STOP THE PRESSES! According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Angels fully intend to make a serious bid. Seriously, for serious.
That is what the report says, anyway. The problem with the report is that it ignores some of the basic limitations of the Angels organziation which make this rumor a bit difficult to swallow.
The report is at least half right in that I am sure the Angels would love to add Zack Greinke to their rotation. That’s because every single team in baseball would love to have him on their roster. It is the other half of the rumor that proves problematic.
Zack Greinke is a big ticket item and big ticket items are always very costly. After signing Pujols in the off-season, everyone assumes the Halos are the new Yankees and will pay whatever monetary amount they have to in order to win. But all the rumors about the Angels prior to this Greinke report suggest that is not the case. For the last few weeks, word out of Anaheim was that the Halos were likely to have a quiet deadline. Not only did they like their roster, but they also had major concerns about adding to a payroll that is already over $150 million. Yes, the Angels have a massive new TV contract, but there is also a reason they heavily backloaded the contracts of Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. Until that TV money really starts flowing in, it might take some real arm twisting to get Arte to expand payroll significantly beyond its current limit. That isn’t to say it can’t happen, we all saw it happen when Moreno opened his wallet for Pujols, but it also doesn’t mean he is going to be so easily convinced to do so again so soon.
Really though, the money is only a small part of the problem. Greinke is owed over $6 million for the rest of the season. That is nothing to sneeze at, but it also isn’t enough to be an obvious deal-breaker, especially since the Brewers could always eat some of the money in exchange for a richer bounty of prospects in return via trade. But therein lies the rub. The Angels may not have enough trade assets to make such a deal worth Milwaukee’s while even if the Angels take on all of Greinke’s salary.
The general consensus is that the Angels’ farm system is in the bottom ten in baseball, maybe even worse than that. Where they are especially lacking is in prospects that are close to ready for the big leagues. They’ve got Hank Conger, Jean Segura, maybe Ariel Pena and Kole Calhoun. End of list. For Milwaukee, a team that still intends to contend in 2013, that is a big problem. The Angels could go for broke and offer up Peter Bourjos and/or Jordan Walden, two major trade chips, but those would be very significant assets to forfeit for a rental player. Even then, that may not get the deal done once Texas and their bountiful farm system and their own deep pockets jump into the bidding.
Of course, that may be just what Jerry Dipoto wants to have happen. In his first year on the job, Dipoto has proven to be a cagey executive. He’s made several impactful moves but has never been one to tip his hand. The lone exception to that was the courtship of C.J. Wilson but that was largely out of the necessity of making appeasing Wilson’s desire to be publicly lusted after as a free agent. But the Pujols signing, that famously came out of the blue after Dipoto threw cold water on the idea of pursuing Albert mere days before signing him. Similarly, his deals to acquire Chris Iannetta and Ernesto Frieri didn’t get any coverage at all until they actually went down because that is how Dipoto likes to operate. That’s how the Angels under Moreno like to operate too, even dating back to the dark days of the Reagins era and, to a lesser extent, the Stoneman years.
So why would the Halos suddenly throw their hat into the Greinke ring for all to see? It gives them no advantage in acquiring Greinke, but it does let other teams know that they have a big spender to contend with for Zack’s services. Gosh, that sounds like a great way to artificially inflate the price of a player that your archrival is zeroing in on.
Call me cynical if you want because, well, I am cynical and it’s worked pretty well for me in the past when it comes to tempering my expectations for the trade deadline. Like I said, the Angels no doubt want Greinke, but they have to know that they are going to lose if it becomes a prospect bidding war with Texas or really any other contender. They also have to be concerned about blowing their entire prospect wad on a rental player.
There is one good reason to be cynical of my cynicism though. In Heyman’s report, he claims a source close to Greinke believes that the Angels are a “perfect fit.” That translates to, I might sign an extension with you if you trade for me. If that is really the case, then it make sense for the Angels to risk a big prospect package. It still doesn’t make much sense to make their pursuit public, but maybe they think Greinke needs to get word that they think he is a “perfect fit” too.
With three weeks left to go before the deadline and the Brewers still pretending that they might not be sellers, this situation isn’t going to clear itself up anytime soon, but at least you can now set your expectations for a deal appropriately based on your own level of cynicism.