Since the Ryan Dempster deal that almost was fell apart, fans have been waiting anxiously to see if the Braves will be able to pull off deal to bolster their shaky starting rotation before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. And the man atop the wishlist of everyone in Atlanta (fans and team officials alike) was Brewers’ ace Zack Greinke. But alas, it is not to be. Geinke’s on his way to the LA Angels.
Had the Braves won the Greinke sweepstakes, there’s no doubt he would have made Atlanta’s rotation markedly better. The former American League CY Young winner would have matched up favorably against any ace the Braves may encounter in the postseason, if they make it that far.
But for any general manger, exploring an impact trade is always a balancing act, if not a tug of war, between the pressure to win now and his responsibility to think about the team’s long-term success. Budget-conscious teams, like the Braves, are especially reliant upon the continual development of young, inexpensive talent. General Manager Frank Wren understands this, and since taking the wheel in the Braves front office, he has been particularly protective of the team’s most valuable prospects.
That said, Wren is evidently willing to part with at least one of Atlanta’s prized arms: RHP Randall Delgado. Delgado was rumored to be half the ill fated trade that would have brought Cubs’ RHP Ryan Dempster to Atlanta. Presumably, the Braves are still open to trading Delgado (or perhaps one of their other young arms) for an impact starting pitcher.
There are a lot of teams, in addition to Atlanta, looking for a big arm: Angels, Nats, Dodgers, Rangers and Orioles to name a few. But even before Greinke was sent to LA, the market for starting pitching was shrinking. Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez recently landed in Pittsburgh. Cubs’ RHP Matt Garza is on the shelf with fluid buildup in his throwing harm. Cole Hamels wasn’t traded, but instead resigned by the Phillies, who–by the way–now say they will also hang on to Cliff Lee. Florida’s Josh Johnson may be available, but only if there’s a team with a desire to clear out their farm system.
Given the shrinking market and the number of suitors, the Brewers were so firmly planted in the driver’s seat with the Greinke auction, I’m surprised they didn’t hire Sotheby’s to handle the bidding.
We’ll never know what the Braves offered Milwaukee for Zack Greinke. Was Frank Wren willing to offer significantly more than Randall Delgado (who already represents no small price for a 2-month veteran rental) alone? That’s anyone’s guess. Wren won’t tell. But whatever the Braves offered, it wasn’t enough.
But here’s something to bear in mind. Zack Greinke will be a free agent at season’s end. Greinke, a Florida native who grew up as a Brave fan, has expressed interest in playing in Atlanta, and the Braves will have money to spend after this season. Regardless of whether or not they had traded for Greinke, it has been believed all along that the Braves will make him an offer this winter.
They have a chance to sign Greinke in the off-season irrespective of where he was traded, so a deadline deal for the right-hander would have to be viewed as a rental. Nothing more. If the price tag was Delgado + a mid-level prospect or two, the Braves would most likely have pulled the trigger. But given the package the Angels ultimately sent to Milwaukee, it’s a safe bet that the asking price was higher.
While Greinke-to-LA is unwelcome news to many Braves fans, I would submit to you that it’s ultimately for the best.
Consider that free-agent-to-be, Michael Bourn, has been a large part of the Braves’ success this year. It will not be possible for the Braves to sign Zack Greinke AND make a realistic offer to retain Bourn. And if they cannot resign Bourn, they’ll need to replace him. It’s unlikely that they’ll find another leadoff hitter of his caliber this winter, so they may concentrate on adding a power bat to compensate for the loss of Bourn’s speed. In any event, impact players aren’t cheap. To find a suitable offensive replacement for Bourn, the Braves will either have to bring their checkbook to the free agent market (which they cannot do if they sign Greinke) or surrender a significant package of minor league talent via trade.
Had the Braves dealt for Greinke, they would have had to part with a great deal of talent now, and then to resign him, they would have to spend most of their available cash this winter. To trade for Greinke now and then trade for an impact bat this winter could have greatly diminished Atlanta’s farm system.
While fans, managers and players alike all want to win immediately, it’s not always worth mortgaging the future. Remember, when this season’s over, we’ll only be 4 months away from pitchers and catchers reporting once again. The Braves are one of the younger teams in the National League with a very promising outlook. And trading for Zack Greinke now would have required Atlanta to trade too much of their future for the present.
There are still quality starting pitchers available on the trade market, so the Braves may still upgrade their starting rotation before the Tuesday non-waiver deadline. The Braves were wise, however, to stop short of Milwaukee’s asking price for Greinke.
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Kent Covington is a World News Group radio reporter/producer and Editor of BravesWire.com.