Houston Astros, that's your cue.
Like many teams across Major League Baseball, the Astros have had a quiet offseason so far. Which is to say, they haven't yet gotten serious about building on the 204 regular-season wins and World Series title they've collected over the last two seasons.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, however, the Astros have shown serious interest in plucking Goldschmidt out of Arizona:
As of yet, there haven't been any rumors about the Astros also engaging the Diamondbacks on Greinke. Any attempt to do so might be futile anyway.
Per Rosenthal, the D-backs "have not considered or discussed any Goldschmidt-Greinke deal." Their priority is to maximize Goldschmidt's trade value. Pairing him and his $14.5 million salary with the $95.5 million Greinke is owed through 2021 would be a dubious way to do that.
There is, however, little doubt that the Diamondbacks would like to move Goldschmidt and Greinke as part of a retooling effort. And more so than any other, the Astros make sense as a candidate to change their minds about moving both players in a single megablockbuster.
The Goldschmidt angle of this idea is relatively straightforward: The Astros could use an upgrade at first base, and they really can't do any better than this particular 31-year-old veteran.
Goldschmidt is a six-time All-Star with a .930 career OPS and 209 career home runs. He's accumulated 36.3 wins above replacement since 2013, according to Baseball Reference, which easily leads all first basemen.
There was cause for concern early in Goldschmidt's 2018 season, as he slumped to a .386 OPS between April 29 and May 22. But he shrugged that off and played like, well, Paul Goldschmidt. He had a 1.023 OPS the rest of the way, and finished with 5.4 WAR.
Goldschmidt should be in for an excellent walk year in 2019 no matter where he's playing. But escaping Arizona could only help him. He managed just a .782 OPS at home in 2018, which seemingly had something to do with Chase Field's new humidor.
Minute Maid Park, on the other hand, would have been quite friendly to Goldschmidt had he been with the Astros. Several of his non-homer fly balls and line drives might have become souvenirs:
In fairness mainly to Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White, the Astros weren't exactly hurting for offense at first base in 2018. The position yielded a solid .773 OPS, 19 homers and 101 RBI.
Nonetheless, that kind of production doesn't hold a candle to what the Astros would stand to get out of Goldschmidt in 2019. And if he were indeed to join forces with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and Carlos Correa, the Astros would have arguably the most dangerous offense in MLB.
Yet as intriguing as that is, the Astros need starting pitching more than they need offense. And Greinke would be absolutely perfect for them.
By all rights, it shouldn't take much effort to sell Greinke, 35, as a cure for any team that needs a starter. He's made five All-Star teams and won a Cy Young Award, and he's put up a 3.20 ERA and a 4.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 410 innings since 2017.
Still, his $206.5 million contract doesn't look like any less of a bargain now than it did when he signed it in 2015. He's also had certain comforts in Arizona that have made his job easier.
The Diamondbacks ranked 10th in defensive efficiency in 2017 and ninth in 2018. Not factored into that equation is the framing work done by their catchers, from which Greinke certainly benefited in 2018. Only one pitcher got strikes called outside the strike zone at a higher rate:
- 1. Kyle Freeland: 11.1%
- 2. Zack Greinke: 10.9%
- 3. Patrick Corbin: 10.7%
Greinke thus fits best with a team that can promise him a tight defense and a wide zone. The Astros can. They're fresh off ranking fifth in defensive efficiency, and Max Stassi is slated to be their primary catcher in 2019. He led all American League catchers in framing runs in 2018.
The one thing the Astros might not be able to do for Greinke is teach him something he doesn't already know. Though Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole can vouch for the organization's well-earned reputation for using analytics to maximize the performances of their pitchers, Greinke has been ahead of that particular curve for a long time now.
"I've probably changed more than anyone else in baseball over the past 10 years," Greinke told Bob Nightengale of USA Today in 2015.
Still, Greinke as is would be quite the boon for the Astros rotation. With Lance McCullers Jr. recovering from Tommy John surgery and Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton afloat on the free-agent waters, said rotation needs nothing less than a boon.
Unlike half of MLB, the Astros wouldn't have to worry about getting Greinke's permission to complete a trade. Per Zach Buchanon of The Athletic, Houston isn't on the veteran's no-trade list:
The hard part would be coming up with a proposal good enough to convince the D-backs to overcome their hesitance to trade Goldschmidt and Greinke as a package deal. Presumably, this is one in which the D-backs eat as little of Greinke's remaining contract as possible and get young talent in return.
The Astros have more flexibility than most in these regards. Per Roster Resource, there's about a $30 million gap between their projected 2019 payroll ($134 million) and where they ended 2018 ($163 million), and only Altuve is signed past 2020. They also boast MLB's No. 7 farm system.
Something approximating the New York Mets' blockbuster trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz could work. In that, the Mets are effectively taking on $65 million in guaranteed money but not giving up either of their two best prospects, shortstop Andres Gimenez and first baseman Peter Alonso.
A similar deal might see the Astros taking on, say, $75 million and sending slugger Yordan Alvarez and right-hander Josh James to Arizona. As much as the D-backs might prefer to get Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley in exchange, at least they'd be getting two MLB-ready talents and clearing significant payroll.
Granted, all of this probably constitutes a long shot. Still, the D-backs are determined to move Goldschmidt and Greinke and the Astros could use both of them. Stranger things have happened.