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Greinke Trade Waters Rising

Zack Greinke pitches vs. the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, June 27th.
Zack Greinke tossed six quality innings in yesterday’s 8-4 win over the Reds, but he gave some Brewer fans a scare when he was pinch hit for in the top of the 7th. This had everything to do with there being runners on second and third with no one out and nothing to do with a potential trade, but the amount of scouts in the crowd today was mentioned several times on the broadcast and despite the game situation, Brian Anderson even went so far as to mention that his exit “makes you wonder”.

Nevertheless, it seems we have reached the point where a Greinke trade is worth confronting with the non-waiver trade deadline just over a month away. While the season is not lost yet, the wagons are beginning to circle, as noted by FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi in his column last night. He notes three teams who had scouts at yesterday’s game: the Rangers, Angels, and Yankees.

Assuming Greinke is not offered an extension to his liking (got Matt Cain money sitting around?), rival execs believe that the Brewers will try to trade him, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Here are the clubs that might become involved, including what the Brewers may seek in return.

Texas Rangers: While they did sign Roy Oswalt, you can bet they will add at least one arm in the next month to their depleted rotation and Greinke is likely atop their list. Morosi notes that the Angels’ and Yankees’ scouts were at Tuesday’s game as part of regular coverage, while the Rangers scout came solely for Wednesday’s game—a special assignment. Indeed, with four starting pitchers on the disabled list, Texas looks like Greinke’s top suitor at this point.

Remember the last trade Melvin swung with his old team, giving up Carlos Lee? He was a soon-to-be-free agent in his prime years, and what did Milwaukee get for him? A closer for another season-and-a-half scrub, two scrub outfielders, and a minor league pitcher who was out of affiliated ball the next year. This is the type of package Doug Melvin should avoid for obvious reasons, but Texas will likely offer something similar. Probably along the lines of Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando, Craig Gentry—young, controllable pieces, but not everyday MLB players. We can dream about stud prospects like SS Jurickson Profar and 3B Mike Olt coming over, but even if Milwaukee kicks in some money to cover Greinke’s salary that seems highly unlikely. Though if the Angels keep climing the standings and/or the Rangers rotation falters, Texas GM Jon Daniels may get desperate and be willing to throw something better in.

Atlanta Braves: For a team that came in to the season with such pitching depth, they’ve also gotten banged up. Brandon Beachy was in the midst of a Cy Young-caliber year and is now headed for Tommy John surgery, as is prospect Arodys Vizcaino. They’ve been forced to call up maddeningly inconsistent Jair Jurrjens, who has struck out just one more batter than he’s walked in five starts. Tim Hudson is healthy but will turn 37 next month, and stud young lefty Mike Minor has struggled.  Also, Atlanta is 3.5 games back of Washington in the NL East and currently holds the second wild card spot. Both those races will be highly contested; you can bet Fredi Gonzalez would love Greinke in his rotation.

As hard as this may be given the lack of shortstop talent in the league right now, I believe the Brewers absolutely must try to get a young shortstop or shortstop prospect in a potential Greinke deal, and Atlanta has two of them, both 22 years old: Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky. Simmons is currently the Braves’ every day shortstop and is hitting a wonderful .325/.361/.494 in 77 AB. Baseball America rated him MLB’s 92nd-best prospect at the start of the year, and MLB.com rated him even higher at 59. He is an exceptional defender: BA rated him as being Atlanta’s best defensive infield prospect and as having the best infield arm.

He will be tougher to pry away than Pastornicky, Atlanta’s opening day shortstop and their sixth-rated prospect this offseason according to Baseball Prospectus. He is the faster runner of the two but considered a more average defender. Pastornicky was sent down May 31st after hitting just .248/.281/.324, and has drawn unfavorable comparisons to the likes of Willie Bloomquist.

As an elite defensive shortstop with a bat that profiles well enough, Simmons looks like the more sure-fire big-leaguer. But both are full of potential, under team control for several seasons, and could realistically be everyday major league shortstops, which would fill a gaping hole in Milwaukee’s future. Given the absence of shortstop prospects in Milwaukee’s organization, a deal with the Braves would have to include one of these two. Melvin may need to pay the lion’s share—or all—of Greinke’s salary in order to get Simmons though. If I were Melvin and Simmons was off limits, I would ask for Pastornicky and Mike Minor.

Toronto Blue Jays: Another team that’s seen their rotation annihilated (3 starters went down in a week, now 1 more is hurting), but the Jays are still above .500 and very much in the mix for the second wild card. Greinke’s healthy arm could give them a boost.
Apparently the Brewers had some scouts checking out SS prospect Adeiny Hechavarria and then-exiled 1B Adam Lind recently down at AAA Las Vegas. Lind raked in ’09 but has been nowhere near as good since, so he is a prime candidate for a change of scenery. If he does recover even part of his old form, the $12MM he is owed until 2013 isn’t too bad. His deal also includes three club options, making it a decently favorable contract. Hechavarria was rated in BA’s Top 15 Blue Jay prospects, and is regarded as a plus-plus defender with their system’s best arm. The knock on him has always been his hitting: the 23 year-old Cuban is known for poor plate discipline and hit just .235/.275/.347 in AA. He’s hitting .318/.364/.444 this year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. A trade with Toronto probably starts with Hechevarria’s name. GM Alex Anthopolous would likely make this deal—maybe even right now—and of the packages I discussed may be the most fair for both teams.

New York Yankees: Much has been made about Greinke’s anxiety disorder and how difficult playing in New York would likely be for him. But the Yankees did just lose C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettite to injury, so they may be calling. I don’t see them as a good fit from Milwaukee’s perspective: they lack infield prospects in the upper levels of their minor league system. The Bombers do have some stud pitching prospects in Manny Bañuelos and Dellin Betances, but I highly doubt GM Brian Cashman will part with either of them for a three-month rental.

Los Angeles Angels: Unlike every other team on this list, they have not sustained injuries to their rotation. But they’ll need help to catch the Rangers. Like Texas they aren’t a good fit from Milwaukee’s perspective, lacking infield prospects. The best Melvin could do would be to obtain some mid-level pitching prospects and a few major league capable infield scraps like Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, or (gasp) Cesar Izturis’ brother Macier. No thanks.

Others: Morosi mentions the Dodgers, who I see saving their money for a run at Cole Hamels this offseason. He also lists Cardinals, Orioles, White Sox, and Indians as contenders who might want to upgrade their rotations, but none of these organizations seem likely to get involved: St. Louis and Chicago lack the talent, Cleveland has some but it’s from last year’s draft (SS Francisco Lindor) or the lower levels of the minors, and Baltimore has the talent but it’s untouchable (SS Manny Machado and RHP Dylan Bundy).