Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Brewers’

To the Would-Be Victors Come the Would-Be Spoilers

The Seattle Mariners may have been on a bit of a tear of late, but they’re not exactly looking for a postseason shot that they’re just not going to get. However, read carefully: the Mariners have the single most tough schedule in the American League to come down the stretch of the stretch.

The New York Yankees and their minions love to say, no matter how the Yankees might be struggling lately, that the road to the Serious still goes through the south Bronx. But for the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics, and the Texas Rangers, the road to the postseason is going through Seattle: 21 out of the Mariners’ coming final 24 games will be played against those clubs. The lone set with no postseason prospect involving the Mariners is a three-set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

And the Mariners won’t necessarily be pushovers, either. They might be dead last in the American League West (67-71, with only a vague hope of reaching .500 if at all) but since the All-Star break they’re tied for the second-best jacket in the circuit with 32-20, even if they did kind of fatten it at the expense of Kansas City, Cleveland, and Minnesota.

And it gets even more delicious when you factor in that it won’t only be the Blue Jays who have to deal with Felix Hernandez, who’s already thrown four shutouts in his last ten starts including his perfect game. Including the regular season’s final day, when—if he works on his regular rest—the Angels would have the pleasure of figuring him out, possibly with a wild card spot on the line for Mike Scioscia’s troops.

So who else really gets to play spoiler down this stretch? First, the American League:

Los Angeles Angels—One more slump, however, and the Angels go from possible wild-card sneak-ins to spoilers alone. They face the third-toughest AL schedule behind Seattle and Oakland. Six games to come against the Rangers, four against the A’s, and three each against the Central-fighting Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. On the other hand, they also face six games with the Mariners . . . over their last nine games on the season. If the Angels are going to be fated as spoilers after all, their time is sooner than you or they might think.

Boston Red Sox—On scheduling paper the Red Sox have the fourth toughest AL schedule to come. Six games each against Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and the Empire Emeritus. That’s on paper only. In reality—don’t exactly bank on this year’s Red Sox becoming last year’s Orioles. Since The Big Deal they’ve gotten worse instead of better and it doesn’t look like anything can help them now. Which is another good reason to dump Bobby Valentine post-haste. He can’t even get them to muster up for playing for pride anymore.

Toronto Blue Jays—They have four against the Orioles, seven against the Yankees, and three versus Tampa Bay. Sorry, Yankee fans—the road to this postseason just might be going through Toronto or Boston, though right now Toronto looks like the heavier stretch to pave.

The National League’s prospective poisoners aren’t looking at quite the kind of roads the AL spoilers-in-waiting face. The league’s toughest schedule to come belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are fighting for a postseason berth still. But the second-toughest belongs to the Miami Marlins—who look at this writing and probably for the rest of they way as though the only thing they could spoil would be their fans’ lunches or dinners. The road to the National League postseason isn’t going through southern Florida this time.

As for the rest of the league?

New York Mets—They’ve been looking a little better since busting out of their last free fall with an 8-3 record over their previous eleven games. They still face six games with the Atlanta Braves, three with the Washington Nationals, and a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still clinging to postseason hopes and just might get a chance to have the Mets throw them over the stern. Unlike the Red Sox, the Mets are playing for pride now and have the right manager under whom to do it. Terry Collins is what the Red Sox only thought Bobby Valentine would be, the difference being Collins learned from the past and hasn’t been swatting flies with atomic bombs or betraying his players no matter how no-nonsense he is with them.

Milwaukee Brewers—They’re facing four with the Nats and three each against the Braves, the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Reds.

San Diego Padres—Don’t laugh; the Friars just took two out of three from the Dodgers and have three more to play against them. That’s in addition to three games each with the Cardinals and six with the San Francisco Giants.

Further spoiler alert: At least a few of the aforesaid contenders (we’ve already mentioned the Angels in this context, alas) could be reduced to spoilers themselves by the time at least one of the current candidates gets to them.

