Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

The reported price for Greinke (updated)

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Zack Greinke at the Royal's photo day 2010. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America

12/19/10 update: this article is essentially moot: Zack Greinke was dealt to Milwaukee along with infielder Yuniesky Betancourt for four players (outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress (who played HS ball in South Boston ironically enough).  I’m not familiar enough with the Milwaukee prospects to offer opinion one way or the other; here’s some opinions on the trade from FanGraphs, Ken Rosenthal, Jerry Crasnick, Joe Sheehan, and Keith Law.  Also from beat writers Kilgore and Zuckerman.

And, according to Jon Heyman via twitter, the Nats were close to a deal for Greinke in a deal that may or may not have included Storen and Espinosa.  Read more below.

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About 6 weeks ago the question of a possible Nat’s trade for Zack Greinke came up in a Keith Law chat (link is ESPN insider only) and the trade proposal was Zimmermann, Espinosa, Burgess and Detwiler.  I wrote about this theoretical deal at the time, saying it was too much to give up.

A glass-is-half empty analysis of these four players (which was apparently the opinion of Law, since he thought this would be a good deal for Washington) is something along the lines of the following: Zimmermann is promising pitcher but has yet to really produce consistently at the major league level.  Espinosa is also promising but is replaceable by our up-and-coming 2nd base prospects Lombardozzi and KobernusBurgess has been solidly improving as he’s progressed through the system but he’s still the toolsy/high promise player that Jim Bowden adored but which has never really panned out.  Lastly Detwiler has shown flashes of dominance but lost pretty much the entirety of 2010 to injury and is getting pushed further and further down the rotation depth chart.

The glass-is-half full opinion of these four players is simple: they represent the bulk of our farm system’s player development over the past few  years.  These four players represent the absolute cream of our drafting crop over the past few  years; a #1, a supplemental #1, a #2 and a #3 round draft pick.

Now today, we are hearing the TRUE bounty that Greinke would cost, and it is similarly heavy.   Greinke has hired new agents and apparently demanded a trade.  He also has a limited clause in his contract that allows him to block trades to certain teams, and the Nats are on that list.  According to Buster Olney though, the Royals and Nats have been talking and he discovered the actual price it would take (another ESPN insider link): Zimmerman, Espinosa and new closer Drew Storen.  On 12/24/10, KLaw reported that the offer was Zimmermann, Storen, Norris.  Wow that would have been quite the bounty.

This trade option replaces the unknown players (Detwiler and Burgess) with the known quantity (Storen), and only seems slightly less palatable than the Law chat proposal.  Can the Nats possibly give up 3 of their planned “starting 14″ players (the 8 out-field players, the 5 rotation guys and the closer) next year for Greinke?

Here’s my problem: Greinke had the makings of looking like an otherwise solid pitcher with a one-year wonder season that won him the Cy Young in 2009.  Is he really an “Ace” in this league?  His 2010 season was unremarkable (an ERA+ of exactly 100, meaning he performed at the mlb average), but now scouts are surmising that he was tired of his team going nowhere and he was “bored” most of the year.  But the fact remains there is no guarantee he returns to his 2009 performance.

If i’m Rizzo, I say no to this deal.

One last note about possibly overvaluing “prospects.”  Storen, Espinosa and Zimmermann are not prospects; they’ve graduated to becoming “promising young players.”  They have all made the majors, they’ve all competed at the highest levels and the Nats have a decent idea of what they can do.  Guys like Detwiler (because of his injury history) and players who have never reached the majors (Burgess as mentioned in this post) are the real “prospects” in question.  Teams and Fans overvalue prospects in a pseudo-parental relationship because they’ve watched the players grow up and grow.  But as Rosenthal pointed out (in the linked article above), prospects mostly flame out or don’t become major leaguers.  That’s the difference; teams MUST be willing to part with prospects to get real players.

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  1. [...] time we’ve seen his name mentioned as being trade bait (one other that comes to mind was the proposed Zack Greinke trade.  At some point Storen is going to stop being the team player he clearly is now and become jaded, [...]

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