Royals would consider bringing Zack Greinke back to K.C. as a free agent

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals haven't ruled out a run at bringing star free agent putcher Zack Greinke back to Kansas City if he remains unsigned after the year, a person familiar with the team's thinking said.

The Royals have always liked Greinke and aren't going to hold his 2010 trade demand from Kansas City against him. They are said to want to add two proven starting pitchers via free agency over the next couple years, and Greinke, who won the Cy Young for the Royals in 2009, would be a great start.

The chances for a reunion aren't necessarily as great, however. The biggest factor in Greinke's decision remains the chance to win, and although the Royals appear to be on the right path they are still unproven.

Considering Greinke's strong two seasons in Milwaukee and a scarcity of quality starters, there should be a very full field of suitors for Greinke. Matt Cain's $112.5-million, five-year deal is a pretty good comp for Greinke, though he may be able to leverage free agency into an even bigger deal.

The Royals have a very nice nucleus of position players but seek to bolster their pitching ranks with the goal of competing for a title in 2014 in mind. They have been beset by injuries this year -- to their starters, their relievers and their catchers, resulting in a 37-47 record.

Winning is the key for Greinke, and they Royals do have some talented young pitching prospects, especially Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura, who opposed each other in the All-Star Futures Game here Sunday, plus also Chris Dwyer and Mike Montogomery. In any case, Greinke would likely want to evaluate any team's chances before committing to them, and that includes the Royals. Hard-throwing lefthander Danny Duffy impressed Greinke before going down with an elbow injury.

Greinke, a 28-year-old righthander, built some very strong relationships in Kansas City that still stand. While his willingness to go to some teams but not others (he rejected the Nationals at the time he requested a trade) impacted the package the Royals received, the Royals apparently have no hard feelings that would prevent them from wanting him back.

Cole Hamels and Greinke will be the best free agent starting pitchers on the market, assuming neither comes to a contractial arrangement with their current team before hitting the open market. The next tier of free-agent starters would include Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Hiroki Kuroda, Shaun Marcum, Colby Lewis and Anibal Sanchez.

The Rangers, Angels, Braves and Orioles are among teams interested in trading for Greinke should the Brewers decide to deal him this month. He'd have a long list of interested teams in free agency, but the Angels and Braves -- two pretty consistent winners -- would seem to fill Greinke's main requirement.

Greinke, 25-9 overall with the Brewers including 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA this year, becomes the first man since 1917 to start three straight games Friday.

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