- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Editor's note: Jayson Stark will be writing a Daily Rumble each day leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Welcome to Zack Greinke Week, ladies and gentlemen.
We should let you know from the start that the festivities won't include a marching band, ribbon-cutting ceremony or key to anybody's city. But pageantry or no pageantry, it's clear to all of us July deal-a-holics that the often-mysterious Mr. Greinke is now the focus of America's trading frenzy.
There's no more Cole Hamels on this market. It's highly unlikely Cliff Lee will be going anywhere this week. The Rays still haven't decided to move James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson. Matt Garza now has health issues. And Ryan Dempster has sliced and diced the list of clubs he'll play for until the only team seemingly left on it is the Dodgers.
Then there's Francisco Liriano, who reminded the planet Monday what a heartbreaker he can be. And as the Daily Rumble reported Wednesday, there might be no more than a 5 percent chance the Marlins will really deal Josh Johnson, all those Rumor Central entries notwithstanding.
So if you're looking for a difference-making starter to trade for, who does that leave? It leaves Zack Greinke. That's who.
No wonder, then, that when Greinke took the ball Tuesday, the Texas Rangers had two scouts in attendance. Joining them were talent evaluators from the Angels, White Sox, Braves, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers and at least four other teams.
But in reality, the market for Greinke appears to be narrowing itself primarily to four clubs: the Rangers, Angels, White Sox and Braves.
Teams that have spoken with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers say they're not involved on Greinke, for various reasons. The Indians and Orioles are now all but out of the rent-a-pitcher business, unless the price tag is too cheap to turn down. And the Cardinals seem to be leaning that way as well.
So the Brewers -- and the rest of us -- are about to find out exactly how much two months of a hired, top-of-the-rotation gun are worth in these modern, post-labor-deal times.
Since the Brewers just opened this shop for business in the past 24 hours, it isn't clear yet exactly what they're asking for. In fact, it's so unclear that one GM actually asked us what they want.
But let's just assume it's something similar to what they gave up to rent CC Sabathia in 2008 -- i.e., two highly regarded prospects (Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley), plus two other minor leaguers who essentially were deal-fillers.
Here's the question: Is it possible to get a package like that anymore for a rent-a-player? Clubs we've surveyed doubt that seriously.
"Now that you know you don't get compensation picks back for a guy like that, it's definitely a different market," one American League executive said. "And if you think you're just going to be in the wild-card race, do you really want to put a lot of chips on the table for one game? I don't think so, unless it's a special set of circumstances."
True, you might feel better about your chances if you have Greinke to start that wild-card game. But how do you know, wondered the same exec, "that that wild-card game will happen to fall on his day? The way this race is shaping up, you may need to win the last game of the season to get there or the second-to-the-last game. So you can't even count on trading for that guy to pitch in that game. Can you?"
Well, no. You can't. So that's one more reason to believe the Greinke Derby will come down to the Rangers, Angels, Braves and White Sox. All four of those teams are in a race for first place, not for just the wild-card survivor game.
But there are other issues involved. The Braves, for instance, have heard Greinke prefers to land in Atlanta but might not have the 100-plus million bucks lying around that it will take to sign him long term and allow them to justify giving up the package Milwaukee is looking for.
GREINKE'S NEXT STOP?
Which team has the best shot to land Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke before the July 31 trade deadline? Cast your vote here.
The Angels and Rangers have the pieces it would take to make this deal, but both would prefer pitchers they can hang on to beyond October. And while the White Sox are notorious go-for-it gamblers, they have to worry about all the fears that Greinke doesn't want to pitch in a big market.
"Nobody is really going to know if he can unless he actually gets to a major city," one scout in attendance said Tuesday. "So all you can do is evaluate his ability, evaluate his stuff and say, 'Can he make your team better?' And that answer, obviously, is yes.
"The other thing to keep in mind is, if you're afraid of whether he can pitch in your market, there's no reason to even go there and watch him pitch, right? So any [team] that was at that game, that had any interest at all, must already have made that decision. Don't you think?"
Uh, yep. That's exactly what we think. And that's precisely the reason we expect Zack Greinke Week is about to turn into the highlight of this year's late-July trade deadline extravaganza -- even without the marching band or the draft picks.
• The Yankees might be saying they'll be just fine using Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix et al to cover the loss of Alex Rodriguez for the next six weeks. But other clubs report the Yankees are definitely exploring their options. One name to file away: Colorado's versatile Marco Scutaro. The Rockies appear to be waiting until closer to the deadline to move Scutaro, who also would be a potential fallback for the A's if they can't reel in Chase Headley.
• Speaking of Headley, the Padres are trying to paint themselves as a club that doesn't have to move its best chip, but the overwhelming sentiment around the sport is that they'll definitely deal him in the 24 to 48 hours before the deadline. The Padres keep saying, though, that they're happy to hang on to Headley unless they get a massive return. One club's description of their asking price: "Very close to the Mat Latos package."
• The Phillies continue to talk to a bunch of teams about Shane Victorino, although their recent hot streak has left them more up in the air than ever about whether to trade a core player such as Victorino, whom they can't easily replace. Their asking price has been a young but proven setup reliever, plus a young outfielder or third baseman. But to get Victorino moved, said an official of one club, they're going to have to cut that price in half. Other teams expect them to narrow their focus eventually to just young relievers. Among the names we hear they've asked about: Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln, Tampa Bay's Wade Davis, Cleveland's Vinnie Pestano and Cincinnati's Logan Ondrusek.
• Even after unloading Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and Brandon Lyon, the Astros might not be through. Other clubs say that besides Jose Altuve ("the one guy they're not eager to move"), everyone else on the roster is still "up for grabs."
• The better the Evan Longoria news gets in Tampa Bay, the less likely the Rays are to deal James Shields. But if they do, this won't be just a Rangers-Angels bidding war. We're hearing the Indians and Cardinals also have talked to the Rays about Shields.
• The Angels are spreading word that they'd rather not keep Vernon Wells around as a fifth outfielder when he comes off the disabled list, so they're looking for somebody, anybody to take him off their hands. "I bet he gets moved somewhere," one exec predicted. "One of those deals where they eat the money, you pay him a half-million dollars and hope you get lucky." The Angels, for now, are saying they don't want to eat all of Wells' money ($21 million a year through 2014). But good luck on that front.
• Teams that have spoken with the Indians say they're willing to listen on Chris Perez and Shin-Soo Choo, but they're very unlikely to deal either player unless they get blown away. The Indians are telling teams they'll wait until the last minute to decide whether they're buying, selling or some combination of both.
• Here's one more big reason to believe the Phillies won't be trading Cliff Lee: One of their big selling points in the Hamels negotiations was their plan to build around their rotation -- and specifically, their aces. So would they have the guts to turn around and trade one of those aces three or four days later? Doubt it.
With four teams in hot pursuit, Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke is now the primary focus of the baseball world's trading frenzy.