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  • Journeyman Zack Greinke has a Place on the 2022 Minnesota Twins


    David Youngs

    It's hard to fathom that former AL Central staple Zack Greinke will be entering his 19th season in Major League Baseball in the 2022 season. At 38, the crafty veteran still has gas left in the tank and could prove to be a valuable asset for a Twins rotation that is flooded with youth. 

    Image courtesy of Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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    Sports fanatics classify the term 'journeyman' as someone who has spent an arm and a leg in the league bouncing between teams with adequate success but nothing special. 

    Zack Greinke crosses off a few of those checkmarks; he isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore and the eephus-touting free agent has played for six teams throughout the course of his MLB career. 

    For the lack of success part? Not so much. 

    A six time all star with a Cy Young award (has also finished top ten in voting three times) and four gold gloves, Greinke has maintained a level of consistency that is rare for veteran pitchers who've long surpassed their peak years. 

    The hitting-loving, burrito connoisseur finished last season in Houston with an 11-6 record and 4.16 ERA before electing free agency. That steeps above his career ERA of 3.41 but through the lens of "he's 37 and battled a variety of injuries," it's still impressive. His 29 starts in 2021 are on par with the high 20's-low 30's range that cemented his 'glory days' in Kansas City. 

    Greinke may not have the flashy appeal of other names on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon and Clayton Kershaw. Yet in addition to his consistency, Greinke's value to the Twins could extend far beyond metrics on the mound. It's a move that coincides with previous organizational patterns and one that could lay the foundation in a young Twins rotation. 

    Aged like Fine Wine
    As expected, one of the biggest rebuttals to signing Greinke is his age, lack of strikeouts, and low velocity. All of these are valid concerns; Greinke's 120 strikeouts and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2021 were the lowest number in his career (in a full season).  The late 30's have presented him a somewhat high-density of minor injuries in the past few years, including a neck injury in 2019 and shoulder and abdominal injuries in 2021. 

    None of those injuries landed him on anything longer than the 10-day Injured List; pretty impressive. Minus the 2006 season when he prioritized his mental health, Greinke has pitched close to a full season throughout the entirety of his career. 

    There are a couple of things that contribute to his longevity; Greinke knows what works for him and what doesn't. While many pitchers toss out the '”I pitch 100% all the time," he doesn't. He knows what works for and what doesn't in terms of maximizing his value and health. Take this 2014 article from Yahoo! Sports as an example; Greinke admits that he has become more selective with his slider due to the strain it previously presented to his elbow. 

    The epitome of work smarter, not harder, Greinke's pitch arsenal is a testament to his lengthy career. According to Baseball Savant, 67% of his pitches in 2021 consisted of fastballs (averaging at 89 MPH) and changeups (averaging at 86 MPH). That means that less than a third of his pitches are curveballs and sliders, two pitches that tend to shred the arm. 

    And no, fans won't be shouting "throw 'em the heater, Zacky!" when he's on the bump, they never have. That doesn't matter when a pitcher hits his spots. Greinke only walked 36 batters in 2021, scoring him in the 95th percentile for walks across Major League Baseball. 

    The 'ground out/pop up out' brand of pitcher has been a constant for the Twins over the years. Yet few have nailed the craft to a T as consistently and accurately as Greinke has. 

    Old Bull Among Young Calves
    With the absences of José Berríos (traded to Blue Jays) and Kenta Maeda (Tommy John Surgery), the Twins starting rotation is faced with crossroads of uncertainty. Michael Pineda is expected to return in 2022 but is a free agent and has drawn interest from some of his previous teams. 

    A few things are certain; offseason addition Dylan Bundy will play a role in the rotation and young bucks Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan will have ample opportunities to soak their feet in the pond of Major League pitching. 

    Scraps and appetizers of the meal are there, but the entrée is missing; a well-seasoned veteran who has experienced success throughout his career yet has endured experiences that have shaped him as a pitcher and potential mentor for young, undeveloped talent. 

    Greinke certainly has his quirks, we all do. Yet it's tough to imagine Greinke not being an excellent mentor for young pitchers like Ober and Ryan. His career has encountered trades, free agency, winning teams, abysmal teams, and everything in between. Frankly, he's seen the game of baseball from all different angles and perspectives. 

    Ryan and Ober come to the Twins from very different paths; Ober was drafted by the organization in 2017 and developed as 'in-house' talent whereas Ryan came to the Twins last season via the Nelson Cruz alongside Drew Strotman. And while Ober has a bit more experience under his belt than Ryan, a guy like Greinke could prove valuable to help weather the mountains and valleys that come with the territory of being a young MLB Pitcher. 

    To top it off, Greinke's arsenal parallels Ober and Ryan to an extent. Both youngsters rely heavily on a fastball in the low 90's and have untapped potential with their respective off-speed pitches. 

    Not the First Rodeo
    It's no secret that the Twins have developed a reputation for signing and trading for high-quality players who may be past their prime but haven't hit E on the tank yet. The previous regime did it with names like Jim Thome and Ervin Santana and the current leadership continued the pattern with Maeda, and most notably, Nelson Cruz. 