Deja Vu, All Over Again—Colon Drydocked For Synthetic Testosterone

Fifty games out for Tortilla Fats . . .

That’ll be a fifty game siddown-and-shaddap against Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon.

Tortilla Fats got bagged for synthetic testosterone, the same actual or alleged performance-enhancing substance for which Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants got nailed last week. Except that nobody yet suspects Colon’s buds tried hoisting a phony Website hawking a phony product their man could say he bought without knowing what was really inside.

With a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts, Colon was having his best season since his Cy Young Award-winning 2005 with the Anaheim Angels, if you don’t count that he was 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA over one seven-start span. He spent 2006 on the disabled list following rotator cuff surgery; he’d been dogged since then by other shoulder and bone chip issues; he underwent a notable if controversial surgery to inject his own stem cells into his shoulder and made a comeback with the New York Yankees (while fighting a hamstring issue) and, then, the A’s.

There have been many who suspected Colon’s health issues earlier in his career stemmed from his conditioning, or apparent lack thereof. There will now be many suspecting Colon is just the second revelation in an apparent or feared new trend toward synthetic testosterone as the actual or alleged performance-enhancing substance du jour.

Victor Conte—you may remember him being the BALCO mastermind once upon a time; you may not know he’s become of late a powerful advocate of closing real or imagined loopholes in baseball’s drug testing programs—is on record saying that one such loophole lets players using synthetic testosterone via creams, gels, and patches to beat test detection fast. Whatever else has ever been said of Colon, no one has ever accused anything other than his fastball of being particularly fast.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

Cabrera.

SPEAKING OF MELKY. . . it’s beginning to look like Cabrera himself is cooked so far as the Giants are concerned. They yanked an order for about 2,500 Melky Cabrera T-shirts right fast after he got nailed; and, there’s a real chance the Giants may not want him back, for the postseason or any other time. “I’m getting a strong sense that the Giants’ higher-ups are so angry with Cabrera for taking a performance enhancing drug and sticking a knife into their playoff hopes, that the chances they would let him appear in any postseason games this year, if he’s eligible, or re-sign him for 2013 are close to nil,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Henry Schulman. “Besides their anger with Cabrera, the Giants, from what I’m hearing, understand that they need to be proactive about distancing themselves from the steroids story even if they are being branded unfairly now because two of the four big-leaguers suspended this season wore their uniform.

Santana.

AS I WAS SAYING ABOUT JOHAN SANTANA . . . pitching hurt has only hurt him. From coming back well enough from shoulder surgery—including that stupefying no-hitter—Santana has since battled ankle and back issues and, now, it looks like the Mets, whose season is probably lost already despite a gallant first half, are shutting him down for the rest of 2012. The specific shutdown cause is lower back inflammation, which was probably aggravated by Santana perhaps returning too soon from an ankle sprain, combined with that 134-pitch no-hitter following which he didn’t look anything much like the same pitcher.  The best news: Doctors have told Santana and the Mets he won’t need surgery and can rehabilitate with medication and rest, in plenty of time to be ready for spring training 2013.

Wolf.

THE BOYS WHO CRIED “WOLF!”—Actually, they’re the Milwaukee Brewers, releasing veteran lefty Randy Wolf . . . on his 36th birthday. Not that Wolf is going to make a big stink over it. The one-time Phillie standout himself says he’s not certain what went south on him this season. (Opposing batters hit .312 against him this season.) Releasing Wolf gives the Brewers room to bring back Shaun Marcum from a rehab assignment, and possibly makes Wolf—well-liked and well-respected in the Brewer clubhouse—a target for a contender needing veteran help down the stretch. General manager Doug Melvin said he would be surprised if Wolf doesn’t pitch the rest of 2012.

The Dempster Backstory, and other heads and tales . . .

