The fact that Cerrone is reporting it gives it instant credibility. Yet even if it was Tony from Bay Ridge, those names are much more in line with what it would take to get Greinke than earlier reports of injured prospects Fernando Martinez and Reese Havens and filler.
Now the question becomes: Should the Mets pull the trigger if this is the actual cost? And if so, should they give up Niese or Davis?
Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award, yet people still underrate him. He had a fWAR of 9.4 in 2009, which FanGraphs shows being worth $42.5 million. It is hard to get one’s head around how good of a season 2009 was for Greinke. But he was very good in both 2008 and 2010, too. He had fWARs of 4.9 and 5.2, respectively. Last year he was the 11th-best pitcher in baseball by this metric.
With two years left on his contract, salary may be the biggest impediment to acquiring Greinke. He would be a relative steal if he repeats his 2010 season, but Greinke is still owed $13.5 million in both 2011 and 2012. The penny-pinching Wilpons, seemingly saving up to buy an MLS franchise, may balk at adding that much payroll.
But for sake of argument, let’s say that the Royals are willing to trade him for the above package and the Mets are willing to make an exception to acquire one of the top pitchers in the game. Is it a good deal for them to give up arguably their best prospect along with one of their top young stars?
In a word, yes.
Flores has star potential but generally you have to give up something to get something. The Royals are not in the same position as the Twins, where Minnesota convinced itself it had to make a deal. The Mets sold high on their prospects in the Santana trade and Greinke is the type of player for which you move your top prospect.
The hard part is deciding if the Mets should include Niese or Davis to complete the deal. Davis did a nice job in his first year in the majors and has 30-HR potential along with Gold Glove-caliber defense. Niese is a young lefty pitcher who strikes batters out and gets ground balls. Replacing either would be problematic for the 2011 Mets.
Ultimately, I would keep Niese and trade Davis. A rotation of Greinke, Pelfrey, Dickey, Niese and filler for fifth starter until Santana returns later in the year is an exciting one. The Mets have a replacement for Davis in Daniel Murphy, who was going to be the club’s first baseman in 2010 until an injury in Spring Training.
While the drop-off in power from Davis to Murphy is significant, Murphy is likely a better all-around hitter than Davis. And Murphy was also a good fielder at first base, perhaps not quite as good as Davis, but a plus defender for the position.
The gap between Davis and Murphy is less than the gap between Niese and Dillon Gee. I like Gee, but I would prefer him to be an insurance policy in Triple-A to start the year, rather than one of the team’s top five starters on Opening Day.
But even though my preference would be to trade Davis, I would also do this deal if Kansas City insisted on Niese. If everything breaks right, Niese could be a number-two starting pitcher. Most likely he is a third or fourth starter. Greinke is a number-one starter and has a shot to be the best pitcher in baseball some years. If you have a chance to grab a guy like that, you pounce on it.
Some people are hesitant about acquiring Greinke because several years ago he suffered from anxiety attacks. If he had trouble pitching in Kansas City, how would he fare in New York, those people wonder. But Greinke is on medication for his Social Anxiety Disorder and has made 98 starts the past three years. Unless he stops taking the meds, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue to be a dominating pitcher going forward.
Greinke turned 27 this past November. He’s one of the top pitchers in the game and is under control for two more years on a very good contract. That the Mets might be able to acquire him for an 18-year-old Flores, who is unlikely to stay at shortstop and a first baseman whose upside is Adam LaRoche, should be a no-brainer.
On Cerrone’s piece, he had a poll asking readers if they would include Davis or Niese in a deal for Greinke. Nearly 48 percent of the 9,616 respondents said “No.”
It’s fun to root for home-grown players, which is what makes parting with Davis or Niese hard for these people. But it’s fun to root for dominating players, too. Greinke would team with Santana to give the Mets the pitchers to compete with the top of the Phillies rotation.
Playing after the first week of October is fun, too.