Could the Twins Afford to Take on Zack Greinke’s Contract?
Image courtesy of © Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsTwins fans are probably quite familiar with Zack Greinke, who started his illustrious career with the Kansas City Royals. If you rewind the clock back a decade, Greinke was in the middle of a Cy Young season at the same time Joe Mauer seemed to find his home run stroke on his way to the AL MVP. After the 2010 season, the Royals traded Greinke away to the Milwaukee Brewers for a massive haul that included Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi. After a solid season and a half for the Brewers, Greinke was again traded, this time to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Jean Segura. Once the 2012 season had ended, Greinke inked a six-year $147 million contract to move across town to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After three great seasons with the Dodgers, where Greinke posted a 2.30 ERA over 602 and 2/3 innings, including a 1.62 ERA in 2015, Greinke was able to opt out of his contract, and in turn signed a six-year $206 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite this large contract, it is hard to say Greinke hasn’t been worth it as he has a 3.40 ERA in 709 and 2/3 innings during the first three and a half years of his deal.
Despite being at age 36, Greinke is still one of the premier starting pitchers in the game today. Greinke isn’t a pitcher that relies on unhittable stuff to get hitters out, instead he is an excellent pure pitcher, which has helped him stay successful even this late into his career. Greinke uses an effective six-pitch mix, including an Eephus Curveball that sits in the low 60’s, which he mixes in from time to time to keep opposing hitters off balance. Another thing that Greinke has is excellent command. Among the 70 qualified starting pitchers this year, Greinke’s 3.3 percent walk rate ranks second, behind only Hyun-Jin Ryu. Greinke also racks up his fare share of strikeouts. So far in 2019, Greinke has a 23.6 percent strikeout rate, which is slightly above average for an MLB starter this day in age, and inn comparison to other Minnesota Twins starters, Greinke’s strikeout rate would be the second highest, behind only Jake Odorizzi. All of this has helped Greinke put up a 2.87 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 141 innings pitched this season. From all this, it is clear that Greinke would drastically improve the Twins rotation, as he could slide right in with Jose Berrios to give them a dynamic 1-2 punch.
Leading up to the trade deadline, the Twins front office has made it very clear that they are not interested jeopardizing their future by trading away too much draft capital. While no one prospect is off the table, it would be desired to not give up the likes of Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff. Additionally, Derek Falvey has been quoted saying owner Jim Pohlad is willing to spend “what we need” to improve the team. With the increase in both attendance and TV ratings that the Twins have had as a result of their success this season, it is reasonable to assume that even the stingy Pohlads would be willing to spend some more money. While the Twins have built up quite the reputation for not wanting to spend under this ownership regime, they did show back in 2009 that they were will to spend once the they felt the team was good, as evidence of the 150 percent increase in payroll after the 2009 season. While most of it came from signing Mauer to his eight-year deal, they still opened up the checkbook for him. Taking on Greinke’s contract would be a move much in the same vein.
So, why would the Twins be interested in taking on Zack Greinke’s contract that is due to pay him $32 million over each of the next two seasons? The main reason would be the relatively small amount of prospect capital the Twins would need to give up to acquire Greinke. While other starting pitchers with multiple years of team control, like Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard, would cost a lot in terms of prospects, Greinke wouldn’t because of the amount of money he is owed. Just look at the New York Yankees trade for Gincarlo Stanton couple years ago as an example for this. Despite the fact that Stanton was coming off an MVP season, the best prospect the Yankees needed to give up was Jorge Guzman, who at the time was their ninth ranked prospect (per MLB Pipeline), thanks to the massive amount of money remaining on his deal.
Another factor to keep in mind is none of the Twins young core players are due to become free agents until after Greinke’s contact expires, so it wouldn’t hinder their ability to resign them if that is what they would like to do. Additionally, the Twins estimated payrolls for 2020 and 2021 currently sit at just $97 million and $88 million respectively, and that’s if the Twins pick up their team options on both Nelson Cruz and Martin Perez. So, adding on the $32 million from Greinke only puts the Twins roughly where they are right now going into 2020. Additionally, as part of the trade negotiations, the Twins could bargain the Diamondbacks into picking up at least a portion of Greinke’s remaining contract. How much, will depend on what the Twins are willing to give up prospect wise, but it still shouldn’t require much to get the Diamondback to do so. If the Twins could get the Diamondbacks to eat at least a third of Greinke’s remaining salary, without having to give up a big trade package, this could be just the kind of deal the Twins are looking for, based on everything the front office has said so far.
What are your thoughts? Would you be interested in a trade for Zack Greinke to bolster the Twins rotation, or would you prefer the Twins keep their sights set on other pitching targets before the trade deadline?
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