    It's become a way of life for the Twins, a mid-market team that frankly doesn't have the 'street cred' of Los Angeles, New York, or even Chicago. 

    The latter doesn't mention names like C.J. Cron or Logan Morrison, veteran acquisitions that perhaps didn't come to fruition the way that the front office would have liked. 

    Zack Greinke isn't Logan Morrison though. The only 'eye sore' season in his decorated career was almost two decades ago and his progression only elevated following his time off in 2006. Just a few years later, the Royals' ace was a Cy Young winner. 

    Another appeal? Given his age, Greinke is likely to be in the $12-15 million range (estimation by Twins Daily's Nick Nelson and others); those are numbers that the Twins can work with. Given the Buxton extension and the fact that the Twins play in the AL Central (as opposed to a division like the AL East or NL West with two-plus legit contenders), the focus of going all-in and forgoing a rebuild is a legitimate (and almost expected) possibility. 

    Greinke's familiarity with the Central and the division's ballparks, playing styles, etc. is only gravy on top. The cry for starting pitching has resounded loudly throughout Twins Territory during this long and dark offseason. Don't be surprised if the organization alleviates those cries by making a move on a pitching who could change the outlook of the pitching rotation drastically. 

     

     

     

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    Yet it's tough to imagine Greinke not being an excellent mentor for young pitchers like Ober and Ryan.

    I can already see the conversation.  Slow down your fastball, stop throwing your slider, save your arm!  Strikeouts are overrated, induce weak contact, you'll breeze through 9 innings then!

    WAIT.....A.....MINUTE.   This all seems vaguely familiar.  What's Rick Anderson up to?  Couldn't we just bring him in much cheaper to teach our youngsters this philosophy?

     

     

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    I think the decision to add Greinke depends totally on what the Twins plan to do with the rotation.  If the front office is planning to trade for a front line starter and add Pineda or a second starter by trade, then I don't think adding Greinke makes any sense.  If the Twins plan to start the season with Ober, Ryan, Dobnak, and one of the prospects like Winder or Canterino in the rotation, then adding Greinke as a mentor would have some merit.  Greinke knows how to pitch and would certainly be a good bench presence for the young arms, and would help them learn the ropes.  I am not saying I want the Twins to go with the young rotation.  I am simply saying if they do, Greinke would make some sense.

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    1 hour ago, yeahyabetcha said:

    Grienke will likely only get one year offers from teams.  Why would he choose the Twins?

    I don't think he has ever wanted to play for the Twins if he had the choice to play elsewhere.

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    Yes, it would be nice to have a somewhat dependable workhorse.

     

    No, can the Twins field (let alone hit) behind him. He will make his starts, but is that enouigh inspiration for the young arms. Would he be a clubhouse plus or a minus. Be better than Donaldson, except for the pitching end of the game?

     

    The Twins have the money and could, no doubt, blow him away with a decent one-year contract. The plus for Grienke now is to sign a good salary with someone, anyone, and make himself suitable for a mid-season trade to someone who is going to the playoffs, rather than try and make that gamble in the off-season. But you are only as good as your teammates, and are the Twins fielding a team that will help him, statistic-wise.

     

    Will the Twins be competitive? Are they in rebuiild? They need a shortstop stopgap, an answer in left field, and starters who can pitch 30-3 games and get past the fifth inning. Also would be nice to have a real closer, but really can draw a pass on that if you aren't going to win many games.

     

    Yes, I would gamble on a wizened old arm like Grienke, and even Lester before he retired. But, sadly, I don't see Zack being Mr. Minnesota-nice as a team spokesperson, or in the clubhouse. It would just be throwing money away.

     

    But I could think of worse arms to throw money at, too. 30 starts, 170-190 innings. You need to give him 3-4 runs to win a game. And close it out with a decent bullpen. Better than, say, taking a trade flyer (again) on Odorizzi, the 4.2-5.1 innings a game wonder?

     

     

     

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    he's intriguing. more so for his post playing career. I remember an article saying after he is done playing he would like to be a GM, so he could be an hier to Thad

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    I've been a huge fan of Greinke for a long time, but everything about him right now suggests that he's at the end of the line. Will he get crushed and be an embarrassment out there? Eh, probably not, because he's such a smart pitcher that he'll still be able to get over more times than he should...but hoo boy. There's just not anything in his numbers (and age is a number too) that suggests to me he's going to find any kind of resurgence or even hold with last year's pace. 

    There's real risk that Greinke is JA Happ, Part 2. The upside is the hope that he can grind out 150 innings at a 4.50 ERA. Not sure I'm excited about that?

    Now, considering how short we are in starters...maybe 1 year of Greinke isn't so bad while the young guys find their footing. The odds are very good that Greinke will at least start the season healthy and ready, and a short spring training probably won't hurt him as much as some? But this ain't Greinke from 5 years ago and we need to understand that. 

