A wave of high-end prospects will hit Kansas City in 2011 and 2012 -- guys like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and John Lamb -- and time will be needed for some maturation before the full impact of these players is felt. The Royals will probably be in position to contend sometime in 2013 or 2014.
Zack Greinke's current contract ($13.5 million per season for each of the next two years), on the other hand, runs only through 2012.
The timeline of Greinke's career may not be in line with the organization's reconstruction plans, so the Royals intend to listen to any and all offers for the All-Star right-hander this offseason, according to sources.
Kansas City will oversee what essentially will be a one-man market -- a seller's market,for sure -- because after Cliff Lee signs a huge deal, the best available free-agent starters will be respected veterans like Ted Lilly and Jorge De La Rosa; but there won't be anybody like Greinke, whose résumé is unique:
The Cy Young Award winner of 2009 turns 27 on Oct. 21, and he is completely healthy, without a hint of an arm problem. Over the past three seasons, he has issued 162 walks in 651.2 innings, with 605 strikeouts. He posted a 2.16 ERA, and while his ERA nearly doubled in 2010, to 4.17, the wide perception among rival evaluators is that Greinke is simply bored -- distracted might be a better way to put it -- by the fact that the Royals don't have a chance to win right now. "He doesn't really look like he's into it," said one AL evaluator, in the middle of the summer.
Greinke did get the ball in a meaningful game on the final weekend of the season, against Tampa Bay, and he was excellent, predictably, striking out nine and walking two over seven innings in a 3-2 victory. He had spoken during the season of wanting a chance to win and, given his contract situation and the timetable for guys like Moustakas, Hosmer and Lamb, the Royals could be served best by taking offers for Greinke right now -- while he's still very young and healthy, and when there is almost no impact pitching available in the market.
The Royals do see value in keeping Greinke; it's possible that he's inspired by what he sees next year, and he could sign an extension and be the leader of the staff into 2013 and 2014 and beyond. He is an example of excellence, in his preparation and execution, and pitchers like Lamb could learn from him.
But if the Royals trade Greinke now, they presumably would get strong offers of prospects who would better fit the 2013 and '14 timeline; Kansas City's core of young talent would deepen and could blossom altogether. As the Tampa Bay Rays have demonstrated, that is how small-market teams have to compete.
Because of Greinke's breakdown in 2006, there will be questions within the front offices of big-market teams about how he would adapt to the scrutiny of playing in a place like New York or Boston or Chicago. But Greinke's talent for throwing strikes, and for commanding such a wide array of pitches, will presumably create a strong market for him.
The Royals could trade him this winter, or maybe they'll wait until next summer, when pennant races sometimes drive up the prices that contenders are willing to pay. But either way, they will listen to offers in the weeks and months ahead.
• After the Yankees' comeback victory in Game 2, you wonder if Texas manager Ron Washington returned to his office and started reconsidering the idea of trying to match up some of his relievers against specific hitters in the New York lineup.
Lefty Clay Rapada was brought in to face the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano, a garden variety lefty versus lefty strategy. But the thing is that right now, Cano is hammering lefties -- heck, he's hammering everybody, with seven hits in his first 16 at-bats in this postseason. He blistered Rapada's first pitch to center field.
As Texas moves forward, maybe Washington would be better off going with his best relievers, regardless of whether they are right-handed or left-handed. By the time the Rangers had frittered away a 5-0 lead, Neftali Feliz had yet to throw a pitch.
And maybe Derek Holland, who shut down lefties this year, would be a better match against Cano in the games ahead; I was surprised it was Rapada, rather than Holland, who got the ball to face Cano on Friday night. Maybe Holland, who is relatively new to the relief thing, just hadn't warmed up enough.
