For the first time in forever, the Reds are in position where they have a surplus of starting pitching. However, the rotation lacks a legitimate number 1 starter. That makes it a rotation ideally suited for the grind of a 162-game season, but perhaps not for a short postseason series where Aces rule. Whether it's a 5 or 7 game series, chances are good that an Ace will get two or more starts. In such an environment, the Reds are at a distinct disadvantage in two games before the first pitch is even fired. So, the obvious question is should they have gone after the services of a young, former Cy Young award winner who actively sought out smaller market organizations in his quest for a new home?
Asking this question now as opposed to a couple weeks ago brings different considerations into play. Over the past couple of weeks, Greinke has been shutdown because of a rib fracture, Mike Leake has looked shaky at best in spring training, and Johnny Cueto has been hampered by forearm tightness. Obviously, that may change the equation to a certain extent.
Greinke was shutdown with a rib fracture which will linger into the beginning of the season and cost him a few starts. However, all he'll need to do is rest and then rebuild his arm strength, so the injury should be a once-and-done type problem, not a lingering issue.
As for Leake, he hit the ground running last year and looked like a legitimate #2 type starter. However, he faded in the middle months and was shutdown early with shoulder fatigue. Leake's Spring Training struggles may be nothing more than adjusting to the strength he added over the offseason, but it could also be lingering effects from the shoulder fatigue. At this point, it's questionable whether he is ready for the majors from an endurance and performance level standpoint.
Perhaps most disconcerting is Johnny Cueto's struggles with arm soreness. He was originally shut down for 8 days due to forearm tightness. At first glance, it seems a minor problem, but forearm tightness is frequently a precursor to Tommy John surgery. However, the Reds medical staff gave him a clean bill of health and ran him back out to the mound today. The results were not promising, as Cueto departed after throwing just one inning, this time complaining of bicep soreness. Obviously, not good. Not. Good. Hopefully, it ACTUALLY is nothing more than soreness, but it could ultimately be something much more serious.
Greinke suffers from social anxiety and is uncomfortable in many social situations, but he comfortably wears the label of #1 Starter. He has legitimate ace potential and in the past 3 seasons he has posted WARs of 4.9, 9.4, and 5.2. The 9.4 WAR season justifiably earned him a Cy Young award and may represent the high point of Greinke's career. Even so, last year only two Reds starters had WARs over 2.0, including Johnny Cueto at 2.8 and Travis Wood at 2.2.
It's looking like the Reds are in danger of losing their best pitcher from 2010 for a significant period of time. Even if Greinke never again approaches his Hall of Fame caliber season of 9.4 WAR, he still represents a 2.5 to 3.0 win improvement over everyone on the Reds staff unless they take a step forward. Given a larger sample size, it's likely that Travis Wood posts an improved WAR, but the Reds have more depth than high performance arms.
When you factor in that the improving NL Central has tightened up and gotten even more competitive, then you have to consider this something of a zero-sum game. If the Reds had acquired Greinke, then they would also have kept him away from a division rival. So, any gain by the Reds is essentially a corresponding loss for the Brewers. If Greinke returns to 9 wins above replacement, then that's a plus 9 for the Reds and a minus 9 wins in missed opportunity for the Brewers.
Obviously, only time will provide the answer to this question, but I think it was a mistake for the organization not to be an aggressive suitor on Greinke.