Zack Greinke Wins AL Cy Young. Now Will KC Build Around Him?

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↵Zack Greinke took home his first Cy Young Award today after a season that saw him go 16-8 with a spectacular 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 242 strikeouts. Greinke also had six complete games and three shutouts, all for a team that won just 65 games. In fact, Greinke has the distinction of being just the third pitcher this decade to win the award for a losing team. This season, the Royals tied for last in the AL Central with Cleveland, who coincidentally, had the two previous AL Cy Young Award winners. ↵

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↵Had. ↵

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↵And that's the issue that will follow Greinke for the next two seasons. The Indians couldn't afford to keep CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee around, and in back-to-back seasons, traded the reigning Cy Young Award winner before the deadline. The Royals won't have that issue next year, as they smartly re-signed Greinke before last season, extending his deal through 2012. ↵

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↵I know, the math in that last graph doesn't add up. If Greinke is signed through 2012, that's three seasons left in Royal blue, considering we still have the 2010, 2011 and then 2012. But there's no way the right-hander will be around to see the last year of that contract ... unless the Royals get better soon. ↵

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↵The clock is ticking in Kansas City. Per the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger: ↵

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↵⇥Before the extension, Greinke was due to be a free agent after the 2010 season. With the way the trade market works, the Royals may have been inclined to deal him this offseason if they didn't think they could win in Greinke's final year. ↵⇥

↵⇥But the extension essentially bought two more seasons to build a winner around Greinke before they would potentially consider trading him. That would make the new "target" year 2011. ↵⇥

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↵⇥"I can't say we're gearing up for 2011 or 2012 because Zack Greinke's on the team," (GM Dayton) Moore said. "We're going to put the best team we can on the field, literally, every game. That's our focus right now, and Zack's a huge part of that, obviously." ↵⇥

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↵⇥Greinke has made it clear that he enjoys Kansas City, but also that winning is his priority. He won fans locally when he told the New York media he wanted to pitch for the Royals, and not the Yankees, but has been open about his disappointment in last year's 97-loss team. ↵⇥

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↵Somewhat in Greinke's – and Kansas City's – favor is the fact that the other two starters to pitch for losing teams in the last 10 years are Brandon Webb for Arizona in 2006 and Tim Lincecum last season in San Francisco. Both of those pitchers saw their teams get markedly better the following season. ↵

↵That said, the Diamondbacks and Giants have habitually spent money to make their teams competitive – something that the Royals ownership has been reluctant to do for more than two decades. In fact, the Royals haven't been to the playoffs since they won the 1985 World Series and have just two seasons – including the strike year – with a winning record since moving to the AL Central in 1994. ↵

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↵So will the Royals build around Greinke or duct tape another team together for the next two years, trading off their higher-priced talent for prospects in a constant effort to build a winner on the cheap? For people in KC, and fans of parity in baseball, let's hope this award for Greinke is a springboard to competitiveness for the Royals. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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