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Could the Nationals go after Zack Grienke?

Ken Davidoff of Newsday.com reports that the Kansas City Royals may try to move last years Cy Young award winner, Zack Greinke, as they do not believe they can compete in the final two years of his contract. He lists the Nationals as one of the teams that could be interested:

“The Royals have him signed through 2012, at $13.5-million salaries. He’s well off his Cy Young Award pace of last year, yet still a pretty good pitcher…The Royals aren’t positive they’ll be highly competitive by 2012, so they would be open to a good offer for him, a person familiar with their thinking said.”

In 2009 Grienke was superman. The 25-year-old starter went 16-8 on a bad team, while posting 9.5 K/9, and a 2.16 ERA to earn the AL Cy Young. With a 9.4 WAR in 2009, he was the most valuable player in baseball. In 2010 however he has been more of a mortal, going 9-12 with a 7.26 K/9 with a 3.90 ERA. While he is not having the Cy Young year he had in 2009, he’s still one of the better starting pitchers in the majors with a 4.8 WAR.

Grienke moving to Washington would make sense on several fronts. First, the 26-year-old could use a change of scenery. While his greatest success has come recently, he has been in a major league uniform since 2004 when he was only 20-years-old. Grienke was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, but had trouble putting it all together due to extreme social anxiety and clinical depression. The problem grew so bad that he missed almost all of 2006 for personal reasons after leaving the team’s camp in spring training. Since then, he has been able to find peace and it has shown on the diamond with a sub four ERA each year since 2007.

That being said, the pressure of a city like New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, may not be the best thing for a player who has been considered as fragile as Grienke. Washington on the other hand is a small enough market with far less pressure from the fans. If the Nationals could add him to the rotation next season, it would cost them a pretty penny, but putting a true ace at the top of the teams rotation next year may make them a competitor.

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