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Will Zack Greinke Actually Be Traded?

With each passing day, there seems to be more and more rumor momentum regarding a Greinke trade. (Not to brag, but someone predicted this would happen a year ago.) Let me start by saying that I think Zack Greinke should be traded. On balance, I think that it makes sense, given that Greinke is only going to be under contract for 2011 & 2012. The Royals are going to be terrible in 2011 and probably not even .500 in 2012.

However, this is, in many ways, a pretty terrible time to trade Zack. Upon reflection, there are still a number of factors working against a Greinke deal getting done. Most importantly, he's coming off of what is widely perceived to be a "down" season in 2010. Because of his backstory, I'm sure there are a number of people in the game who believe that he was a one-year wonder who couldn't truly handle the pressure of being a Cy Young Winner. Prior to 2009, Greinke was one of the more under-rated pitchers in baseball, which is in part, why in 2009, people acted like he had suddenly come back from his anxiety problems. He hadn't. He'd been back for years. Just nobody noticed. Moreover, Greinke has the ability to block a trade to 20 teams, so now we're dealing with a pretty small pool of attractive destinations + places that make sense baseball-wise + smart GMs who wouldn't be scared off.

Secondly, Greinke is set to become more expensive. Greinke is owed $27 million over 2011-12. While $13.5 million per year is certainly a reasonable salary for someone of Greinke's value, he is, sadly, no longer hideously under-paid. By way of comparison, in 2009, Zack made just $3.75 million. His salary isn't onerous, but unlike before, it will be an issue during trade talks. When considering a trade, Moore will have to weigh whether he wants to shed all or most of that salary or not. Finally, Greinke's new team would no longer be receiving his services for very long.

Thus, when you consider the perceived arc of Greinke's career and his escalating salary, it's plain that his value isn't astronomically high. Honestly, the time to really make a franchise-altering trade with Zack has passed. That was last winter's moment and it has left us.


Nevertheless, from a purely rational sense, I do think that it makes sense to trade Greinke. However, this would likely be very unpopular with the mainstream Royals fans. Greinke is not a national star. He is a local star, and one of a peculiar kind. A Greinke trade is the kind of baseball move that would almost definitely need ownership's approval (no matter what anyone says). This isn't David DeJesus here. This isn't meant as a shot at Glass either. No GM in baseball has absolute carte blanche when it comes to trading away the... wait for it... face of the franchise. Last season, the Royals put Greinke all over their promotional materials, including one of those pamphlets that you see shelved in hotels and motels. I saw Greinke's face next to a Royals logo every time I stayed in a hotel in Iowa or South Dakota this fall.

Lastly, let's think about the trade itself. I think a realistic expectation is two prospects/young players. While you can never have too many prospects, there currently seems to also be a consensus that the Royals need to cash in on some of their hyped young prospects, before they inevitably get injured and or fail to live up to wishcasting. The return for these prospects? More established everyday Major Leaguers, of course. The problem is, players that are a) good and b) under contract through 2013 and beyond are just not traded much these days. The Royals aren't going to get a guaranteed Zack back for Zack. They'll have to take a riskier player or a worse one or some combination of that.

When you add it all up, unless the Royals decide that shedding Greinke's salary is really all that matters, a trade just doesn't look likely. The sweet spot, I would guess, for Greinke being traded is during next season, especially if Zack rebounds with a hot April. Cliff Lee's free agency decision could shake the bathtub one way or the other, but a blockbuster Greinke trade isn't exactly something I'm setting a Google Alert for. For now.