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    He has been happy in the West coast\Texas area and I think he will stay in that kind of climate.  I don't see him being interested in Minnesota unless it was a huge overpay or they were basically the only team pursuing him.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him with San Diego or the Angles.  Both teams could use stabilizing arms and both are on the west coast.  Texas might be interested as well hard to say.  At any rate I see him hanging out in a warmer weather state likely on the West coast where he has been most of his career now.

    Even if the Twins did manage to get him I don't think I love the signing.  Pitching a guy at the down end of his career versus giving a younger player experience I would choose the younger pitcher.  I just don't see the ultra competitive Grienke coming to Minnesota let alone making much of a difference for the Twins.

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    I think there will be plenty of innings for young pitchers even with Greinke. I wouldn’t want them to add multiple one year stop gap solutions and I certainly don't want one year guys at the back end.

    Sign Greinke. If the rest of the young staff really steps up and they are competitive then he can lead. If the young pitchers stumble and they are not competitive Greinke can be moved at the deadline.

     

     

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    Greinke as a bullpen starter day may work well and in Baldillo schim may work with starters going 5 innings. Then, he could used as a pinch hitter on off days. But what kind of salary ($8-15m) will it take to sign him and will he put the Twins on his trade list.  Does the mlb limit 14 pitchers on the 26 man roster? There is too much risk for me to feel comfortable with him.  A Greinke signing would require a stronger bullpen than the Twins may have.

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    I'd have agreed with this plan... 3 years ago, but just like another thread which proposed mid/back end rotation options, we don't need them and they're counter-productive to the Twins regardless of intent.

    I threw this together quick. The orange double line is the issue with Greinke. It's the rolling 3 year simple average of his ERAs. Peak Greinke started in 2009 and ended 2015, an excellent run of 7 years. His rolling ERA has been climbing pretty steadily since 2015 as has his rolling FIP, which paints a nice picture of Greinke's trend. I'd say his FIP will probably be somewhere near where it was last year. Maybe a tick better, but over 4.00 in all likelihood.

    image.png.3840dbd5eda4c860f8f6a2c638b7207a.png

    I don't see Greinke as a good fit for the Twins when Minnesota will probably need to find a spot for Winder, Balazovic, Woods-Richardson, Ober, Bundy, and Ryan in the rotation with Strotman, Jax and Dobnak filling spot start/injury replacement roles. I also don't think Greinke would be remotely interested in playing for a team which doesn't appear to be serious about competing in 2022 and there's long since been a rumor Greinke has a particular dislike of the Twins.

    The Twins need to aim higher or figure out what they already have in 2022.

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    21 hours ago, RJA said:

    I think the decision to add Greinke depends totally on what the Twins plan to do with the rotation.  If the front office is planning to trade for a front line starter and add Pineda or a second starter by trade, then I don't think adding Greinke makes any sense.  If the Twins plan to start the season with Ober, Ryan, Dobnak, and one of the prospects like Winder or Canterino in the rotation, then adding Greinke as a mentor would have some merit.  Greinke knows how to pitch and would certainly be a good bench presence for the young arms, and would help them learn the ropes.  I am not saying I want the Twins to go with the young rotation.  I am simply saying if they do, Greinke would make some sense.

    Adding Greinke as the 4th starter on a playoff caliber team makes sense.  Adding him as a mentor or "presence" to an 80 win team is just throwing away 10-15 million.  What.....so the "young pitchers" will listen to him........ instead of Wes Johnson?

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    10 hours ago, puckstopper1 said:

    Sign Greinke and be prepared to cut Bundy in Spring Training when his ERA is north of 10...

    Unfortunately, that "north of 10" ERA will make him our #2 starter (as things are shaping up now.)  (tongue-in-cheek............I hope!)

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    2 hours ago, miracleb said:

    Adding Greinke as the 4th starter on a playoff caliber team makes sense.  Adding him as a mentor or "presence" to an 80 win team is just throwing away 10-15 million.  What.....so the "young pitchers" will listen to him........ instead of Wes Johnson?

    I think you greatly greatly underestimate the value of mentors.  Mentors don't replace coaches, they complement them.  I think most people realize that Nelson Cruz had a positive impact on the young hitters--not as much in the mechanics of hitting, but in how to prepare for a game and how to deal with failure and success.  You often saw Sano and others talking with him on the bench, and many actually were quoted saying how much they learned from him.  The same is true of young pitchers.  You often see them picking the brains of older pitchers, and they, too, learn about preparation, dealing with bad outings, etc.  IF they go with a very young staff, they will need a mentor in my humble opinion.  In that case, he could be a wise investment.

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    So, we picked up Jack Morris for the 1991 season after pithing to an 4.86 and 4.51 era in 1989 and 1990 .. Jack was 36. How did that work out for us ..

    On the other hand Jack's era dropped off though the 6 plus range at 38 and 39

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    I'll take him but only if the Twin Cities media doesn't do any stories on his issues back in 2006 or whenever.  So tired of reading the same stories you could just link to from their last team.

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