Former Cy Young award-winner Zack Greinke is expected to pitch in 2023, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Heyman adds that the Royals are interested in a reunion for what would be Greinke’s age-39 season.
Greinke is the active career leader in innings pitched, having logged 3,247 innings over 19 seasons as a big leaguer. He has already put himself squarely within Hall of Fame consideration, having already amassed 223 wins and 2,882 strikeouts. If Greinke does return for a 20th season, he will give himself a chance to become the 20th player to strike out 3,000 batters. The odds of Greinke becoming a member of the 3,000 K club seem slim, however, as he will have to fan 118 batters, whereas he only punched out 73 in a full season of work last year.
Milestones aside, Greinke has proven he can still be an effective starter well into his late-30’s. In 26 starts during 2022, Greinke posted a 3.68 ERA. Though Greinke averages only 89.1 mph on his fastball and is in the second percentile in Whiff%, he issues fewer walks than 93% of all other big league pitchers. Just about all of his metrics indicate that Greinke will have to continue to draw on all the finesse he can muster to get outs. He registers well below league average in terms of average exit velocity and hard hit rate against.
The Royals seem like a perfect fit to accommodate Greinke’s 20th season. Kansas City has plenty of rotation uncertainty and room for him in their rotation. That’s not to say that Greinke’s prospective return to the Royals, albeit sentimental, is purely for nostalgia’s sake. Greinke had Kansas City’s second-best ERA of any regular starter, and was one of two Royals starters with an ERA below 5.00. While the righty may be able to find opportunities with more clear-cut contenders, he prioritized returning to Kansas City as a free agent last offseason. Despite reportedly receiving similar offers from the Twins and Tigers, Grienke inked a $13MM deal with K.C. On the heels of a career-low strikeout rate, he may find a slightly lesser deal in free agency this time around.