|No One Wants the Gnats' Money|
Written by Justin Zeth (Contact & Archive) on February 01, 2011
I saw this interesting post about those lovable Washington Natinals on MLBTradeRumors.
The theme, for those of you who have to assign a theme to every damn thing you read, is dirty money. Not that the Natinals’ capital was ill-gained, you understand; it’s just that you’d think it was, what with how they can’t find any pitchers willing to take it, even if they offer it by the wheelbarrow-load. A careful study of the situation reveals the most likely causes to be the proverbial string attached to said wheelbarrows: you would have to pitch for the Natinals, the "o" missing because Majestic misspelled the uniforms.
Turns out the pitchers who have options aren’t so keen on that.
It’s an interesting situation. You don’t expect anyone to be interested in pitching for, say, the Pirates unless it’s that or the indy leagues. (It’s about the same on the field, but the Pirates pay a lot more. But only because of pesky major league union rules.) But then, the Pirates aren’t sending men in tuxedos to Cliff Lee’s doorstep with a couple of briefcases to say “here, please, PLEASE take our money!” The Pirates may spend on amateur talent, but good major league players can pry Bob Nutting’s money out of his cold, dead hands.
The Natinals are like the Pirates in that they don’t win many baseball games, but unlike the Pirates in that they would very much like for major league stars to take gigantic amounts of their money. But no dice. In fact, the Natinals have been trying since the day they moved to Washington to lure in a big-ticket free agent. They were in on Mark Teixeira. They were in on C.C. Sabathia. They were in on Cliff Lee. And by all accounts they have been willing to match the Yankees’ money on all those gentlemen. But why take the same money to live in Washington and lose that you would get to live in New York and win? (Or, in Cliff Lee’s baffling case, Philadelphia.)
And if that’s true, you definitely aren’t going to Washington if no money’s involved and you have something to say about it. Which, for example, Zack Greinke did. You might recall that Mike Rizzo and Dayton Moore worked out a deal for Greinke that, by all accounts, netted for the Royals a better package of talent than they wound up getting from the Brewers. Greinke said no.
Rizzo tried to give Greinke the hard sell, talk to him about how they’re building something special in Washington and they want you, Zack Greinke, to be the face of the new, championship-caliber franchise.
Greinke said no. If he didn’t say something very similar to “yeah, that’s exactly the same thing Dayton’s been trying to sell me,” he definitely thought it. Greinke wanted to play for a winner now. And that is the story of how he became a Milwaukee Brewer. I sure hope for his own sake he never signs any extension in Milwaukee, because in two years the Royals are going to be contenders and the Brewers are going to be the worst team in Major League Baseball.
As for the Natinals, they’re going to be interesting two years down the line. After that fiasco where the Natinals got so desperate to give SOMEBODY a huge contract that they gave one to Jayson Werth--Jayson Werth!!--I think Rizzo got tremendously lucky when Greinke refused to go to Washington, and the Natinals’ desperate grab for a matinee star is very dangerous indeed. Lucky for them the fates are forcing them to do what they should be doing anyway: sinking the bulk of their apparently vast financial resources into acquiring amateur talent. Which they certainly have of late, between the Strasburg and Harper contracts. That’s a good start, but they need to amp it up with pricey lower round picks and international signings. Because it appears no stars are going to consider signing with the Natinals until they get good, and even adding Cliff Lee wasn’t going to make them good. Developing some talent is the way you do that.
And you know what’s funny? When Zack Greinke hits free agency after next season, he may more seriously consider Washington’s money just because they’ll have gotten a lot better next season.
Then again, you know what’s funny? By the winter of 2012, the hot team poised for a title run and with money to spend might be... the Kansas City Royals.