Dick Williams, Nick Krall, and the Cincinnati Reds have been on a rather exhaustive search for significant upgrades to the pitching staff this winter. In fact, they’ve been so focused on it that there is bound to be a catch-phrase reference to the purpose of their quest at this point. Find some arms? Obtain the hurlers? Acquire the ball-tossers?
Something like that, I’d wager.
Anyway, after yesterday being connected with sure-to-be-pricey free agent Dallas Keuchel, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi relayed on Friday that the Reds also have eyes on another former Cy Young Award winner - Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke.
#Reds have checked in with #DBacks on possibility of a Zack Greinke trade, source confirms, but they are among teams to which he can block a deal, per @ZHBuchanan. Cincinnati also has interest in free agent starters, including Dallas Keuchel, as @JonHeyman said. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 30, 2018
While a Keuchel deal would be all about lobbing gobs of money his way, a Greinke deal would be significantly more complicated. For one, there’s that no-trade protection Morosi mentioned in the above tweet, meaning there would need to be significant negotiation just to convince Greinke that coming to Cincinnati was a viable plan at all, which sounds tricky as heck given, y’know, what the Reds have been of late. On top of that, Greinke is owed somewhere in the neighborhood of ~$32 million per season through 2021, with massive parts of that in deferred salary that would keep him on the Reds payroll for about as long as Ken Griffey, Jr. and eat up just about all of the dollars the Reds have speculatively committed to spend this particular winter.
Working around the no-trade, working around any dollar amount the Diamondbacks would be willing to pay down, and then settling on a prospect package to land Greinke doesn’t sound like the easiest deal in the world to make. That said, Detroit and Houston managed to strike a deal with Justin Verlander a few years back under similar financial circumstances, and we all remember the massive deal between Boston and the Dodgers that saw the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and their quarter-billion bucks worth of contracts get moved across the country, so it’s certainly far from impossible.
The fact is, Arizona’s 2018 payroll was up nearly $40 million from its 2017 mark, and with AJ Pollock now a free agent and Paul Goldschmidt in his final year of team control, the Diamondbacks are looking to shed salary and completely retool. Moving Greinke and his salary seems to be a priority, and there are sure to be enough teams interested in the now 35 year old.
That’s the bugaboo with Greinke, though - his age. He and Joey Votto have largely been the hitter/pitcher mirror image of one another throughout their careers, and both will be entering their age 35 seasons in 2019 as players who still appear to be quite good, but not exactly the award-winners they were in their earlier careers. Greinke has sported a 3.53 ERA in his trio of seasons with Arizona, logging 568.2 innings of 127 ERA+ ball in that time. He posted a 4.2 bWAR, 3.5 fWAR campaign in 2018, clearly showing he’s got stuff left in the tank, but the question - as always - with pitchers his age isn’t about what he’s done to date, it’s what the Reds could expect from him during the upcoming three years.
For one, Greinke’s velocity dipped significantly in 2018, with his fastball averaging a career low of 89.6 mph. He’s not been a fireballer for some time, of course - his average fastball velocity sat between 91 and 92 mph from 2012-2017 - and that decline in velocity has naturally prompted a bit of a change in how he pitches. Literally, he’s leaned on his change-up and breaking pitches more and more, and that’s actually been a pretty positive development given how both grade out quite well in terms of pitch value. The other real problem that began to surface in 2018 was a spike in his hard-hit rate, which climbed to a career worst 40.9% after it sat around ~26% in his peak seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Still, there’s enough about the current version of Greinke to make a deal sound enticing, provided that the Reds found a way to get a good chunk of financial relief. Whether or not Greinke will even give the concept of coming to Cincinnati the light of day, though, remains to be seen.
/shovels more coal into the Hot Stove