The Diamondbacks obviously won’t be trading veteran righty Zack Greinke this year, as he wouldn’t be eligible for the postseason with a new team now that the calendar has flipped to September. But the club also isn’t interested in trying to move his massive contract this winter, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter).
Arizona reportedly listened to interest from the Dodgers after Greinke cleared waivers, but those talks didn’t progress. Still, the fact that the club’s ace was able to pass through unclaimed obviously suggests that other organizations don’t view his contract as an asset.
Greinke is owed $157.5MM in salary over the next five years, though some of it is deferred, with Arizona also obligated to make continued signing bonus payouts. That contract represents a major chunk of the D-Backs’ middle-of-the-road budget.
While any premium free agent signing represents a calculated gamble, this one looked questionable from the outset and hasn’t started off in the right direction. The accomplished hurler may have been somewhat unfortunate to post a 4.17 ERA in his 136 innings to date in 2016. (Of course, the opposite was true of his sparkling 1.66 earned run mark a season ago, which earned him the massive payday.) But ERA estimators are lower on him now (3.64 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 3.99 SIERA) than they have been since at least 2007.
The biggest issue, perhaps, isn’t Greinke’s somewhat underwhelming but nevertheless-useful season. It’s the fact that he is already nearly 33 years old. Greinke is still a quality starter — he’d easily be the best on this winter’s market were he eligible — but it’s certainly fair to ask whether Arizona ought to cut its losses while he is still marketable. A performance turnaround is always possible, but so is the inverse, and Greinke’s age will remain as a deterrent.
Nevertheless, the earliest the D-Backs will consider moving Greinke, per the report, is next summer. Despite its miserable 2016 campaign, the club believes it is still primed to contend in the near-term and evidently isn’t interested in jeopardizing that possibility by trading its best pitcher. The return of A.J. Pollock lends some credence to the idea that Arizona could be a postseason factor in 2017, to be sure, but other developments have been less promising.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to evaluate any decision for or against a trade without knowing the possible return and other market developments. But an openness to listen, at least, would seem wise. After all, the remarkably weak upcoming free agent pitching class may create opportunity, and the D-Backs may be wise to explore options for avoiding some of the risk posed by the back half of the Greinke contract.