Let’s Nip This in the Bud And Talk About Why Zack Greinke Isn’t Coming to LA

Royals ace Zack Greinke has requested a trade. The Dodgers, inexplicably, have been part of the group linked to him in rumors for a few weeks now.

I think you can see where this is headed.

I’ve already seen Dodger fans, somewhat understandably, coming up with pie-in-the-sky trade proposals that Kansas City would never accept. That’s only part of the problem, of course, because there’s a variety of reasons why this isn’t happening and shouldn’t even really be a topic. Reasons like…

1) The Dodgers don’t need another starting pitcher. I’m not saying Greinke wouldn’t look nice alongside Clayton Kershaw at the top of the rotation, because he surely would. Let’s just be realistic here. The Dodgers already have six starters, likely pushing Vicente Padilla into some sort of swingman role. So the last thing they need is to add another, and it’s not like much could be done to make room.

Due to various combinations of no-trade clauses and rules against trading newly-signed free agents, the foursome of Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland, and Padilla surely aren’t going anywhere. I’m certain the Royals – and every other team in the majors – would like Kershaw, but I wouldn’t even trade him for Greinke straight up. Some have suggested Chad Billingsley, but that makes no sense. You could argue that Greinke (3.34 FIP in 2010 / 3.59 career) isn’t a huge upgrade over Billingsley (3.07 FIP in 2010 / 3.68 career) when you consider that Greinke makes $27m over the next two years while Billingsley will get about $13m in arbitration over that time. Besides, the entire point of trading Greinke for Kansas City is that he’ll be free-agent eligible for the 2013 season, just about when their crew of top-flight prospects will be ready. So will Billingsley; it doesn’t help the Royals to trade for someone else who’d be gone when those kids are ready.

With a different front office, you could possibly consider the idea of acquiring Greinke, and then shipping Billingsley off for a power outfield bat. It’s not a terrible idea in the right situation, yet I don’t think any of us consider that the current front office is capable of such forward-thinking moves.

2) Greinke’s expensive. Well, sort of. $27m over 2 years for a pitcher of his caliber is actually quite reasonable. Yet the Dodgers 2011 payroll is at about $115m, and they don’t even have a left fielder. That’s already far beyond what we’d expected, and it seems impossible that they could shoehorn Greinke’s salary into that as well.

The only way you could even consider it is if you were losing payroll elsewhere, yet I think we all agree the Royals aren’t interested in Casey Blake or Rafael Furcal. That brings me to the most infuriating idea I’ve seen from fans – that the Dodgers should send Jonathan Broxton as part of a package to KC. I can’t even express enough how ridiculous of an idea that is. The Royals already have a better closer in Joakim Soria, they’re not looking to acquire players who will be free agents after 2011, and they’re in no position to be acquiring expensive relievers coming off of poor seasons. It’s ridiculous to even consider.

Just because it’d be great for your team doesn’t mean it makes any sense whatsoever for the other side.

3) The Royals want the moon and more for Greinke, and the Dodgers can’t supply that. KC’s asking price is crazy, but that’s exactly what they should be doing. With Cliff Lee gone, there’s no one else remotely near Greinke’s quality available, and if C.C. Sabathia doesn’t opt out of his Yankee contract after next season – it sounds like he won’t – then there won’t be any top free agent pitchers on the market next year, either. The Royals have a rare and valuable asset, and they rightfully want top value in controllable prospects who they can add to their growing 2013-18 dynasty.

To get an idea of how much they want, we’ve heard that they asked Toronto for “more than” Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider, and that conversations with Washington had to start with Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, and Danny Espinosa.

Drabek, a 1st-round pick in the same draft that brought the Dodgers Kershaw, just turned 23 and was the jewel in the Roy Halladay deal for Toronto. He’ll be in the Jays’ rotation this year; Snider doesn’t even turn 23 until the spring, yet just completed his 3rd MLB season and has an OPS+ of 103. The Washington crew is impressive too. Storen was a 1st-round pick in 2009 who had a quality rookie year last year and is the Nationals’ closer of the future. Zimmermann battled back from arm surgery to have a 1.59 ERA at four MiLB stops last season, and Espinosa, a second baseman, has an .820 OPS and 40 HR in parts of 3 MiLB seasons.

The Royals are known to want middle infield help, so any conversation with the Dodgers would have to start with Dee Gordon. They’re also known to prefer a center field prospect, so that’s Trayvon Robinson. If they liked Storen, they’d love Kenley Jansen, and then they’re clearly going to want a starting pitcher as well, and while LA doesn’t have a Drabek-type, someone like Rubby De La Rosa (who broke out at 21 last year) would certainly be nice.

So would you trade Gordon / Robinson / Jansen / de la Rosa for two years of Greinke? I don’t know that I would, and even if I would, I don’t know that it’d satisfy the Royals anyway.

4) Under no circumstances should the Dodgers be worried about pitching over offense right now. This isn’t new; we’ve been complaining about this for months. Yet the Dodgers have focused on pitching as the offense stagnates, and as each day goes by the Matt Guerrier deal looks worse and worse. (By comparison, Dan Wheeler, who’s a comparable pitcher with a better strikeout rate, signed for one year and $3m in Boston yesterday). Sure, I’d like Greinke, but not nearly as much as I’d like a left field situation that isn’t a black hole. I mean, we’re in a position where Jon Weisman is actually saying that Tony Gwynn – yes, the same one who had a .591 OPS last year – should be a starting outfielder, and I can’t even disagree with him.

So sure, it’d be nice to see Greinke in Dodger blue. It’d be a hell of a lot of fun to see him and Kershaw as a 1-2. It’s also not an idea that’s based in reality, unfortunately.

Now let’s get back to our regularly-scheduled groaning over the Scott Podsednik menace.

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