Turns out the Chicago Cubs got a pair of A-level minor leaguers, Christian Vilanueva (3B) and Kyle Hendricks (RHP), from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster . . . decent prospects but not necessarily blue chips. For the most part, few no-questions-asked blue chip prospects moved in the non-waiver trade period, Jean Segura (SS) possibly having been the bluest of the chips when he went to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal.

How and why did the Rangers—hungering for rotation help with Colby Lewis gone for the year (entering the final fortnight, his was the hole they needed to fill)—end up settling for Dempster when all was said and done? According to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal:

* Approaching the non-waiver trade deadline the Rangers’ real first love was Cole Hamels—but Hamels signed that $144 million, six-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ryan Dempster—the Rangers landed him only too much in the nick of time . . .

* With Hamels out of reach, the Rangers’ next great love was Zack Greinke—but they were out-bid for him by the Los Angeles Angels, simply because the Rangers were unwilling to surrender any of their top three farm prospects (they offered their numbers six and fifteen; the Brewers said not quite) and less likely than the Angels (who sent the Brewers Segura as part of the trade package and have the farm depth to have been able to make the deal) to be able to sign Greinke long-term. Which made the Rangers only too normal under today’s collective bargaining agreement that puts serious reins on spending for prospects.

* With Greinke out of reach, the Rangers went talking about every other starting pitcher known to be available. Except that Miami’s Josh Johnson is an established health risk, Tampa Bay’s James Shields picked the wrong time to slump, their own one-time World Series carrier Cliff Lee was too damn expensive, and Boston’s Josh Beckett had just too many issues—from his own expensive salary to his own history of health and clubhouse issues. (Which means, Rosenthal says, the Red Sox may have missed their own best shot at moving Beckett, and the Rangers lost out on a possible blockbuster that might have included another element they hoped to get: seeking a lineup sparkplug, they’d coveted Shane Victorino, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but would have taken Jacoby Ellsbury if the two sides could work a blockbuster that didn’t happen.)

* With Dempster, the Cubs themselves were over the proverbial barrel—the new rules would have given the Cubs draft pick compensation if Dempster left as a free agent after the Cubs made him a single-year, qualifying offer, which they might not have been willing to do for a pitcher Dempster’s age if it meant losing a first-round pick.

* Dempster himself helped the Rangers’ cause when he spurned a deal to the Atlanta Braves; the Dodgers—Dempster’s known first choice—didn’t want to part with their top prospects for him (they refused to budge on Allen Webster, not that you could blame them), and Dempster himself was in the Cub front offices watching the haggle with the Dodgers, perhaps enough to cause him to change his mind on his hoped-for choice. Then, if a deal couldn’t get done with the Dodgers, Dempster let it slip that he wouldn’t say no to the Yankees or the Rangers, and for likewise personal reasons: in New York, two Dempster allies (former Cub GM Jim Hendry, former pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who now has that job in the Bronx) are there, and in Arlington there’s another former Cub teammate he respects (future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux) working in the front office.

“Time will tell,” Rosenthal writes, “if Dempster made the right decision by rejecting the Braves and switching leagues just months before he enters the free-agent market — he not only is moving to the more hitter-friendly AL but also to hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.”

And barely had Dempster agreed to the move—which happened practically as the period expired—when the Rangers got hit with a double-whammy: Neftali Feliz, their closer-turned-starter, who looked impressive enough in the new job until he went down with elbow trouble in May, now needs Tommy John surgery and will be lost until the middle of next summer at least; and, Roy Oswalt, whom they signed as a free agent in May, continued showing his age and has been transferred to the bullpen.

They could still end up with a Cliff Lee homecoming, though—there’s always a chance of making a deal on Lee once a) he clears the waiver wire; and, as just about every analyst figures, the Phillies get it into their thick skulls that they’re going to have to eat some money to move him. Which would embarrass the Phillies far less than the Red Sox have been embarrassed since they moved Kevin Youkilis: the erstwhile Greek God of Walks is enjoying a renaissance with the White Sox, while the Olde Towne Team ended up with a small-enough return for moving Youkilis, Scott Podsednik, and Matt Albers.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

There were some deals that didn’t get made but might or should have:

* Chase Headley—San Diego did a lot of talking about moving their third base prize; lots of people wanted Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, too, but those two signed contract extensions while Headley, who stayed on the market until the non-waiver deadline, went nowhere. Leaving the Padres, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, to see if they can get a better package for him after the season.

