Braves have the willingness and flexibility to pursue Greinke

Since revealing last week that Zack Greinke stands as the Braves’ primary target on the trade market, the most most popular question I’ve received is, “Is this really something they can do?”

Well they have the pieces to interest the Brewers and the willingness to move one of their top pitching prospects  —  Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado or Mike Minor).   While it might be tough to part ways with one of these highly-regarded prospects, the Braves have an immediate need to pair a front-line starting pitcher with Tommy Hanson.

Tim Hudson will turn 38-years-old next year and his body has already started to break down.  This is not to say he could not return and continue to serve as a valuable piece of the rotation next year.  But given his age and recent medical history, the Braves can not enter a season depending on him to be one of their most reliable starters.

If Jair Jurrjens proves steady the remainder of the year, the Braves will make every attempt to trade him.  As long as every other projected rotation member stays healthy, there is not a likely scenario for him to be back next year.

As for Teheran, Delgado and Minor, we have simply been reminded they all need some more time before potentially becoming front-line starters.   The same can be said of Kris Medlen, who could certainly stand as a rotation candidate next year.

Brandon Beachy will not return from Tommy John surgery until around this time next year and will likely not be at top form again until 2014.

For the first time since the winter leading up to the 2009 season, the Braves will have the financial resources to compete for top-level free agents.  But some of the club’s top-level decision makers have made it known they would rather fill needs via trades rather than free agency. It’s safe to say  the Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami experiments influenced this mindset.

So instead of attempting to land a starting pitcher this winter, the Braves will take a run at landing Greinke now with the intention that he will be around for more than two months. Some have suggested he grew up a Braves fan and would love the chance to return closer to his native Florida to play.

But trying to figure out what Greinke might be thinking is not necessarily smart.  He’s a unique spirit who is brutally honest, but still loved and respected by his teammates.

One baseball executive who spent many years with Greinke recently said the pitcher will definitely not sign with a club unless he is extremely confident they will be able to win over the next few years.

Well the Braves have the potential to do so.  But the addition of a front-line starter like Greinke would significantly improve the odds.

Still as much as the Braves would like to add Greinke, they will not be offering the Brewers anything that resembles the package provided the Rangers in exchange for one calendar year of Mark Teixeira.   Three of the five players sent to the Rangers have earned All-Star selections and a fourth, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was considered a worthy candidate this year.

What the Braves would end up having to offer to get Greinke would depend on what other teams are offering.  Guessing right now, I’d think they might need to include one of their top young pitchers  —   Teheran, Delgado or Minor  —  plus one more top 15 prospect.

From a financial standpoint, the Braves would likely have to be willing to provide Greinke an average annual salary in the neighborhood of $20 million. That might alter the amount of money they might offer Hudson to return next year.

But with Chipper Jones ($14 million) Derek Lowe ($15 million — $10 million this year) Hudson ($9 million) and Michael Bourn ($6.85 million) all coming off of the books, they will have the flexibility to take care of their arbitration-eligible raises (primarily Jason Heyward and Tommy Hanson), pursue Bourn or another outfielder and also secure Greinke to stand at the front of their rotation for the next five years.

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