The Milwaukee Brewers finally conceded they are going to trade Zack Greinke before the non-waiver trade deadline. They weren't being coy; they liked that exclusive negotiating window they had for a while. When it was Greinke, Matt Cain, and Cole Hamels all approaching free agency, maybe it was going to be Greinke who blinked first. Maybe he liked Milwaukee that much. Maybe it suited him.
It's a different kind of maybe now. Maybe Greinke just likes the idea of choosing his employer for the first time in his 11-year professional career. With Cain and Hamels out of the offseason picture -- and with them signing huge deals without the competitive frenzy of the open market -- maybe Greinke likes the idea of building a 14,000-square-foot treehouse out of platinum bars. He's definitely going to test the market, and the Brewers are definitely going to trade him.
Now it's time to be vultures and see who might trade for him. It looks like there are four different suitors, and here they are from unlikeliest to likeliest.
The White Sox supposedly "want Greinke badly." That sounds somewhere between Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head and Chris Eliot in There's Something About Mary. Careful with those cleats. Stripped of context, of course the White Sox want Greinke badly. Every team does. Turns out that Zack Greinke is good at throwing baseballs.
But there are other teams who want him just as badly. That's a problem, because here are some select quotes from around the prospect world:
When the guy who is clearly your organization's best prospect is a reliever, you have problems. (Baseball America, ranking the White Sox' farm system 30 out of 30 organizations)
It really is that bad. (Baseball Prospectus, ranking the White Sox 30 out of 30 organizations)
You have two B+ pitching prospects in Addison Reed and Nestor Molina and some other raw materials for a decent bullpen. Hitting is a disaster. (John Sickels, ranking the White Sox 30 out of 30 organizations)
They might want Greinke really badly in the same way I want a jetpack. There are probably better ways to spend our time, Kenny.
The Angels should have a great rotation on paper, but Dan Haren is having a Lincecum-lite season and Ervin Santana is having the full, unlocked Lincecum season. There really shouldn't have been a lot of expectations when it came to Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, who have both been perfectly acceptable, but they aren't exactly exciting.
They have players to deal, and they could even deal a displaced Richards along with a prospect or two. Shortstop Jean Segura seems like he has that perfect balance of prospect pedigree to decent-not-overwhelming performance that usually goes in deals for the really good pending free agents.
Technically, Ryan Dempster is having the better season when it comes to preventing runs, but if the Braves were thinking about trading Randall Delgado for three months of Dempster, they'll certainly consider using him to start a package for three months of Greinke. The Braves have the prospects, they still would have a strong core of young pitching even after a trade, and they have an acute need for someone to pitch as well as they probably figured Tommy Hanson was going to.
Plus, Greinke would be in a rotation with Ben Sheets, so Brewers fans would have a team to kinda sorta root for in the playoffs.
This is it. The obvious fit. It makes too much sense. The Rangers have prospects to burn. They have youth in the rotation, and a lineup with several players under contract for the next several years. They'll eventually be in a spot where they can get all sorts of help with a trade, as Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar has a chance to be the McCovey/Cepeda decision of this era, so it's not like the Rangers can look at any of their other prospects and think, "No, we need that guy. Part of our plans, without a doubt."
The Rangers having Greinke or Hamels as the #1 in the playoffs, with Yu Darvish as the #2, and then Derek Holland and Colby Lewis (in whichever order you prefer) as the 3 and 4, with Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Matt Harrison, and Robbie Ross setting the table for Joe Nathan means that they would have the best pitching staff of any team in the playoffs, to go with having the best lineup in baseball. In that scenario, Texas goes into the playoffs as the favorite to win it all.
The bad news is that Lewis is out for the year, but Oswalt is a decent consolation prize. A Greinke deal really would make the Rangers the favorites. Which means that the Rangers go into the playoffs with a 17-percent chance of winning it all instead of a 12.5-percent chance like everyone else, but the Rangers are in a great spot to take risks.
Mystery team. Seriously, stop it. You just spent, what, three minutes reading that? It's going to be a mystery team. The Orioles, for instance. Dodgers wouldn't qualify, but the Red Sox would. Imagine the Red Sox trading Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley for two months of Greinke and then falling out of the race the very next week. Come on. You can totally picture it.
It's probably the Rangers. But beware the mystery team.