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Baseball Notes

With right pitch, Greinke could be pried from K.C.

By Nick Cafardo
October 24, 2010

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By any standard, Zack Greinke had a bad year.

As much as things went right in 2009, when the Royals righthander won the American League Cy Young Award, a lot went wrong this season as his ERA rose by two runs (to 4.17 from 2.16). The reasons are mysterious, because there was no physical issue to speak of. Greinke made 33 starts, just as in 2009, and pitched 220 innings, after pitching 229 1/3 the previous year. But his record went from 16-8 to 10-14.

Scouts and team personnel cited anything from an inability to get his changeup over, to throwing too many four-seam fastballs, to seeming uninterested because of how bad his team was. A scout who watched Greinke in about 10 starts this season said, “His look, body language, was that of a guy who thought he had no chance to win because of the team he played for. He was 75 percent of the guy I saw the year before, which is still pretty good.’’

The fact that Greinke has questioned whether the Royals will be good by the time he becomes a free agent in 2012 probably means they will at least listen to offers for him.

To have a 27-year-old former Cy Young winner out there for the taking is quite rare. But interested teams will have to ask themselves: Is that better than a 32-year-old Cliff Lee, for whom you wouldn’t have to give up anything?

Lee will cost a team north of $20 million per year while Greinke, provided he is traded, is at $13.5 million each of the next two seasons.

Of course, any time there’s a guy of that magnitude out there, you have to think the Red Sox will do their research and dig deep to see whether it’s a player they need to be involved with.

While the Sox rotation seems full, don’t forget that there is a strong Greinke tie-in to Boston with Allard Baird, the assistant to general manager Theo Epstein. Baird was the GM in Kansas City when Greinke went through his anxiety issues and has been like a father to him. Nobody understands Greinke more or believes in him more than Baird.

Understand, it would take a lot to get Greinke, and the Sox may be storing up their trade chips in case Adrian Gonzalez becomes available. But it would be awfully tempting.

As much as Epstein has been enamored with Felix Hernandez over the years, he would have to be equally attracted to someone like Greinke because of his rare combination of youth and experience.

Would he be a good fit in Boston? That’s debatable, considering his past anxiety issues, but at least he would be on a contending team. If not Boston, you can bet the Yankees would make a bid if they’re unable to land Lee.

As for the Rangers lefthander, the Sox have not been one of the most mentioned teams willing to make a bid. But that doesn’t mean they won’t. They would have to decide whether going six years for the 32-year-old Lee would be better than spending their dollars on Greinke, with more long-term potential.

“I think that’s the dilemma,’’ said an American League GM. “There may not be anyone better than Lee right now, but how long is that going to last? There will be teams — and I’m sure the Rangers and Yankees are two of them — who may be willing to do it and take the chance.

“But if you’re looking to build around someone, you would roll the dice with Greinke and hope that what he showed this season is an off year and not a sign of things to come. You’d have to do due diligence, but the upside with Greinke is pretty good.’’

Under his current deal, Greinke can nix deals with 15 teams, and each year he gets to choose those 15. The Sox and the Yankees are currently on his list, but we’ve come to find out those lists don’t mean much. With a little persuasion and Baird’s influence, Greinke could OK something to Boston.

Again, it comes down to where you want to throw your chips.

Last year, the Sox tried to get a hitter after letting Jason Bay go, but came up short in an offer for Matt Holliday. Then they decided to go all out for pitching and signed John Lackey.

There could be a similar situation this year, if Gonzalez is the primary target, because one thing that hasn’t changed is San Diego GM Jed Hoyer’s opinion that the Padres can’t afford him long-term.

The Sox have the chips to trade for Gonzalez: speed (Jacoby Ellsbury), power (Anthony Rizzo), a young major league middle infielder (Jed Lowrie), and a young pitcher (Felix Doubront or Casey Kelly).

One thing is for sure, the Sox need to make a splash this offseason. They have bought a soccer team, they have declining TV and radio ratings, and their sellout streak could be in jeopardy if the team is not improved.

EXTREME MAKEOVER

Rays must remodel on a budget for 2011

The Red Sox may be in a great position to make the wild card or do better in 2011 simply because the Rays could fall back a notch.

