With less than a week to go before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, there’s officially a new seller on the market. Reports surfaced Wednesday that Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin declared last week that he would start selling if his team lost more than four games on their then-upcoming road trip through Cincinnati and Philadelphia. A string have six straight losses have knocked the Brewers to nine games under .500 and 13 out of first place in the NL Central—that means it’s time to clean house.
There are a number of players who could draw interest from other teams—third baseman Aramis Ramirez and right fielder Corey Hart are probably among the best hitters on the trade market—but the big guy is Zack Greinke. Milwaukee’s ace is enjoying arguably the second-best season of his career: he’s 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA, plus he has a K/BB ratio of over 4.0 and all the major DIPS stats have his “true-talent” ERA under 3.00.
I know this is probably unrealistic and it might sound crazy, but Greinke could be a perfect fit for the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians are known to be in the hunt for a quality starter, but this isn’t your usual case of a contending team looking to add an arm for the stretch run. With plenty serviceable of options in the majors and at Triple-A and Roberto Hernandez working his way back this team has plenty of pitching depth, and with Carlos Carrasco due back next year and (hopefully) someone from the minors coming up Cleveland isn’t in need of long-term help. In other words, the Indians would need an ace, but they wouldn’t need him for very long.
In those respects, Greinke would fit the bill. That the 28-year-old right-hander is one of the best pitchers in baseball is beyond a doubt; at his current pace, he would probably provide about a 2.0-WAR boost over whomever he bumped the Tribe’s rotation between now and the end of the season. And since he’s hitting free agency after the season he’d be strictly a two-month rental, so it’s not as though he’d create a (good) dilemma for the 2013 rotation.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the Brewers’ asking price. With apologies to Josh Johnson, Greinke is the best pitcher on the market right now, and at least a half-dozen other teams would also be in on the sweepstakes. It’s not clear exactly what Melvin would demand for his ace, but he’s not going to give Greinke away for free.
But the asking price today can’t be as high as it would have been a week ago. A crucial element of trading is leverage. If everyone knows that the Brewers expect to trade Greinke—or, as it now seems, that they want to—then they won’t have the negotiating power that they would have had if they were still a potential contender that saw him as an important part of their 2012 plans. Milwaukee’s losing streak made such a trade seem inevitable, and now that Melvin’s comments have become public he can no longer bluff to hide his plans to sell.
There’s also another factor that could, surprisingly, work in the Tribe’s favor: their low profile. Throughout the past couple years baseball people have suggested that Greinke would not do well in a high-pressure situation for a large-market team. But Cleveland is a small-market baseball town so he wouldn’t have to worry about too many cameras, and since the Indians are huge underdogs to make the postseason they don’t have a whole lot to lose.
If there really are concerns about Greinke’s ability to perform on a big stage, then he would be of greater value to Cleveland than he would be to pretty much every other team in baseball. That’s not to say that he’d come cheap, but the bidding war won’t escalate as much as it would for an ace with a proclivity for excelling under pressure.
The odds of the Indians trading for Greinke are, of course, pretty slim. It’s hard to see them bringing in a player of his caliber—despite the aforementioned discounts he’s likely to be out of our price range—and while surprise trades do happen, it’s worth noting that the Tribe is not among the many teams who have been publicly connected to him in recent weeks. But the Grienke-to-Cleveland idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds, and you never know what will happen before the trade deadline.
Do the Indians have a chance at Zack Greinke?
- No way (73%, 32 Votes)
- Maybe, I guess (20%, 9 Votes)
- Sure (7%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 44