Activity on the trade market began in earnest Monday afternoon, as the Cubs and Braves are nearing a deal that would send Ryan Dempster to Atlanta for young starter Randall Delgado. Although nothing is confirmed as of yet, the deal would take one of Greinke’s suitors, the Braves, ostensibly off the market for a starting pitcher. The natural reaction, then, is that there would be fewer suitors for Greinke, leaving the Brewers with a potentially disappointing return for their ace pitcher.
There are two problems with this line of thinking. As long as there are potentially multiple teams bidding on Greinke — and as long as there are 10 playoff spots, there will be — enough of a competitive market will form to create a robust package. And two: Greinke, along with Cole Hamels, are on another level as far as starting pitchers in this season’s market go.
The first should be obvious — just take a look at the American League standings. All but three teams sit within four games of the second wild card slot. Say Texas, one of the more noted suitors for Greinke, starts lowballing Doug Melvin. Then Melvin just has to call Baltimore, or Chicago, or Boston, or the Angels, or (back to the NL) the Dodgers, or the Cardinals — eventually one or multiple of these teams will begin to raise the stakes and something close to Greinke’s true trade value will be reached.
Now, consider the other names besides Greinke and Hamels bandied about in rumors so far this season: Dempster, Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez and James Shields. For simple reference, here’s a leaderboard with relevant statistics.
Although the ERAs for Greinke are very near those of Garza, Rodriguez and Shields, his peripherals are clearly the best. With a 74 FIP-, Greinke even greatly outpaces Hamels, much less the rest of the pack. There are questions surrounding Greinke’s mentality and now health with his recent sabbatical from pitching. He has also underperformed his defense-independent metrics for three years straight. But, for the most part, he has had horrific defenses behind him throughout this phase of his career. Both his 2010 and 2011 campaigns featured Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop, and this year’s Brewers squad is second-to-last in Defensive Efficiency.
Perhaps the extra years of control for Garza and Rodriguez push their value near that of Greinke, but Rodriguez is in his mid-30s whereas Garza has had his own mental demons to deal with in the past. But only Hamels can really compete with Greinke as far as one-year value on this year’s trade market, and with the Phillies offering a huge extension to their lefty ace last week, he could be off the market himself. There will be plenty of suitors, and particularly thanks to the second Wild Card, expect a robust market down to the wire if necessary.