* Michael Cuddyer—The former Minnesota mainstay now with the Rockies and struggling a bit, there was a GM or two who wanted him but the Rockies didn’t want to let him go, for whatever reasons.

* Chris Perez—Cleveland needs to continue rebuilding; Perez could have brought them a decent if not spectacular return from a team in dire need of relief fortification (the New York Mets or the Brewers, anyone?), but the Indians decided to hold him.

* Denard Span—The Twins wouldn’t mind moving him, and the Cincinnati Reds—who fortified what might be the best bullpen in baseball this year when they added Jonathan Broxton before the non-waiver deadline—could have plugged in their leadoff hole nicely with Span. And the Reds right now are baseball’s most solid team without Joey Votto; they’d have been downright filthy with Votto and Span in the ranks.

* Scott Hairston—Among pieces the slipping Mets might have moved, Hairston would have brought the best return. Maybe the Mets aren’t giving up on the season just yet, maybe they are, but if they’re not giving up on the season it’s to wonder why they didn’t offer up Hairston seeking badly-needed bullpen help, since the only thing making their bullpen look anything close to serviceable is the horror of a bullpen in Milwaukee. The Mets aren’t being run by dummies anymore, and you know damn well they won’t even think about moving the like of David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Ike Davis (who’s beginning to rehorse after a frightful beginning this season), Matt Harvey, or Bobby Parnell (they may still see him as their closer of the future, if he can get that explosive stuff of his under control), but holding Hairston when his trade value was at peak may have been a bigger mistake than it looked as the non-waiver deadline approached.

Beckett on the Block, and other passing thoughts . . .

The speculation continues ramping up that the Boston Red Sox are looking to unload Josh Beckett, even if the front office are trying to downplay the speculation.

Beckett has 10-5 rights to veto any deal, though he’s commented recently that he’d rather stay in Boston but he’d accept it if the team no longer wants or needs him. The Atlanta Braves are thought to have kicked the proverbial tires on the righthander but shown no other interest in the former National Leaguer.

Beckett’s clubhouse presence—he’s believed to have been one of the ringleaders of the infamous chicken-and-beer contingency during last fall’s collapse—and fading fastball, not to mention his salary, are also thought to have many teams alarmed over a deal they might make otherwise. Beckett has won two World Series rings (Florida, 2003; Boston, 2007) in his career to date, but the 2011 collapse so stung that there are those who believe the Red Sox began trying to dump Beckett as early as the winter of 2011-12

Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan has an apparently on-the-money analysis of the whys and wherefores.

After Beckett found himself at the center of the Red Sox’s chicken-and-beer controversy that clouded their collapse in September 2011, his future with the team came into doubt. The hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager did nothing to allay fears; Beckett was leery of Valentine because of critical comments he made as a television broadcaster.

Beckett may have pitched his way out of Boston . . . emphasis on “may” . . .

Valentine’s tenure in Boston has been a disaster, with the Red Sox in last place and 51-51 after an extra-innings win Sunday against the New York Yankees. He never mended his relationship with Beckett, whose up-and-down season was perhaps best personified by the uproar over his golf outing following a missed start.

Teams’ hesitation to take on Beckett goes beyond his onerous contract. There is a simple fact at hand, one that makes [Beckett] more a risk than a savior: He’s not nearly the pitcher he once was.

Beckett’s fastball tells his story. Last season, it sat at 93 mph and topped out at 96.3 mph. This year, Beckett barely can reach his average velocity from last season. Over the last month, the hardest fastball he threw was 93.5 mph, and his average was 91.5 mph. Consequently, he’s throwing fewer fastballs than ever, relying more on a cutter that one executive said “is too hittable.”