The Rays, who are talking about scaling their payroll back by $20 million, will likely bid adieu to free agent Carl Crawford (above) and entertain the idea of putting prospect Desmond Jennings in left field.

They also could lose free agent Carlos Pena, who may have suitors in Baltimore and Washington (the Sox are an outside shot, if a lot of things fall through). The Rays also could retain Pena on a one-year deal.

Expect most of Tampa Bay’s fine bullpen to be gone, especially closer Rafael Soriano, but also set-up man Joaquin Benoit, and middle relievers Lance Cormier and Grant Balfour. There’s a chance one of them will remain with the team, but it’s doubtful it would be Soriano.

The Rays will entertain trade offers for center fielder B.J. Upton, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and possibly starter James Shields.

Reid Brignac may emerge as the starting shortstop if Bartlett is gone. Ben Zobrist, who has been a jack-of-all-trades, could wind up at first base if Pena leaves or take over in left.

The Rays will likely shop for bargain-basement players to fill needs, and that approach has worked for them in the past, especially in the case of Benoit, who was one of the most effective set-up men in baseball this year.

The bullpen will likely be the biggest area affected, and general manager Andrew Friedman will have to rebuild it with less-expensive players. He also may plug in a cheaper older player as the DH.

Regardless of the losses, the Rays still have a very good starting rotation in Shields, David Price, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis. They will have to make room for righty prospect Jeremy Hellickson, perhaps with someone heading to the bullpen.

Without Crawford, a lot could fall on the shoulders of the speedy Jennings.

ARMFUL OF CANDIDATES

Throwing out names for a Farrell successor

Where will the Red Sox turn for a new pitching coach?

General manager Theo Epstein and his staff love innovative coaches who have a philosophy and plan about the work they do. Nobody seems to typify that more than Milwaukee pitching coach Rick Peterson, who is still under contract with the Brewers for next year. That does not mean he’s unavailable, however.

The Brewers fired manager Ken Macha, who brought in Peterson. When the Brewers hire a new manager, he may insist upon his own pitching coach. Peterson and Terry Francona coached together in Oakland.

Among the available candidates are former Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair, widely considered a very good coach who was part of the Don Wakamatsu downfall in Seattle. If Rick Kranitz doesn’t stay on Buck Showalter’s staff in Baltimore, he could be a possibility, as he has ties to Francona.

Older candidates such as former Sox pitching coaches Dave Wallace and Joe Kerrigan, Leo Mazzone, Mark Wiley, Mel Stottlemyre, Chuck Hernandez, and Marcel Lachemann are out there.

There are also good minor league coaches like Charles Nagy, Kirk Champion, and Mike Griffin, who was formerly with the Red Sox and has a huge fan in Jon Lester.

Orioles scout Bruce Kison and ESPN broadcaster Orel Hershiser would be excellent choices. Red Sox great Bob Stanley, who coached many of the Giants’ top pitchers in the minors, is available. Toronto bullpen coach Rick Lankford, who coaches relievers, could be ready for an upgrade, and Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was recently released by Arizona.

A long shot? Greg Maddux, who is a special assistant to Jim Hendry with the Cubs.

The Sox have in-house candidates, too: the well-respected Dick Such, scout Mike Cather, who was a pitching coach with Double A Portland, Triple A pitching coach Rich Sauveur, Bob Kipper, and Al Nipper, who has been Boston’s pitching coach and is now a scout.

Etc.

Apropos of nothing
1. Wonder how Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz feel about moving in the right-field fence at Fenway; 2. Next summer, Pete Rose Jr. will manage Bristol (Va.) of the Appalachian League (White Sox Single A affiliate); 3. Love these stats: .393 average, .470 on-base percentage, 1.052 OPS. That’s 37-year-old first baseman Willis Otanez of Pericos de Puebla in the Mexican League this year; 4. Kevin Youkilis is already swinging a bat; 5. I’ve been getting a lot of “Do you think Varitek will re-sign with the Red Sox?’’ from opposing executives and scouts.

