Royals general manager Dayton Moore is sitting and watching the Cliff Lee negotiations, and the price for Moore's own Zack Greinke has to be rising with each new bid for Lee, the best October pitcher in the game and the top free agent still available.
Despite being 32 years old, Lee has received seven-year offers from at least three teams. Meanwhile, Moore has Greinke, five years Lee's junior, under contract for two more years at a very reasonable $13.5 million per year. Teams are knocking down Moore's door clamoring for Greinke, who won the AL Cy Young in 2009 after going 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA but slumped to 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season.
It's to the point where Moore needn't make one call. Interested teams know Greinke is available -- though only at the right price.
One person familiar with Greinke's situation claimed the star right-hander from the Orlando, Fla., area is "ready to go,'' to leave the only team he's ever known. With the Rangers, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Nationals and Brewers believed to be in the mix pretty seriously, and the possibility of one or two more teams that fail to land Lee ready to dive in, Moore is said to be shooting for a "haul," which is only the fair and understandable goal for a 27-year-old who's one of the game's best pitchers.
It makes sense that Greinke would be traded now, with several teams interested in adding an ace and only a few willing to hand out a six- or seven-year contract to get one. Greinke is said by people familiar with the situation to "drift'' in and out regarding his feelings about the Royals since signing a bargain extension at the end of 2008 that goes through 2012, so it makes sense for the Royals to take a hard look at their options now. The Royals possess three of the best position prospects in the game in third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Wil Myers, who should be key contributors just about the time Greinke's contract runs out.
The Royals are eyeing the Lee talks with interest, as the Yankees could possibly consider Greinke if they should lose Lee to the incumbent Rangers or someone else. The Angels checked in on Lee and could become a suitor for Greinke, too. The Phillies are yet another team that's been connected to Greinke -- though the Rangers, Nats, Brewers, Blue Jays and Dodgers are seen as the early favorites.
Several of these teams are well-stocked with the right type of young players to form a respectable deal, and so are the Yankees, who have top catching prospect Jesus Montero plus a host of lower-level pitching prospects, perhaps topped by Dellin Betances. The Yankees have made offers in the past for the Royals' star reliever, Joakim Soria, but Soria is committed to Kansas City, and the team holds options on him for 2012, '13 and '14. So he'll still be around when the team gets good. Reportedly, the Royals eyed Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider from the Blue Jays, but so far Toronto has apparently been unwilling to do such a deal.
Complicating matters is Greinke's rather extensive no-trade list, which includes both the Jays and Yankees. New York has been leery to get involved for Greinke, who at one time dealt with social anxiety disorder, raising questions about whether he is suited for the circus that can be the Yankees. The storied franchise planned to stay away from Greinke, but if they should lose out on Lee, they would need to do something to improve their rotation, and the remaining starting pitchers on the free-agent market don't interest them. Francisco Liriano, Derek Lowe, Gavin Floyd and Matt Garza have been mentioned as trade candidates, and while they are all fine pitchers, the Yankees were aiming even higher.
The Yankees will almost have to take a hard look at this should Lee reject them. Greinke is said to be a very nice kid, though there are mixed opinions as to whether he'd be a good fit for New York. He told friends when he picked up his Cy Young Award in the winter of 2008-09 he wasn't sure he could live there. Although, one person who knows him well said Greinke actually "likes the attention.'' Stay tuned.
• Lee is believed to be deciding between the Yankees, Rangers and one remaining mystery team, whose offer is also a mystery. The Yankees are thought to have the highest offer, a guaranteed seven years for an unknown amount (reports of $160-161 million are believed incorrect, though perhaps it could still grow to that). The Rangers significantly enhanced their offer and presented Lee a menu of choices on their last trip to visit him in Arkansas. The Yankees have been seen as the favorite, but some people in the game believe Lee is seriously considering the comforts of Arlington, Texas, which is 4 ½ hours by car from the home he is building in Little Rock, Ark. While the tax differential will not be that great if Lee's permanent residence is in Arkansas, and not Texas, which has no state income tax, it is a consideration. Lee's decision is expected to come early this week.
• The Angels have shown interest in Lee. But one person familiar with their thinking claimed they are "offensively focused'' at present, so they don't appear to be the mystery team. The Phillies, always a threat, do not appear to be that team, either. The Red Sox were found to be one of two mystery teams at the winter meetings but their signings of Carl Crawford would seem to make them very unlikely now. One person familiar with their plans said it isn't them, another said only that he didn't think so. The Red Sox have proven again to be fairly unpredictable this winter.
• Xavier Nady is being sought by his former Padres GM Kevin Towers for Arizona, where he'd have a prominent role again after a year with the Cubs when he played only 119 games.
• The D-Backs, Nationals, Jays, Padres, Orioles and A's are looking at Derrek Lee.
• The A's are in serious talks for Hideki Matsui that are believed to be about $7 million for one year.
• The Mets will announce four new coaches soon: Dave Hudgens (hitting), Jon DeBus (bullpen), Ken Oberkfell (bench) and Mookie Wilson (first base). Dan Warthen (pitching) and Chip hale (third base) are holdovers.
• Mike Cameron becomes perhaps baseball's best fourth outfielder with Boston's bold move to sign Carl Crawford for $142 million over seven years. He could be traded, but his value is limited by a high contract.
• No, the trade that would send Jason Bartlett from the Rays to the Padres has still not gone through but the sides are working on it.