The key to any Beckett deal is just how much money the Red Sox are willing to eat. One comparison that makes sense is A.J. Burnett, Beckett’s former teammate with the Florida Marlins. When the Yankees dumped him this offseason, they sent $19 million to cover more than half of the remaining $33 million on the final two years of Burnett’s contract. While Beckett hasn’t hit rock bottom like Burnett did – while his strikeout rate is a career low, Beckett still owns low home run and walk rates – his decent peripherals can’t save him from a string of mediocre performances and lingering concern about his effect on a clubhouse.

Of course, the Red Sox could look at the standings, see themselves only four games back of the second wild-card slot and considering holding on to Beckett for now.

“They’re trying to dump him,” an unnamed executive told ESPN’s Gordon Edes, “but I don’t think anyone would touch him without a big discount.” At this writing, the likeliest scenario may be that Beckett stays in Boston at least past the non-waiver deadline early Tuesday morning. Some observers have thought the Texas Rangers might be interested in bringing Beckett back to his native state, but Fox Sports says the Rangers merely mulled the idea before making their successful play for Yu Darvish: the Rangers “just not comfortable with him.”

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

DON’T LOOK NOW . . . but the Cincinnati Reds might be the hottest team in baseball at this writing, and that’s without Joey Votto (DL, knee cartilage surgery): the Reds rode eight strong from Matt Latos Sunday to beat the Colorado Rockies, 7-2, and stretch their winning streak to ten. The last time the Reds won as many as ten straight was 1998; the franchise winning streak record is twelve, which they’ve done twice, the last time 1957—the year of the Cincinnati All-Star ballot box stuffing scandal.

PAPI’S HEEL—David Ortiz might have come off the disabled list Wednesday, but Big Papi said his right heel continues to bother him enough to delay his return for a small spell. Ortiz suffered an Achilles strain rounding the bases on an Adrian Gonzalez home run 16 July.

BREWERS BURY A BULLPEN COACH–Few bullpens have the kind of self-incendiary tendencies of the New York Mets’ bullpen in recent weeks . . . but the Milwaukee Brewers’ pen often makes the Mets resemble fire marshals. Which explains why the Brewers have unloaded bullpen coach Stan Kyles, who’d held the job since 2009.

The Brewers’ pen through this writing has a collective 4.80 ERA and the most losses and blown saves in the Show. General manager Doug Melvin hired minor league pitching coordinator Lee Tunnel to succeed Kyles.

The latest Brewer pen implosion allowed the Washington Nationals to win in extra innings Sunday–11-10 in eleven innings.

A prodigal son?

DROP OFF THE KEY, LEE?—The Texas Rangers, who once rode him into a World Series, are thought to be kicking the proverbial tires on Cliff Lee again. Lee went to the Rangers before the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline, then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent on a five year deal.

Lee’s struggling this season (1-6, 3.95 ERA), but the one-time Cy Young Award winner (AL, 2008) is still considered valuable enough that the Phillies are thought to be asking for “a significant package” if they’re going to trade him. On the other hand, Fox also reports talk that the Phillies are more anxious to move Hunter Pence or even Shane Victorino, two position players, than Lee.

The remaining money on Lee’s deal, more than the package of players, seems to have warded off two teams who aren’t exactly impoverished. Lee’s owed over $90 million for the final three seasons, too big, Fox says, even for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees.

JUSTIN TIME?—The trade winds continue to blow toward the Minnesota Twins being willing to move mainstay and former MVP Justin Morneau. To get him, Fox Sports says, would probably require a Show-ready starting pitcher and a willingness to foot a decent portion of Morneau’s remaining salary (about $19 million) through 2013. The trade winds also have such Twins as Denard Span and Josh Willingham as possible trade candidates, which some reports say have added to tensions in the Twins clubhouse.

