In the winter and early spring before the 2011 season, Zack Greinke managed to both formally reject and theoretically embrace the idea of playing for the Nationals. In December 2010, the Nationals agreed to a trade with the Kansas City Royals that would send them the former Cy Young winner, only for Greinke to turn down a $100 million contract extension and unravel the deal.

Three months later, in March, Greinke reflected on the process with the Nationals. They were at that point coming off a 93-loss season, and he wanted to play for a team with more favorable odds of contention. But when he looked into the future, he could envision making another choice about playing in Washington and arriving at a different decision.

"Maybe it works out better that the deal [with Washington] didn't go through," Greinke told colleague Dave Sheinin back then. "In two years I might be a free agent, and then they get to keep the players [who would have been] in the trade. And some of those guys could end up being key players for them."