve been here. And, obviously, none of them have worked. This one hasn’t even really started yet.”

In 2005, a 23-year-old Greinke quit baseball before being treated for clinical depression and social anxiety. Free of those shackles, he has risen to become one of the game’s elite pitchers but he is obviously frustrated with the two years he has left on a team that is going nowhere fast. I first started following Greinke after reading an in-depth article about him in Sports Illustrated that detailed what he has been through since becoming an MLB pitcher – very interesting stuff (click here to check it out).

In short, the Jays could really benefit from adding the 27-year-old to an already-solid pitching staff, and Greinke could benefit from a new start with a team really looking to make a push in the AL-East.

If not Toronto, where might he end up though?

The Texas Rangers are a team that has been trying very hard to get the Royals to listen in the last little while, only to be told that their offers aren't good enough. The Rangers, remember, are also trying desperately to hang on to ace Cliff Lee while teams like the NY Yankees are also in the hunt.

Some, like Richie Whitt of the Dallas Observer, are holding out hope that Texas will be home to Lee and Greinke on opening day of next season. Can they pull it off? Well, they came out of nowhere to nab Lee at the trade deadline so I suppose anything is possible!

As for Cliff Lee, two teams have reportedly offered him seven-year contracts while the Rangers want a five-year deal and the Yankees are holding steady at six. Seven appears to be the magic number for the 32-year-old though and while that sounds outrageous – that’s baseball for you (see: Jayson Werth signing a seven-year, $126-million with the Washington Nationals; more than what the Expos were “werth” when the MLB bought the team in ’02).

Are salaries in the MLB getting out of hand? With the current CBA set to expire in December of 2011, are we setting up for another potential work stoppage?

Let me know what you think!

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