Now He'll Be an Angel: Greinke Traded for Rookie SS, Two Prime Pitching Prospects

The market for starters has shrunk by one. Zack Greinke is going to the Los Angeles Angels for rookie shortstop Jean Siguera and a pair of minor league pitchers, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. And Zack the Knife, whose preferred destination was long thought to be the Atlanta Braves, isn’t exactly unhappy about the move:

It should be fun. They are a great team. After the first month of the season, they have been one of the best teams in baseball. There is a lot of talent there. A lot of great players. The pitching staff will be pretty incredible.

Neither is Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto, who’s seen dividends enough with the winter signings of pitcher C.J. Wilson and (after a very sluggish beginning) first baseman Albert Pujols.

It’s an exciting day. We hope that this move will be not just a short-term gain, but one that’s good for the organization. We’re excited to see what kind of a difference he can make.

Note DiPoto’s phrasing. If Greinke does help make a difference—the Angels are five behind the Rangers in the AL West, in good wild card position, but not necessarily known for liking to finish lower than first place if they can help it—“not just a short-term gain” could be code for the Angels gunning for this deal because they think they have a decent shot at signing Greinke long-term.

Greinke joins a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Wilson . . . and gives the Angels a quartet of All-Stars to wheel out every fifth day. His pending free agency, and the Brewers’ slide in the National League Central after losing Prince Fielder to free agency, made him expendable.

The Brewers, for their part, didn’t exactly get nothing in return. Segura was hitting .294 with seven bombs and 33 thefts at AA before his Tuesday callup to the Angels. Hellweg (all 6’9″ of him) had a 3.38 ERA in 21 AA starts; Pena, a 2.99 in 19 starts, not to mention being second in the Texas League with 111 punchouts. All three are top-ten prospects according to Baseball America, with Hellweg as the nugget ranking number four in the Angels’ system entering 2012.

Now He’ll Be an Angel: Greinke Traded for Rookie SS, Two Prime Pitching Prospects

The market for starters has shrunk by one. Zack Greinke is going to the Los Angeles Angels for rookie shortstop Jean Siguera and a pair of minor league pitchers, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. And Zack the Knife, whose preferred destination was long thought to be the Atlanta Braves, isn’t exactly unhappy about the move:

It should be fun. They are a great team. After the first month of the season, they have been one of the best teams in baseball. There is a lot of talent there. A lot of great players. The pitching staff will be pretty incredible.

Neither is Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto, who’s seen dividends enough with the winter signings of pitcher C.J. Wilson and (after a very sluggish beginning) first baseman Albert Pujols.

It’s an exciting day. We hope that this move will be not just a short-term gain, but one that’s good for the organization. We’re excited to see what kind of a difference he can make.

Note DiPoto’s phrasing. If Greinke does help make a difference—the Angels are five behind the Rangers in the AL West, in good wild card position, but not necessarily known for liking to finish lower than first place if they can help it—“not just a short-term gain” could be code for the Angels gunning for this deal because they think they have a decent shot at signing Greinke long-term.

Greinke joins a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Wilson . . . and gives the Angels a quartet of All-Stars to wheel out every fifth day. His pending free agency, and the Brewers’ slide in the National League Central after losing Prince Fielder to free agency, made him expendable.

The Brewers, for their part, didn’t exactly get nothing in return. Segura was hitting .294 with seven bombs and 33 thefts at AA before his Tuesday callup to the Angels. Hellweg (all 6’9″ of him) had a 3.38 ERA in 21 AA starts; Pena, a 2.99 in 19 starts, not to mention being second in the Texas League with 111 punchouts. All three are top-ten prospects according to Baseball America, with Hellweg as the nugget ranking number four in the Angels’ system entering 2012.

Zack the Knife Tops Non-Waiver Hit Parade Now . . .

