Right-hander Zack Greinke signed with the Royals in 2022, returning to the club that drafted him in 2002 and for whom he pitched from 2004 through 2010. The club has reportedly been interested in bringing him back for 2023 since before the offseason even officially began. There’s now less than three weeks until Spring Training and Greinke is still unsigned but Anne Rogers of MLB.com reports that the club still wants to re-sign him and is confident about their chances of doing so.
Greinke, 39, was once one of the most dominant pitchers in the league, especially in that earlier stint in Kansas City. The highlight of that tenure was a 2009 season where Greinke tossed 229 1/3 innings over 33 starts with a 2.16 ERA. That showing was strong enough for him to win the American League Cy Young award that year. Since then, he’s gone on to pitch for the Brewers, Angels, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Astros before returning to the Royals last season. He’s now tossed over 3,000 innings with a 3.42 ERA over his career.
Though he averaged just under 95 mph on his fastball when he first debuted, he’s gradually transitioned into a soft-tossing control artist. He averaged just over 89 mph on his heater last year, which ranked him 541st out of the 602 pitchers to throw at least 250 pitches, according to Statcast. Despite that diminished velocity, he still found ways to be quite effective on the mound. He made 26 starts and logged 137 frames in 2022, finishing the year with a 3.68 ERA. The pitching-friendly nature of Kauffman Stadium surely helped somewhat, but he also kept his walks down to a tiny 4.6% rate and was in the 60th percentile in terms of missing barrels.
Despite the ongoing interest from the club, a deal has yet to come together, perhaps for financial reasons. Reporting from a couple of weeks ago indicated the Royals were hoping to get Greinke back via some kind of incentive-laden deal, perhaps with a lower guarantee than in 2022, which was for $13MM plus $2MM of incentives. However, it’s possible that the club’s perspective on the financial situation has changed recently. Since that report, the club has agreed to terms with Aroldis Chapman on a deal with a $3.75MM guarantee, but also traded Michael A. Taylor to the Twins for minor leaguers and Adalberto Mondesi to the Red Sox for Josh Taylor. Michael A. Taylor is going to make $4.5MM this year while Mondesi will make $3.045MM and Josh Taylor $1.025MM. Those moves combined saved the club about $3MM in salary commitments, which they could perhaps then use to help get Greinke to put pen to paper. Roster Resource pegs their 2023 payroll at $103MM, a jump from last year’s Opening Day figure of $95MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
If Greinke comes back to Kansas City for another year, he’ll hopefully provide some stability to a rotation that doesn’t currently have much of it. The club signed 32-year-old Jordan Lyles earlier in the offseason to give them one reliable veteran. Brady Singer should have another rotation spot spoken for after a breakout campaign last year. It seems like Ryan Yarbrough will be given a shot to grab a starting job after signing for a $3MM guarantee, though he spent a decent amount of time as a long reliever with the Rays and could be bumped back to that kind of role again. Brad Keller has lots of starting experience but got bumped to the bullpen in the second half of last year and finished with a 5.09 ERA for the season. Daniel Lynch was a 34th overall selection in the 2018 draft but has a 5.32 ERA for his career so far. It’s a similar story for other high draft picks like Kris Bubic and Jackson Kowar, who have career ERAs of 4.89 and 10.76, respectively.
No other clubs have been previously connected to Greinke this offseason besides the Royals, though Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports today that the Orioles spoke with him at one point. The O’s have been on the hunt for starting pitching all winter and are reportedly still looking for upgrades, though Rosenthal says they’re not confident about landing Greinke.