It sounds like the Arizona Diamondbacks might be open for business this offseason.
After a disappointing 82-80 finish and with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies both looking like long-term contenders in the National League West, a proactive approach makes sense rather than treading water.
Key players Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock are headed for free agency, and the window for contention seems to be closing fast, leaving the front office with some important decisions to make on the short-term direction of the club.
All of that could add up to a busy offseason, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today explained:
The verbiage "strip down the team" would seem to imply the D-backs are headed for a full-scale rebuild rather than just retooling the roster, and while the inclusion of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in that tweet is noteworthy, we're going to focus on Zack Greinke.
Three years into his massive six-year, $206.5 million contract, Greinke remains a top-of-the-staff arm and one of the most reliable starters in baseball.
After a rocky first season in the desert, he rebounded nicely to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2017, and he was equally effective this past season.
- 2016: 26 GS, 13-7, 4.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 134 K, 158.2 IP, 2.3 WAR
- 2017: 32 GS, 17-7, 3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 215 K, 202.1 IP, 6.1 WAR
- 2018: 33 GS, 15-11, 3.21 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 199 K, 207.2 IP, 4.2 WAR
Father Time is a pro athlete's worst enemy, but there's reason to believe Greinke will age better than most.
He doesn't rely heavily on velocity—he averaged just 90 mph with his fastball in 2018, per Brooks Baseball—and with eight 200-inning seasons on his resume, he's one of the most durable starters in the game.
Still, we're talking about a pitcher who is set to turn 35 years old on Sunday and is still owed $104.5 million over the next three years:
- 2019: $34.5 million
- 2020: $35 million
- 2021: $35 million
So what is a player like that worth on the trade market? A lot will depend on what the D-backs prioritize.
Do they want to unload as much of that remaining money as possible, or are they focused on securing a quality return?
It's also worth noting that Greinke has a partial no-trade clause and can block a trade to 15 undisclosed teams, so that too could factor into his future.
Ahead, we've proposed three hypothetical trade packages with three different approaches.
Let's get to it.
To SEA: SP Zack Greinke, $20 million (in 2019)
To ARI: RP Wyatt Mills, OF Ian Miller
The Mariners checked in with the No. 30 farm system in our final update in September, so if general manager Jerry Dipoto wants to keep wheeling and dealing, he'll need to get creative.
In this case, that means taking on the bulk of Greinke's remaining money to significantly lower his acquisition cost.
Even with the D-backs chipping in $20 million for 2019, the Mariners would be on the hook for $84.5 million.
However, there's good reason to believe they would be willing to make that commitment.
Franchise icon Felix Hernandez is entering the final year of his contract, as he'll earn $27.86 million in 2019 before presumably riding off into the sunset and leaving the Mariners with a good chunk of money they could then redirect to Greinke.
He'd join a staff that includes promising young left-handers James Paxton and Marco Gonzales, workhorse Mike Leake and surprise veteran Wade LeBlanc, increasing the Mariners' chance of snapping a postseason drought that stretches back to 2001.
For the Diamondbacks, paying a big chunk of money upfront would rid them of the Greinke commitment in 2020 and 2021, which would allow for great flexibility in their rebuild.
The return isn't huge, but both players are capable of carving out roles at the MLB level.
Wyatt Mills tallied 11 saves with a 3.57 ERA and 10.0 K/9 in 44 appearances between High-A and Double-A, and he has late-inning stuff. Ian Miller is a plus defender at all three outfield spots and has good wheels (33 steals), so he has a chance to thrive in a fourth outfielder role.
To MIL: SP Zack Greinke, $40 million
To ARI: OF Tristen Lutz, SP Zack Brown
The Brewers have thrived on the strength of a lights-out bullpen in 2018. But it's a long season, and adding a front-line innings eater like Greinke could help solidify the starting rotation and keep the bullpen fresh.
Greinke has pitched for the Brewers already in his career, as the team acquired him from the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2011 season for a package of four players.
In a strange twist of fate, two of the players in that deal were Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress, who have since found their way back to Milwaukee in crucial roles.
Trading for Greinke would be a pedal-to-the-metal move for a Brewers team that exceeded expectations in 2018 and looks like a sustainable contender and not just a flash in the pan.
Picking up $40 million in the trade would lower Greinke's average salary to $21.5 million over the next three years, which sounds more reasonable for a budget-conscious Brewers team.
At the same time, including a bigger chunk of money means a better return for the Diamondbacks.
Outfielder Tristen Lutz (No. 5) and right-hander Zack Brown (No. 8) both rank among Milwaukee's top 10 prospects, according to MLB.com, although neither appears on the site's leaguewide top 100 list.
Lutz, 20, was the No. 34 overall pick in 2017, and he has some intriguing raw power. He posted a .742 OPS with 33 doubles, 13 home runs and 63 RBI in a full season at Single-A, and if his hit tool develops as hoped, he has a chance to be an impact middle-of-the-order bat.
Brown, 23, turned in a breakout season at Double-A, going 9-1 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 125.2 innings. His fastball-curveball pairing gives him significant upside as a late-inning reliever, but there's still hope he can develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
To ATL: SP Zack Greinke, $50.5 million
To ARI: SP Kyle Wright, OF Drew Waters
If the Diamondbacks have their sights set on a substantial return—even if it comes at the cost of eating roughly half of Greinke's remaining contract—the Braves look like the perfect landing spot.
Atlanta's system is overflowing with high-ceiling pitching talent, and if the D-backs sent $50.5 million in the deal to lower Greinke's annual salary to $18 million, they might be able to take their pick as a centerpiece.
Kyle Wright is the proposed headliner with his impressive mix of current polish and future projection. However, he could be swapped for any of Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara or even Sean Newcomb if the D-backs prefer more of a proven quantity.
Meanwhile, outfielder Drew Waters had a big first full pro season after going No. 41 overall in the 2017 draft. He hit .293/.343/.476 with 39 doubles, nine triples, nine home runs and 23 steals while reaching High-A before his 20th birthday.
The trade doesn't gut the Braves system, but it's still a huge return for Arizona, as both prospects figure to pop up on Top 100 lists next spring.
For the Braves, Greinke would join emerging star Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman (free agent following the 2020 campaign), giving the team three established starters to front the staff ahead of whichever young arms emerge.
It's an aggressive move and one Atlanta might have to consider if the Philadelphia Phillies have as busy of an offseason as many expect.
While it's unclear whether these three teams are included on Greinke's no-trade list, it stands to reason that he would be willing to waive his veto power for a chance to join a contender if the D-backs decide to tear down the roster. We shall see.