That elusive top-of-the-rotation arm

It would be remarkable to see Cliff Lee in a Nationals’ uniform next year. A genuine top-of-the-rotation arm with no shortage of big game experience. Truly remarkable.

But an enormous longshot, to be certain.

As the rumors go, the Nats are willing to offer up to $125 million for 5 seasons of an arm like Lee’s. Someone else, including his current club, may be willing to offer similar money. But, just like the offer put forth to Mark Teixiera when he was a free agent, the top offer doesn’t necessarily get it done if the player has somewhere else in mind.

You can’t force a player to go anywhere if he’s a free agent. At 32, Lee may hear the clock ticking, and spending his final and likely last effective years with a “building” ballclub may not have great appeal. An Arkansas native, a long term deal with the Rangers may just be what he’s got in mind. New owners, somewhat flush with cash given their new TV deal (granted, it doesn’t go into effect for 3+ years, but it’s still very real), will likely see Lee as a very marketable commodity, especially if he continues to shine this postseason.

The rumored availability of Royals’ starter Zack Greinke - who turns 27 next week - is of greater significance. Coming off an off-year - for him, anyway - he’s expressed some displeasure at the slow pace of progress in Kansas City. Just a year removed from a Cy Young Award, Zack is under team control for another two years at $13.5 million per, a little bit of cost certainty that looks like a bargain for an arm that’s topped 200 innings three years in a row.

It would require a package of prospects - including a couple of high ceiling types - to get a deal with the Royals done for someone of Greinke’s caliber. The Royals need a lot, and while Greinke apparently has some limited no-trade protection, I doubt it would be too hard to sell him on the D.C. area, just a short flight from his home in Orlando.

The Winter Meetings are just about six weeks away, but some deals always get done just prior to that. Let’s see what develops.