123 ERA+, 202.3 IP
127 ERA+, 122 IP
This could be a case of cherry picking, but Zack Greinke is a special case because he spent so much of 2007 in the bullpen. Would it be fair to hold it against him? Yes, certainly as he was given a shot at the rotation at the beginning of the season. But in making a special case for Zack, let's look back and see when the last time a Royal pitcher had back-to-back seasons of 120 ERA+ in over 100 IP*. (Greinke would qualify if you were doing 3 out of 5 seasons--or even 3 out of 4 since he was a special case in 2006.)
Of course, the answer would be Kevin Appier in 1996-97. Appier being the more dominant pitcher, of course. And Kevin was 1 game under .500 in that time to still prove that not having an offense will kill a team. I would have guessed Kevin Appier with Jose Rosado being my back up, but Rosado was very inconsistent--probably due to overuse. When Rosie was Zack's age, he had 27.7 innings left in his career. A great Royal crime committed too many times. In Kevin Appier's favor, it was his eighth such season in a row. So the answer to my next question, when did a Royal as young as Zack last accomplish this, the answer is still Kevin Appier in 1991 and '92.
Appier was the man known to Royals fans as the last young pitcher the Royals successfully developed. Maybe it's unfair to Rosie because he was a finished product more or less (did anyone think he'd ever pitch better than he did in 1999 comparative to the league?) and maybe he should have been given that "honor". However, the Royals are likely to change that. I'm not going to call Zack Greinke a finished product yet as I think his ceiling is even higher than he's shown thus far.
On June 27th, to give you a bitter taste, the Kansas City Royals hired Allard Baird to replace Herk Robinson. The draft that had just proceeded this hiring gave the Royals David DeJesus but in Mr. Baird's first draft no player ever played in Kansas City while Allard was general manager. I bring this up because no matter what I've written in the past, I realize that at some point, extending young and talented Royals is going to be the only thing to save the Royals. And it was in his second effort that he brought in greats Donnie Murphy and Jonah Bayliss on top of some Greinke guy. So from 2002 until at least 2012, Zack Greinke is Kansas City Royal, maybe defined.
After writing Option A and finding it to be a completely reasonable, though unrealized, course of action, I will state that no one could have been full-heartedly behind such a transaction. And the reason is, of course, a lack of patience with an organization that's asked nothing but patience of us for over two decades. I feel I made a good argument in favor of trading Zack Greinke, but what I've now noticed is that other than Matt LaPorta, all of the competitors within the division have young stars in the lower parts of their systems. If the Royals can hold on tight enough and long enough, this might be the point where the Central is at its weakest. After that, it's going to be completely up to the general managers and what trades they can make to strengthen their squads.
Going back to look at the course of several drafts, gives more reason to actually get Zack Greinke under contract because while the system wasn't has bad as it seemed, it wasn't growing at a good rate. Out of the Baird drafts, only Greinke, Gordon and Butler have thus far received significant playing time. Zack was the beginning of a strong growing period for the Royals' farm system. So far, Keith of The Royal Tower has only given reports on 21 top Royal prospects, and while the top Baird prospect left is "only" number seven--making most of Baird's remaining prospects "depth" prospects--1/3rd of the list is from Baird. Quite a bit better than the initial thought of Alex and Butler and nothing else. This isn't a statement in support of Allard, but more like coming to grips with the state of the farm system as it was comprised May 31st, 2006. Though it wasn't good, it wasn't bare after the Big Two. So yes, Zack was the start of something new, something fresh... It would only make sense that we begin a new period of sustained growth by re-upping with one of the best young pitching talents in the game.
I can't and won't argue in favor of the signing's public relations aspect because of several reasons.
1. I will never believe in fan-driven transactions because fans rarely know what's in the organization's best interests as not enough information is given.
2. I don't believe it sends a message to young players because I believe they'll still sign for their own reasons whether Zack Greinke is a reason or not.
3. I choose to not give it any significance towards signing free agents because it's hard to define what the general perception is going to be and the reasons various players have for signing.
4. Winning will always be the bottom line for: increased attendence, young players being likely to sign, free agents wanting to come to Kansas City.
Of course, it was a public relations win, but unlike the refusal to trade Sweeney, PR doesn't drive this deal.
*Paul Byrd was close in '01-'02, but fell short by not quite making either 100 IP or 120 ERA+ (119 in 93 IP in '01)