NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Zack Greinke isn’t returning to the Royals — barring a seismic shift in baseball economics — but his free-agent negotiations are still likely to have a major impact on his former club.
The market for starting pitchers, both free agents and those available in trade, won’t be set until Greinke chooses (presumably) between the Dodgers or Rangers for a deal expected to approach (and perhaps exceed) $150 million over six years.
The Royals appear willing to wait … until after the Winter Meetings conclude Thursday, until after the holidays, until the right match comes along.
If it comes along.
“What happens a lot of times,” general manager Dayton Moore said, “is you get in this environment with the 29 other teams, and everybody is pushing in different directions. You get a lot of opinions and ideas.
“Sometimes that can paralyze the decision-making because there are a lot of different scenarios, and you want to give them all their due. You filter through what has legs and, sometimes, they continue to move forward after you get back in your office.”
Moore pointed to the trade two years ago that sent Greinke to Milwaukee with infielder Yuniesky Betancourt for shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, reliever Jeremy Jeffress and pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi.
“When we did the Greinke deal, we felt we were close a couple of times on certain deals,” Moore recalled. “And we did that deal a couple of weeks after the Winter Meetings.”
Moore reiterated that the Royals, while they want to add an impact pitcher to their rotation, feel no urgency to add just any pitcher. In short, he believes the club is past the cattle-call audition stage.
“We want pitchers that have the mind-set of a No. 1 starter,” he said. “With the position we’re in and the way we feel about our team, our focus is on just a few players. We feel like we’ve accomplished a lot prior to getting here.
“There is still going to be a large percentage of free agents available on Friday (after the meetings conclude). There will be a lot of trade opportunities still available on Friday, but you know how these things go. This is an opportunity to talk a lot.”
The Royals’ willingness to trade prospects, even outfielder Wil Myers, continues to draw interest from rival clubs. That willingness also won’t change after club officials depart Thursday from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
“We feel like we’re really close to being able to compete,” manager Ned Yost said, “and we’re looking at every option that we can. Dayton has worked really hard to fill our minor-league system with tremendous prospects that we can use for situations like this.
“We’re looking at a bunch of different options.”
The market figures to accelerate after Greinke makes his choice.
One American League club official observed, “Why should Tampa Bay trade (James) Shields before they see what they can get when Greinke comes off the board? Say Texas or the Dodgers don’t get Greinke, they might go hard after Shields.”
The same is true for any team willing to trade a pitcher, or any agent representing a free-agent pitcher.
The Royals not only appear willing to wait for those events to unfold but show increasing reluctance, at this point, to make anything beyond a modest investment for any pitcher unlikely to slot toward the front of their rotation.
“We’ve got (Ervin) Santana and (Jeremy) Guthrie right there at two and three or whatever you want to call it,” Moore said. “And we still have our own kids…
“We still have Odorizzi and (Will) Smith and (Mike) Montgomery, and (Yordano) Ventura on the come. (Luis) Mendoza pitched really well for us. (Justin) Marks was really good in the (Arizona) Fall League.
“I don’t want to just sign a veteran guy for the five (spot) or trade for someone who is a four. We’ve got those guys, and we can give our own kids an opportunity.”