How do you think Toronto fans felt about Roy Halladay back in January 2008? Were they worried about him being shipped out at the deadline in 2009? He has three years left on his contract! We'll worry about this in June of 2010. Well, he was very nearly dealt mid-summer of 2009, and never threw a pitch as a Blue Jay in 2010. He was basically "locked up" as a Jay through 2008.
Last off-season, when Dayton Moore signed Zack Greinke to a new contract, I took some heat for calling the deal "good, not great". My main point of contention was that, in reality, the contract wasn't much of a long-term extension, given that the Royals would have still controlled Greinke in 2009 and 2010. Basically, Moore did two things with the contract. First, he avoided arbitration with Greinke in '09 and '10, for $3.75 M and $7.25 M, respectively. Secondly, Moore signed Greinke to a two-year contract for 2011-12, for $13.5 M per year.
Now, before we go any further, I must say this. Obviously, with Greinke's step forward in 2009, both in terms of pure performance and in terms of becoming a known/established/popular/media-covered quantity, Greinke's salary for the next three seasons is now much lower than it would have been if Greinke was not locked up. Without that contract, the smartest thing for Greinke to do would be to stay with the Royals for his last arb-year, then hit the FA market after this season. Of course, in that scenario, he would be looking at a massive contract. Massive.
So in terms of the money, Moore really did well here. Really well.
Now, back to the years. Greinke's locked up, but not tremendously so.
So, we cruise through 2010 with Greinke. He's awesome, he only makes $7.25 million, life is good. So fast-forward to 2011. What happens if the Royals are ten games out and uninspiring near the trade deadline? Last season, both King Felix and Halladay were supposedly on the market, simply because they only had 1.5 years left on their contracts. Not 0.5 years, 1.5 years.
There's no way of predicting what the future will hold. However, it does seem like we've entered a new phase in which a) the trade value for big league players is declining in some sense and b) nobody is paying much for true rentals anymore. Because of these developments, the time to trade players instead of "getting nothing in return" has seemingly moved up a year: so the time to trade a guy moves to the 1.5 year mark instead of 0.5.
Now, of course, no two situations are the same. The Blue Jays play in the AL East, the Royals play in the AL Central, where Greinke can compete with Wichita State's roster behind him.
So here's where we're at: Greinke has three years remaining on his contract. Clock's ticking, Dayton.