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Greinke leaves AL; Orioles' fans gnash teeth and celebrate

Orioles fans who have been clamoring for a big move this offseason can't be happy this Sunday morning.

Zack Greinke, the 27-year-old right-hander who won the Cy Young Award for the Kansas City Royals in 2009, apparently has been traded, according to multiple reports.

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The good news for Orioles fans is he won't be pitching in the American League East anytime soon. More specific, the New York Yankees didn't land him.

The bad news is that he was scooped up by that big-market maverick, the Milwaukee Brewers.

I can hear you now: How can the Brewers get Greinke and the Orioles can't? To make matters worse, the Brewers' general manager, Doug Melvin, was once a respected executive in Baltimore. So it must be Andy MacPhail's fault as a tepid wheeler and dealer, right?

But here's the deal: The Orioles simply don't have many trade chips that intrigue other clubs. It may smart to read, but it is true. That's what I've heard from other teams and, frankly, from some in the Orioles organization as well.

The Orioles have three players who could be considered centerpieces in a significant deal: Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones. A possibility for a fourth is minor league lefty Zach Britton, but he is still a risk since he hasn't pitched in the majors. So let's call him a 1A or 1B centerpiece.

The club really doesn't want to give up Matusz or Wieters, which is understandable given the investment and their high ceilings. That really leaves Jones, whom some fans are ready to deal.

We all know Jones has talent, is only 25 and is already a pretty good player. The problem, though, is finding a match for him. Scouts see the same things that fans see -- and some wonder whether a lack of discipline will ever allow him to reach his potential (for the record, I am still in the camp that Jones can be a consistent All-Star, but that camp is dwindling).

But more important, Jones is arbitration-eligible this year, meaning that by February he'll be making millions. And he'll be a free agent at the end of 2013. That's not a appealing to a young team (like the Royals) that is looking to dump a current star for future ones.

I've heard some wannabe GMs say the Orioles should have tried to entice the Royals with a package that includes Chris Tillman and Felix Pie. No chance that would have come anywhere close (unless that package also had Wieters and/or Matusz aboard).

Pie is also entering arbitration this year and will make millions soon. And, though he is also only 25 (he'll be 26 in February) and has a high ceiling, he hasn't shown he can stay healthy and consistent on the big league level. He's a guy all 29 other teams would take, but as an upside gamble, not a key component to deal for an existing star.

Tillman is 22 and, yes, again another upside guy. But he has struggled with consistency in the majors, and there are questions as to what he'll become. He's intriguing, but no longer an irresistible trade chip.

That brings us back to the Royals. They were looking for a young, cheap, emerging middle infielder -- which they reportedly have acquired from the Brewers in Alcides Escobar. Heading into 2010, Escobar was in the top 20 on just about everyone's top-prospect list (heck, Baseball America editor Will Lingo had Escobar third overall last year, behind only Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward and in front of Mike Stanton and Matusz).

Escobar, 24, struggled in his first season as a big leaguer, but he is under Kansas City's control for years to come. The Orioles have no one like that (Manny Machado isn't yet eligible to be traded, and he's the only true top middle infield prospect in the system).

Another part of the Brewers' trade is 24-year outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who is just one year younger than Jones. But he has only a month's service time in the big leagues. And the Royals also added at least one, and maybe two, former first-round (or supplemental-round) pitching prospects for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.

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All along, the Royals were reportedly seeking middle infield help, a center fielder of the future and some pitching help. The Orioles, frankly, weren't much of a match.

But, that aside, the point is the Orioles are at a real disadvantage when it comes to prying a legitimate star from another team. Any team. Because of the talent limits in the organization.

One source told me that heading into the offseason, the Orioles had one true trade chip -- someone with low service time and a high ceiling that the Orioles would be willing to deal and other teams coveted.

His name is David Hernandez, and he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this month.

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