The Market for Zack Greinke

Carlos Lee is 36 years old.  He’s hitting .290/.338/.416, and at this point in his career cannot play a credible outfield position. He is a free agent at the end of the year.

He was recently traded to the Marlins for Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen.  According to this article by Kevin Goldstein from January, they were the sixth- and tenth- best prospects in the Marlins system.  According to Goldstein, Dominguez is something of a defensive wizard (though with limited power) at 3rd base, and Rasmussen is a LHP with good stuff who hasn’t quite put it all together yet.  He doesn’t see either as a future star, but both have a good shot to be useful major league players.

Again, that was for Carlos Lee.

I have seen a ton of twitter talk, much of it by very smart people, claiming that Zack Greinke (and indeed many potential Brewer trade pieces) just won’t fetch that much on the trade market.  They cite the fact that teams no longer get compensation picks when free agents leave and that you only get said players for half a season.  They claim no one will part with quality prospects for this limited return.  I think this is overly simplistic and ignores several other factors that could make free agents more valuable than normal.  The biggest thing everyone is ignoring is simple supply and demand.

Compensation picks are gone, which undoubtedly reduces the value of free agents; however the balance of buyers and sellers has drastically changed.  With the addition of an extra wild card spot more teams will be in a position to buy.  Far fewer teams will be willing to throw in the towel.

Last year on July 31st the Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers led their divisions while the Yankees held the Wild Card. The Yankees were 6.5 games better than their next closest opponent and 8 of the 14 AL teams trailed them by double digits.  Had a 2nd Wild Card existed at the time, the Angels would have owned the spot at 59-50, just 2 games ahead of the Rays, 3.5 ahead of the Blue Jays, 4  ahead of the Indians, and 5.5 ahead of the White Sox. Only the Royals, Mariners, and Orioles would have trailed by double digits.

In the NL, Philly, San Francisco, and Milwaukee led their divisions with Atlanta in the WC spot at 63-46. Arizona was relatively close behind at 59-49, and St. Louis still within reach (obviously) at 57-51, but everyone else in the NL trailed Atlanta by 7.5 games or more at the deadline.  Throw in the second WC and all of a sudden the Pirates and Mets are only 4 games back.  The Reds are just 6 out.  Instead of the Pirates and Mets being 7.5 out, the Nationals and Rockies are 7.5 out.

The point is this, in the AL last year I think at least two and maybe three teams would have joined the hunt (the Blue Jays, Indians, and White Sox), and a few other teams who may have been on the fence may have been converted into sure buyers.  In the NL, Pitt, NY, and Cinci probably join the hunt.

This year could be an especially great year for sellers.  In the wealthy AL East everyone is within striking distance at the moment, and if Boston wants to compete they’ll probably need to make a move. The Yankees may want to solidify their lead. And a ton of teams in the AL are hanging around. The Angels currently hold the first Wild Card spot while the Orioles and Indians are basically tied for the second.  The Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, A’s, and Tigers are all within 3 games of the playoffs.  That’s a ton of potential buyers.

In the NL, the Nats, Dodgers, and Pirates lead their divisions while the Giants, Mets, and Reds are all in a dead heat for the 2 WC spots, followed closely by the Cardinals and Braves.  The Marlins (4 back, just added Carlos Lee) and DBacks (5 back) are relatively close as well.

While the products in the market may not be as attractive as they once were, there are still a bunch of teams who need those products, they are in short supply, and there will be great competition to acquire them.

I wish I could make a concrete prediction here but I’m not up on my prospects or what other teams need, however I’ll predict that should the Brewers trade Greinke (or Marcum or K-Rod) that they’ll get a far better return than most people think. Flags still fly forever, after all, and even with new luxury tax restrictions, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox can still reload pretty easily in free agency.  They can afford rentals, and fortunately for the Brewers, the rental market looks like it’s going to be a seller’s market.

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