Grant Brisbee has a column on "5 A.L. Predictions for the Second Half," and one of those predictions features the Rangers pretty prominently:
The Rangers trade for Justin Upton and Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke
This is because the Rangers are dicks.
But it's also because those two blockbusters aren't created equal. Upton isn't a short-term trade; he'll be around for a while, and he's the kind of player you hope your prospects will turn into in the first place. Hamels is a short-term trade. The Rangers have the organizational talent to do both, and they're cognizant of their place in the success cycle. They're good now. A bunch of prospects might help reinforce the team in 2015, but the Rangers might not be good in 2015. Things change quickly. Baseball!
Hamels/Greinke would give them an ace-type for the playoffs, and Upton would give them a middle-of-the-order hitter to fill the void if Josh Hamilton leaves. The two trades would take a big ol' bite out of the system, but considering the Rangers are already one of the best teams in baseball -- the best? -- it'd make them as unstoppable as a baseball team can get.
Which is pretty stoppable, really. In a best-of-five series, the Astros could take the Rangers out. Baseball! But they'd still be as hard to beat as any contender in recent memory.
Mostly, though, the Rangers are just a grabby franchise, and they enjoy hoarding talent and getting all grabby.
Which got me thinking...if the Rangers were to pull something like that off, how would they do it?
Let's start on the pitching side. I'm going to assume that the Rangers are going to focus on Greinke, primarily because I think the cost for Greinke would be a little less, the Rangers probably think they are more likely to be able to re-sign Greinke than Hamels, and the Phillies are supposedly focusing on re-signing Hamels right now.
So...what would the Brewers be looking for in a Greinke trade? Given Doug Melvin's history, and the fact that the Brewers are likely to be looking to re-load more than rebuild, my guess is that the Brewers are going to be looking for major league ready talent moreso than high upside, far off talent in the lower minors. Carson Cistulli wrote at FanGraphs about what sort of package the Brewers would want from the Angels for Greinke, noting that the Brewers system is rather bereft of talent, and that shortstop and starting pitching would seem to be the priority for the Brewers, along with maybe a corner infield type.
Obviously, the only upper-level shortstop the Rangers have is Jurickson Profar, and he's not going anywhere. The Rangers do have shortstops in the lower minors, though, and lots of pitching. I initially thought about Mitch Moreland being part of a package, but given his age, injury, and limited upside, I think he'd have more value to Texas than as part of a Greinke package.
Cistulli suggests that a B, a couple of B-s, and maybe a C gets a deal done. Part of me feels like that's light. On the other hand, the Cliff Lee (and Mark Lowe) deal was basically an A- prospect, a B- prospect, a C prospect, and an organizational depth guy. And the Brewers, one would presume, aren't going to get as much for Greinke as the M's did for Lee because 1) Greinke isn't as good as Lee, 2) Greinke doesn't have Lee's post-season resume, 3) Greinke won't bring back compensatory picks, the way Lee did, and 4) the Brewers wouldn't be asked to eat salary, the way the M's were.
So...given those parameters, a match could be:
The Brewers' choice of two fringe 40 man roster guys, picking from Jake Brigham, Wilmer Font, Miguel de los Santos, Engel Beltre, and Michael Kirkman.
A near-major-league-ready starting pitcher, a near-major-league-ready reliever, a polished middle infielder who is a few years away but who is well regarded, and then a couple of guys. Hmmm. My gut says that this is kind of light. On the other hand, I don't know that the Brewers are going to get that one stud prospect for Greinke, and this is a better package than draft picks.
If the Brewers get a lot more than this for Greinke, let's just blame Cistulli.
Moving along...the problem, such as it is, with adding Greinke is that you now have six pitchers in the five man rotation. You solve that problem by using one of them as a key component in a trade for Justin Upton.
The Diamondbacks, like the Brewers, are not looking for a rebuild. They are going to want pieces to help them win now. They supposedly really like Mike Olt. They want to be blown away to deal Upton.
Holland and Olt are the ones that really hurt of course. But those are the two pieces that make this deal work for Arizona...young, cost-controlled proven major league starting pitcher with upside, and a guy ready to take over at third base next season with star potential. Buckel trains with D-Backs pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, and there could be some appeal for Arizona to reunite the two. And Borbon is a throw-in, a guy who could have some value as a bench player on a National League team and provide them with someone behind Chris Young if Young continues to refuse to hit.
The Rangers go into the playoffs with a lineup of Kinsler-Andrus-Hamilton-Beltre-Upton-Cruz-Young-Napoli-Gentry/Murphy/Moreland, with a playoff rotation of Greinke/Darvish/Harrison/Lewis (or Oswalt). They stomp everyone, win the World Series, let Hamilton walk, bring Greinke back, and are loaded for bear to repeat in 2013, while still having a strong farm system.
Sounds good, huh?