As the saga of Ryan Dempster has became an afterthought, Frank Wren reiterated yesterday that Atlanta has moved on and is “looking for impact pitching.” While names like Josh Johnson, James Shields, and Jon Lester have been brought up, the guy who seems to get the bulls-eye is Zack Greinke. The package could be substantial. Unlike Dempster, Atlanta has to potentially deal with a lot of teams after the Brewers right-hander. The Rangers, Orioles, and White Sox all look to be heavy on Greinke with a team like the Nationals as a possible last-minute addition to trade talks.
Would a package of Julio Teheran, Zeke Spruill, and Joey Terdoslavich be enough to get Greinke? I would think that it probably would be or would be close to the price, but should the Braves do it?
No. The chance that Greinke would provide a significant impact on this season is minimal. I know that the difference between Jair Jurrjens and Greinke is tremendous, but one of baseball’s secrets is that deadline, impact players rarely turn a season around, nor deliver a championship. The Giants gave up Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, who was superb and posted an OPS over .900 down the stretch (though I believe he had a few injuries). But it did not fix San Francisco’s offense, which finished dead last in R/G. The Giants finished four games out and due to his contract’s details, the Giants couldn’t offer arbitration. He left for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Wheeler may land in New York for the Mets sometime next year and cracked the Baseball America Top 40 before the season.
In fact, World Series winners typically tinker with their club, not go after the best available player. The Cardinals gave up on Colby Rasmus and added a hodgepodge of players last July, including Octavio Dotel, Rafael Furcal, Edwin Jackson, and Mike Rzhoweverthefuckhisnameisspelled. The 2010 Giants added Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez to help their bullpen. The 2009 Yanks added Jerry Hairston Jr. The 2008 Phillies did acquire Joe Blanton, which some might have deemed a big move. The ’07 BoSox got Eric Gagne (who sucked). In 2006, the Cardinals acquired Ronnie Belliard and Jorge Sosa (from the Braves). The 2005 ChiSox went after Geoff Blum. Now, in 2004, the Red Sox made a huge trade with a lot of moving pieces to bring Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mie-whatever in, but the guy they dealt (Nomar Garciaparra) was arguably the more notable guy.
(Note: I realize some, if not all, of these teams made deals before July and even in August. I’m focusing more on deadline trades.)
And as most people know, due to the new CBA, teams can’t pick up compensation picks for rentals. That’s not to say that the Braves should stay pat. They should seek out pitching, both for the rotation and bullpen. They should seek out an outfielder to replace Matt Diaz. They should fire Fredi Gonzalez.
But I don’t believe Zack Greinke will make the Braves a contender, nor be worth the package of players the Braves will have to surrender. But, wait, what about a window to sign an extension? That changes everything, doesn’t it?
No. Matt Cain’s $112.5 M extension over five years and Cole Hamels’s freshly signed $144M extension over six years has upped the price tag quite a lot for Greinke to be a long-term option. Even if he says “I love Atlanta, I want to be here” and signs a potentially below-market extension around $95M over five years, that’s just not a price tag I believe Atlanta can deal with. If the payroll limit is in the $95M range, paying Greinke $19M a year means that you are devoting 20% of your payroll to a pitcher who gets the ball 33 times a year, if healthy. Adding Dan Uggla and the likely exercised options of Tim Hudson and Brian McCann and for four players, Atlanta would be devoting $53M, or 56%, of the payroll. Martin Prado and Eric O’Flaherty have a year of arbitration left and the list of those beginning arbitration is noteworthy (Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, and Jonny Venters). Michael Bourn and David Ross are free agents.
Conservatively, if you add the arbitration-eligible guys I mentioned, I would say the Braves would have $25M to fill the rest of their team (15 players). That’s the entire bench and a hole in CF without any legitimate in-house options. McCann/Hudson are free agents after 2013 and Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel are added to the arbitration crowd in 2013.
Atlanta would be better off tinkering with the team, dropping some deadweight, and hoping to catch lightening in a bottle. Trading for Greinke is exciting, but unless Liberty Media wants to give Frank Wren another $10-$15M of payroll space to work with, extending Greinke could potentially railroad the Braves.