Updates on nine
1. Bronson Arroyo, RHP, Reds — The Reds are trying to work out an extension with Arroyo that would knock down his $13 million option for 2011 a tad and give him a few more years. Arroyo would like to stay in Cincinnati, feeling very comfortable there after his trade from Boston following the 2005 season. The Reds would love to keep him, and use any money they save in 2011 to invest in another free agent or two.

2. Peter Woodfork, former Diamondbacks assistant general manager — The Harvard-educated Woodfork may have some NFL options after resigning in Arizona once Kevin Towers took over as GM. Woodfork, who had a year remaining on his contract, could join the Miami Dolphins; Mike Dee is the Dolphins’ new CEO and knows Woodfork from their Red Sox days. There’s even word that Woodfork could join the NFL office. The Sox would also consider him.

3. Billy Hall, utilityman, Red Sox — He would prefer a full-time job at one position (third or second base), but his value may be as the jack-of-all-trades he became in Boston. People around Hall are trying to convince him that staying in that role might be the best way to spend the rest of his career.

4. Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins — Do the Marlins let Uggla break the bank in arbitration one more time, try to extend him, or trade him? Uggla would like to remain at second base, but he may be able to help a team like Boston at first, third, or in left field. He has put together four straight 30-homer seasons and drove in 105 runs this year. He is a hard-nosed player with a nice Fenway swing.

5. Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox — One scout’s evaluation: “Fun to watch in the field. Reminds me of Tony Fernandez. He never seems to get a bad hop. Very good arm. I think Jed Lowrie will hit more than he will, but he’s a front-line big leaguer.’’

6. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox — Management has had some contract talks with Ortiz and his agents, but there was no resolution to the question of whether the Sox will pick up Ortiz’s $12.5 million option. Ortiz, 35, would like an extension, but the Sox might be inclined to work out a reduction in pay to put him more in line with other DHs. There’s another DH type out there in Adam Dunn who may be attractive to the Sox, though Dunn wants to play the field and the Cubs seem to be calling his name. The Sox have three days after the World Series to make a decision on Ortiz’s option. Ortiz recently had a minor bout with an irregular heartbeat (as he did in August 2006) but he is fine.

7. Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox — Varitek may soon get an idea of whether the Sox have any interest in bringing him back. And he would love to get a read so he can plan accordingly. The Sox have only Jarrod Saltalamacchia under contract as a catcher for next season. They are expected to make Victor Martinez another offer beyond the two-year deal he rejected, but as things stand, Martinez hasn’t heard much from them.

8. Carl Crawford, OF, Rays — An AL executive raised some salient points about Crawford’s free agency. Those who know Crawford don’t think he’d like the scrutiny of the fans and media in Boston or New York. Don’t forget, he usually plays before 15,000 cowbells at Tropicana Field. His defensive ability would seem wasted in left field at Fenway, and he won’t play center. He also doesn’t like to bat leadoff, and if you wanted a middle-of-the-order hitter, wouldn’t Jayson Werth be a better choice? There’s also the issue of speed guys losing their legs as they age. All things to consider.

9. DeMarlo Hale, bench coach, Red Sox — One would think he’d be an ideal candidate to manage in Milwaukee or Florida (both are considering him) now that Toronto has settled on John Farrell. Hale was a coach in Texas when Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was GM there.

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck files: “Royals closer Joakim Soria was not scored upon in his last 24 appearances, covering 23 2/3 innings.’’ Also, “AL catchers outstole AL first basemen, 57-37, but NL first basemen outstole NL catchers, 76-62.’’ And, “Dan Uggla and Mark Teixeira each had 33 homers, 5 sacrifice flies, and no triples.’’ . . . Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are co-winners of the Boston Baseball Writers’ Association Pitcher of the Year award. They will be honored at the 72d BBWA dinner Jan. 20 at the Westin Copley Place in Boston. Tickets are $150 apiece and can be purchased with a check payable to The Sports Museum, 100 Legends Way, Boston 02114. Credit card purchases can be made through Rusty Sullivan at 617-624-1237 . . . Happy birthday, Ken Ryan (42) and Ed Jurak (53).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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