Bill Shanks

Braves should go get Zack Greinke now

We’re moving closer to the Tuesday 4 pm ET trade deadline, and it looks like we’re going to have a dramatic weekend in Atlanta’s search for a starting pitcher.

Ryan Dempster did the Braves a favor by blocking a trade to Atlanta. Giving up Randall Delgado for a 35-year-old pitcher who was probably not going to re-sign past this season would have been a mistake. We can’t forget that even though he’s back in the minor leagues right now (pitching Thursday for Gwinnett), Delgado has been a part of Atlanta’s rotation all season.

You have to wonder if Atlanta general manager Frank Wren woke up Monday, after watching Jair Jurrjens bomb again Sunday, and decided he had to go get a starting pitcher. You can’t blame him, really. If Sunday didn’t convince you the Braves need another starter, nothing would.

But while Dempster has had a very good season, it’s just tough to give up a young pitcher like Delgado for someone like that. Dempster is making $14 million this season, so he’s not going to want to decrease that very much moving forward. And who wants to give an aging pitcher that much money?

If you are going to give up a young arm like Delgado, you’ve got to get a younger pitcher who can be part of your rotation for years to come – or at least more than two months. And there is a pitcher out there that fits that description.

The Braves have wanted Brewers right-handed starter Zack Greinke for a long time. Greinke has wanted to pitch for the Braves for a long time. These two things are not a secret. And now, this weekend, the opportunity is here to make it happen.

There is a confidence in the Atlanta front office that if and when Greinke hits free agency this winter, they would have an excellent chance to sign him. So some probably wonder why they need to give up talent now in a trade, when they could get him as a free agent and not give up prospects this winter.

But Milwaukee is going to trade Greinke before the deadline. The Rangers and Angels look to be Atlanta’s biggest competition, and the Braves probably know Greinke has also expressed some interest in pitching on the west coast, so if he went to the Angels they may have a leg up on signing him to a long-term contract.

The White Sox might be in the mix, but there’s no way Greinke will re-sign there. Detroit got Anibal Sanchez, so they’re out. Washington could be a wildcard. The Nationals almost got Greinke from Kansas City two years ago before he went to Milwaukee.

The Braves could guarantee that they would have a better rotation for the next two months, and at the same time have a leg up on other teams to re-sign Greinke to a long-term contract if they trade for him before the deadline.

But here’s the question: how important is this to the organization? Is it important enough to give up your top pitching prospect, right-hander Julio Teheran? What happens if you trade Teheran for Greinke and something happens where Greinke doesn’t re-sign for the long-term this winter?

The debate about whether Greinke is worth a contract in the $20 million range is another topic for another day. But there’s little doubt the Braves want to invest in a younger pitcher to be at the top of the rotation for the next five years, much like they did in December 2004 when they acquired then-29-year-old Tim Hudson from Oakland.

Greinke turns 29 this October, so it’s a very similar situation to the Hudson acquisition almost eight years ago. And the Braves do have a ton of money coming off the books this winter, so the timing is perfect to make that type of investment.

If the Braves want Greinke to be their Cole Hamels, a young pitcher that can lead the rotation, they should go ahead and trade Teheran now to guarantee they’ll have the best chance to make it happen. Oh, and it will also, at the same time, tremendously improve the current rotation that is in dire need of help.

Put Greinke in the rotation with Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Ben Sheets and Mike Minor, and the Braves are going to have a much better shot at competing with the Pirates, Dodgers and (hold your breath) the Cardinals for the wildcard spots.

Milwaukee would be nuts not to take Teheran, who they could instantly place in the rotation as their potential replacement for Greinke. If the Brewers get greedy and wanted Christian Bethancourt along with Teheran, Wren should hang up. But they’re not going to find a better offer from another team than Teheran, and heck, even if it was Delgado they would be crazy to not pull the trigger on that deal.

Expect Atlanta to keep in touch with Boston. The Braves have long been intrigued with Jon Lester, a pitcher who might need a change of scenery. And if the Brewers are unreasonable, Lester might be the second best option to make a big splash. After that, the Braves will have to turn to Plan B options, and those type pitchers might not make as great an impact down the stretch.

Giving up Teheran would be tough, as he’s been touted as Atlanta’s best pitching prospect for four years. But Greinke has won a Cy Young award already and we saw Monday how he can dominate a major league game right now. Teheran only might be that good one day. There’s a big difference.

This is a very intriguing organizational decision. The Braves know they need help now, and they know they want Greinke to lead the rotation for the next five years. Teheran is a good prospect and chances are he’ll have a good career, but if Greinke is the ace pitcher the Braves want, they should make the trade before Tuesday’s deadline.

 

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com .  Follow Bill on twitter @BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com .

 

 

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