Oh, boy, did the Reds miss an opportunity, let me count the ways:
1. The Reds have two holes in the lineup (leftfield and shortstop) and one area where a legitimate upgrade is warranted (starting rotation) and a farm system rather well stocked with blocked prospects (J.Francisco, T.Frazier, Y.Alonso, D.Sappelt, etc.).
When you put it all together, don't you have to come to the conclusion that we should be looking to trade from our surplus of blocked prospects to fill the holes in our lineup or address those areas to be improved?
Now, there are reports that the Royals had specific requests for a Greinke deal. Namely, up the middle talent that was nearly ready for the Majors. The Royals are wisely trying to sync-up the arrival date of all of their talent to make a serious push for the postseason. Of course, that's exactly what we should be doing, but we still line up in trade because our window is now, while the Royals are a couple of years away.
We may have lacked a shortstop the caliber of Escobar (though, Cozart is probably closer than some might think), but we certainly could have offered up a similar package and included more value to tip the scales in favor of our offer.
2. The Reds pitching staff is long on depth, short on elite talent. As a result, they are well built for the regular season, but poorly constructed for the postseason. Adding an elite pitcher at the top of the rotation would have been a significant boost to the team in the regular season, while increasing our competitiveness for the postseason.
During his 2009 Cy Young winning season, Zack Greinke had a Win Above Replacement (WAR) mark of 9.4 and in 2010 he had a WAR of 5.2. In 2010, only 2 Reds pitchers on the starting staff even had WARs of greater than 2.0 (Cueto 2.8, Wood 2.2). So, even during his down 2010 season, Greinke represented a 3+ win improvement over everyone on the staff with the exception of Cueto. In addition, Greinke did it against the tougher league, so some improvement in the NL in front of a better defense is a reasonable expectation. Now, admittedly, the WARs of some of the Reds pitchers are depressed by their lack of innings, but it's clear that Greinke represents a significant upgrade in talent over all (or at least, most) of the staff.
3. Here is the biggest factor in my mind. How many Cy Young award winning pitchers actively reject large market teams? How many elite players actively WANT to pitch in the middle of the country?
Greinke has struggled with social anxiety disorder, but that attribute made him rare among elite players. High revenue clubs are that way because they operate in larger markets. The more consumers, the more revenue. And, as odd as it sounds, larger markets are exactly what Greinke wanted to avoid. To a certain extent, he likes to avoid people and social interaction, so for once larger market teams were at a distinct disadvantage. That which typically constitutes the biggest strength of large market organizations was turned against them to be an insurmountable weakness.
Greinke utilized his no trade clause to eliminate the big boys from the competition, which pared the market down to (in essence) the second tier revenue organizations. How many times does a lower or middle revenue organization get to compete in a marketplace that excludes the big spenders? It was a remarkable situation that I can scarcely recall happening in the recent past or expect to see again in the future. Unfortunately, the Reds failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
4. And, of course, if the Reds had acquired Greinke, then they would have prevented their divisional foe from getting him. The Reds could have improved themselves, while weakening an opponent by blocking their effort at improvement. Oddly enough, it feels a bit like the cold war of the AL East, where a BoSox gain represents a corresponding loss for the Yanks (or, vice versa). So, it's a double-impact, as it becomes something of a zero-sum game, as one team's win is the other team's loss.
5. Overall, Greinke is a special talent who possesses an exceptionally rare blend of stuff, command, and feel for pitching, which is why he is one of my very favorite pitchers. To justify the lack of action by the Reds, some may point to the payroll restrictions under which the front office was laboring, but in reality either or both of the ownership group (boosting payroll) or the front office (freeing up money) could have made it work. When a unique opportunity like this comes along, you simply have to jump on it.
In short, I think this was a huge missed opportunity for the Reds and one that is likely to haunt in the very near future. I'm a huge Greinke fan and expect him to be very, very good in 2011 and beyond. Unfortunately, it just won't be for the Reds.