With the free-agent market light on front-end starting pitchers -- there's Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi and not a whole lot behind them -- an interesting trade possibility has been floated this week: Could the D-backs move Zack Greinke?
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal suggested the idea on Monday (subscription required), writing that Greinke might be one of the most attractive starters available, alongside his Arizona teammate Corbin. Greinke's reliable production -- he had a 3.21 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings in 2018, and a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings the year before -- could make him a valuable addition to any number of teams looking for a proven starter to help lead their staff.
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Yes, Greinke is 35 and has a big contract -- three years and $104.5 million remaining through 2021 -- but that might lower the required return. And on top of that, per Rosenthal, the D-backs are willing to reduce the financial burden for a trade partner. Three years of Greinke, especially at a reduced cost, would be an enticing bet for the right teams. Compared to a similar salary over four or five years for Keuchel, or having to spend nine figures for Corbin on the strength of one breakout year -- not to mention the fact that signing Keuchel or Corbin would carry a Draft pick cost, since both players rejected qualifying offers -- they might even prefer it.
Here are three teams that would be interesting fits for Greinke.
Houston could lose both Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, and Lance McCullers will miss all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. The Astros have gotten a lot out of Keuchel and Morton, and could try to bring them back, but Greinke would be a great match.
The Astros are one of the best teams at using analytics to get the most out of their pitchers -- they've done it with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Morton and others. Greinke is one of the most studious pitchers in baseball, embracing data and using it to his advantage.
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Greinke's ability to adjust has kept him pitching at a high level even with diminished velocity over the past few years (his fastball averaged 89.6 mph in 2018, and 90.7 mph in '17). He throws his fastball lower in the zone than he used to; he throws his eephus-like slow curve more, and to great effect; he uses his changeup more often in right-on-right matchups.
Greinke has excellent command, especially with his fastball-slider combination he throws down and away to right-handed hitters, and his fastball-changeup combo he offers down and away to lefties. That makes him one of the best pitchers at getting hitters to chase out of the zone -- his 31.4 percent chase rate induced in 2018 ranked 14th among starters, and his 32.6 percent mark in '17 was sixth best. Greinke's velocity might not jump back up, but his exceptional knowledge of the craft makes him the kind of pitcher the Astros embrace.
The Yankees want to add multiple starters this offseason, and they are targeting arms who can pitch alongside Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. They've been linked to Corbin, and Keuchel seems like a good fit, too. Greinke still might be the best-suited of the three to put on the pinstripes.
For one, Greinke is much more established than Corbin, who was excellent in 2018 and '13 but doesn't have the sustained success in between. The Yankees are also an immediate World Series championship contender, so Greinke's age isn't the same issue for them as an up-and-coming team like the White Sox. Greinke's proven he can pitch in a big market, and the Yanks want to avoid another Sonny Gray situation, as they shop Gray after his ongoing struggles in New York. Greinke's run with the Dodgers from 2013-15 was one of the best of his career -- he went 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA in 92 starts.
And there's one interesting factor at play when comparing Greinke to Keuchel: The Yankees' infield defense is a huge question mark, and Keuchel is a heavy ground-ball pitcher. Miguel Andujar's struggles at third base were bad enough that he was removed for defense in playoff games. Gleyber Torres didn't rate well defensively, either. New York's strongest defender, Didi Gregorius, will miss a lot of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Compare that to the trio that played behind Keuchel in Houston: Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The Astros allowed a .232 batting average on ground balls in 2018, the sixth lowest of any team, while the Yanks allowed a .261 average, the fifth highest.
Greinke gets more outs in the air and via strikeout -- he's struck out 25.2 percent of the batters he's faced over the past two seasons, compared to 19.1 percent for Keuchel.
Here's a dark-horse candidate. The Angels don't have as loaded a farm system as some other teams, but they're much improved from where they stood just a few seasons ago. If Greinke falls in their price range with his age and contract status, maybe they could put together a package. The fit is perfect.
Greinke is exactly the type of pitcher the Halos need: a durable workhorse. The Angels' pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries in recent seasons. Their ace, Garrett Richards, is a free agent and already out for 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Shohei Ohtani won't be a two-way player again until '20 after having Tommy John surgery himself.
Greinke has made 30-plus starts and pitched 200-plus innings in four of the past five seasons, and he can anchor a staff. The chief free-agent options -- Corbin, Keuchel and Eovaldi -- all have spottier injury histories.
The Halos want to contend now. They've still only made the playoffs once in Michael Trout's career, and they don't want to squander their chance as he enters the second-to-last year on his contract. They have enough pieces to push for a playoff spot. They've traded for Greinke once before in 2012. Maybe they'll try to do it again.