But, in retrospect, the weak link for Texas in Game 1 was Darren Oliver, who walked both hitters he faced, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. The Rangers will need him to be better in order to win this series. Washington told reporters afterward: "Those are the guys I wanted in there. I mean, Darren Oliver has been nails for us. [He] just walked two guys back-to-back. He wasn't Darren Oliver. It just didn't happen tonight; that eighth inning just killed us out of the bullpen."
The bullpen let the Rangers down, writes Randy Galloway.
The Rangers added left-handers to their bullpen, but it's unclear whether they can really help.
From Michael Trainor of ESPN Stats & Information, some more on Cano's postseason: "As has been the case for most of the 2010 campaign, Cano came up big for the Yankees. He got the Yanks on the board with a 7th-inning homer off a C.J. Wilson slider -- one of two sliders Cano saw on the evening. The fact that Cano saw few sliders -- and that he crushed one -- should come as no surprise. Cano has now hit 11 of his 30 home runs this season (regular season and playoffs) off the slider, compared to 12 off the fastball. Combining the regular season and playoffs, Cano is hitting .337 against the slider and .331 off the fastball. Cano was 2-3 off the heater Friday night."
From the Elias Sports Bureau:
Rallies To Win Postseason Game, All-Time
Trailed by at least four runs,
eighth inning or later
• By pulling CC Sabathia after four innings and 93 pitches, Joe Girardi has put himself in a better position to realign his rotation and use Sabathia on three days' rest to start Game 4, and then pitch again in Game 7 if necessary. The quandary created by that move, of course, is that Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte would also have to pitch on short rest in order to make that schedule work, or else Girardi would have to insert A.J. Burnett at some point.
In other words: If Girardi throws Hughes, Pettitte and Sabathia in the next three games, his choices for Game 5 would be either Hughes on short rest, or Burnett.
The one advantage to throwing Burnett in Game 5 would be that the Yankees would have an off day after Burnett's start; Girardi could go into the game under the assumption that he was going to employ his whole relief corps and that they would have a day to recover.
Girardi has more time to make his decision, but if I were in his shoes, I'd probably stick with the rotation with the way it's lined up right now -- with Burnett throwing Game 4 -- and just hope that Sabathia can better command his fastball the next time out.
• Speaking of Girardi: Executives around baseball are reading the Cubs' managerial tea leaves and are becoming more and more convinced that Chicago is waiting on Girardi, to see if he is interested in taking over the Cubs. "Why else would they be waiting to make a decision?" said one high-ranking official. Mike Quade made a strong case for himself to become the permanent replacement for Lou Piniella, with the way the Cubs played down the stretch, and if the Cubs want to pick him, they could do so today.
The managerial dominoes are falling. The Dodgers, Braves and Mariners have made their choices, with Seattle picking Eric Wedge; the Mariners got this one right, writes Steve Kelley.
The Marlins' baseball operations people really like and want Bo Porter, sources say, but know that owner Jeffrey Loria prefers a splashy pick. Loria might overlook that, given the team's history with Porter, Juan Rodriguez writes Saturday morning.
The Blue Jays are going through an exhaustive search, in keeping with the style of GM Alex Anthopoulos. The Mets' new general manager, whoever that is -- and Sandy Alderson is the front-runner -- will soon start interviews.
The Cubs? No announcement yet. And if Girardi's the guy they would prefer, they'll have to wait some more.
The Cubs are still on the Girardi watch, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
Lincecum took Roy Oswalt's advice.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Mets' GM hire may take weeks, says Jeff Wilpon. Have heard this: Mets president Saul Katz is urging Fred Wilpon to take someone with experience and stature, partly to begin restoring the faith of the team's fan base -- and Alderson certainly fits those parameters.
2. With Wedge headed to Seattle, the Pirates have no front-runner, writes Bob Smizik.
3. The Rockies will need more than pixie dust, writes Troy Renck.
4. The D-backs have picked Rico Brogna to be their farm director.
5. Tony La Russa needs a multiyear deal, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• Vanderbilt has to deal with A.J. Green.
And today will be better than yesterday.