Just ahead of the Winter Meetings, I wrote that I believed Zack Greinke was on his way out of town by December 16.  The logic behind that date was it was a full week following the meetings and once Cliff Lee signed his deal (at those meetings I thought) it would take Dayton Moore less than one week to size up the potential trade partners and pull the trigger.

So, I was wrong on the date, but only by a handful of days.  However, I’m now a little uncertain that Greinke is going to be dealt this month.

The reason for that is the Philadelphia Phillies.

The last minute “mystery team” the Phillies can only be described as the surprise winner in the Lee Sweepstakes.  If you’re like me and believe that Greinke will be traded this off season, the Phillies winning bid can only be described as good news for the Royals.  That’s because it keeps the two most likely trade partners – the Rangers and the Yankees – very much in the game.

(I know there’s been much discussion about how Greinke would do in New York.  The discussion has evolved something like this:

The Yankees are interested in Greinke. Greinke would waive his no-trade clause. The Yankees don’t believe Grienke could handle New York. Of course Greinke could handle New York.

It’s been kind of a bizarro on again/off again trade rumor.  Yesterday in the aftermath of the Lee signing, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter that Greinke would do just fine pitching for the Yankees and wouldn’t have any of those old issues.  Can I split the difference?  I think he would do fine, but I don’t think he would necessarily enjoy the experience.)

Now GMDM has a decision to make.  He has to weigh some offers – and much like a player’s agent during the free agent process – he will have to play the angles to get the best deal possible for his star pitcher.  A few weeks ago when I made my prediction on Greinke’s departure, it was with the thought either the Yankees or Rangers would win the Lee Sweepstakes, effectively eliminating that team from the market for Greinke.  Now both those teams are still in the mix.  Add the resurgent Blue Jays and the crazy uncle Washington Nationals (what are they doing?) and you have four potential trade partners.  All four have the pieces to make this deal.  It will come down to who jumps the furthest.

And let’s not discount the beloved mystery team.  Think back to the courtship of Lee and how it was all about the Rangers and the Yankees.  And Yankees and Rangers.  Hell, six months ago it was preordained that the Yankees would land Lee.  The Rangers were in the mix only because they traded for him and had new ownership with extremely deep pockets.  (A sweetheart TV deal certainly helps.)  While the Phillies were one of Lee’s former employers, their payroll and rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels meant they weren’t really on most people’s radar.  And look what happened.

Maybe when we’re handicapping the Greinke trade, we should look at the known suitors and just add one.  If that’s truly the case, GMDM currently has five potential trade partners for his ace.

You couldn’t come up with a better scenario.

With so many teams interested in the services of the Royals ace, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of GMDM to net a huge return.  With the minor league system set to start churning out some quality for the first time in years, the Greinke deal won’t make or break the franchise.  But it could certainly help or hinder The Process.  Make the right deal and the Royals strong minor league depth just got stronger and deeper.  And it buys GMDM even more time and more goodwill among the fans.  (Obviously the initial reaction to any Greinke deal from the general fanbase will be harsh.  I know.  I’ve visited the Royals Facebook page.) Make the wrong deal and…  I don’t even want to think about that.

If you don’t like trade rumors, this may be the time to hibernate.  For the Royals, the heat just got kicked up a notch on the hot stove.