Bank on it: With Cole Hamels signed to that delicious six-year extension, the Ryan Dempster scenario run into a (perhaps temporary) roadblock, no known actual move from Tampa Bay regarding a deal involving James Shields, and Josh Johnson apparently likely to stay while the Miami Marlins continue an apparent rebuilding fire-sale, Zack Greinke is now a) number one on the non-waiver trade deadline hit parade among starting pitchers; and, b) a certain bet to be gone before the 4 a.m. 31 July deadline. So says Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin to USA  Today, even if he hastens to make clear it’s going to be difficult for him, personally, to trade the righthander:

For four clubs, could that someone be Zack the Knife?

I’m very fond of him. He’s one of my favorite players I ever had. Really, he’s been like a son to me. I enjoyed talking baseball with him. He’s very passionate. He follows the game. It’s been a great experience having him for a year and a half. There are so many good things about him, it’s going to be difficult when we trade him.

Greinke made himself tradeable with the mid-market Brewers when his agent let it be known he planned to test the free agency market after his current deal expires at season’s end. For their part, the Brewers helped make him tradeable when they fell well enough behind even in the race for the second American League wild card; they’re 6-4 in Greinke’s last ten starts, with Greinke himself going 3-1 with six no-decisions in four of which he pitched well enough to win.

In hot pursuit: At least the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels (who are also said to have eyes for Shields), the Chicago White Sox, the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Los Angeles Dodgers—never mind that the Dodgers are known to retain eyes for Dempster. All those teams have had scouts on Greinke’s trail and in abudnance when Greinke pitched Tuesday.

In really hot pursuit: According to Jayson Stark, the Rangers, the Angels, the White Sox, and the Braves. And it may come down in the end to which of the clubs believes it’s worth a potential rent-a-pitcher in terms of what they’d have to surrender. Looking toward season’s end, it seems on the surface that the Rangers and the Angels each have, potentially, the best chance of coming up with the dollars possibly needed to secure Greinke on a long-term deal. Will they pass on dealing for him now, even if he could help them mean a trip to the postseason?

What they might have to give up to rent him: Stark cites an anonymous American League wheel as saying it would take “a special set of circumstances,” since there are no longer compensation picks to be had when Greinke files for free agency, for a team to want him that badly unless they think they have a good chance of signing him long-term. “And if you think you’re just going to be in the wild-card race,” the wheel told Stark, “do you really want to put a lot of chips on the table for one game?”

The good news, then: The Rangers, the Angels, the White Sox, and the Braves aren’t just looking to the single-game wild-card elimination—they’re gunning to win division titles if they can. The likely scenario seems to be the Brewers asking for at least two blue-chip prospects from any trading partner (which is, by the way, what they burped up to get CC Sabathia for a rental a couple of years ago), which the Angels and Rangers have and the Braves may have. But those clubs also want someone they think they can lock up long-term. The White Sox have a reputation for gambling on the big move for right this minute, but some have feared Greinke is reluctant to pitch in a large market as his home base.

That fear, according to Stark, was smashed by one scout who watched him pitch Tuesday: Nobody is really going to know if he can unless he actually gets to a major city. So all you can do is evaluate his ability, evaluate his stuff and say, ‘Can he make your team better?’ And that answer, obviously, is yes. The other thing to keep in mind is, if you’re afraid of whether he can pitch in your market, there’s no reason to even go there and watch him pitch, right? So any [team] that was at that game, that had any interest at all, must already have made that decision. Don’t you think?

At least one kicker: Greinke is believed to prefer Atlanta as his eventual home.

The call here: I could be wrong, but I can’t help thinking Greinke is going to be wearing either Texas or Los Angeles silks next week. If you agree that the teams in question want a fair crack at signing him long term if they deal for him by Tuesday, the Rangers and the Angels are in a slightly stronger financial position to make that happen. And they can make their own home markets and their clubhouse ambiences alike look very attractive to Greinke. Not that the Braves can’t do the latter, but it’s the finanial question that may cause them to hold back in the end.