The Arizona Diamondbacks may be considered a small market team, but with the sensational signing of right-hander Zack Greinke late Friday, they quickly vaulted into the upper echelon. Given their potent offense and solid defense, the missing link was high-profiled, high-paid pitchers.
Save Paul Goldschmidt, who is in for $32 million, Greinke’s numbers sprang the Diamondbacks into the kind of economic stratosphere usually associated with the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The first hint that the Diamondbacks leap-frogged into the syndrome of big spenders was during the past off-season. That’s when the organization inked outfielder Yasmany Tomas for $68 million and fellow Cuban defector, 22-year-old pitcher Yoan Lopez for $16 million.
There were decisive hints that the Diamondbacks were willing to open their checkbook. Earlier this week, the organization offered a reported $110 to $120 million deal to right-hander Jonny Cueto, a highly coveted a free agent. While pundits were surprised that the Diamondbacks reached out to Cueto, those in the baseball community appeared equally stunned by not only that the Diamondbacks offered a contract to Greinke but that the 32-year-old accepted.
With the “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, Greinke, at 6-0, 195 pounds, signed the richest contract offered to a pitcher. Greinke signed a reported 6-year, $206 million contract. According to reported accounts, there is no opt period and, unless traded or released, Greinke will wear Sedona Red for more than the next one-half decade. In the deal, the Diamondbacks satisfied Grienke’s request to be the highest paid pitcher.
According to sources, Greinke wanted $31.5 million to $32 million a season. The deal now surpasses the 7-year, $217 million left-handed David Price recently signed with the Boston Red Sox. With the transaction, Greinke’s contract averages to $34.42 million a year and that represents the largest annual salary in baseball history.
If Greinke’s numbers ahead remain consistent with what the Orlando, Fla. native reached last season, the Diamondbacks should receive value. In 2015, Greinke went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA. That was the lowest ERA recorded in the past 20 years. He finished second in the National League Cy Young Award to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, and captured the 2009 American League Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals (15-4, 2.63 ERA).
For the 2106 season, Greinke will enter his 13th major league season. In the previous 12 years, he sports a collective 142-93 record and a 3.35 ERA with the Royals, Brewers and Dodgers. Over the past three years, Greinke won 51 games and the Diamondbacks hope that production continues.
Last season, the Diamondbacks’ payroll was estimated at $91 million, and observers believed the organization might surpass the $100 million for the 2016 season. Going forward, it was reported that that Diamondbacks would have about $40 million to spend for the up-coming season, and that money would likely be earmarked to improve starting pitching. Both the 6-year commitment to Greinke and the money offered in the Phoenix small market could raise concerns.
“We have something good and we have to be careful we don’t unravel it, because we’re impatient or because we’re jumping it or trying to keep up with the Joneses,” team CEO Derrick Hall told MLB.com. “We just can’t do that. If you’re going to improve you have to do what’s within your range, within your budget. You have to be disciplined. That’s the key, you have to be disciplined.”
If the Diamondbacks believe they found a missing link to their starting rotation dilemma, Greinke does come with baggage. Despite his recent stellar seasons, Greinke suffered from elbow inflammation over the past two years.
Plus, there is also a loss of personnel. By signing Greinke, the Diamondbacks forfeited their selection, the 13th overall, in next year’s draft.
Still, the Diamondbacks’ search for their number-one starter appears to have ended. Greinke will easily rise as the titular head of the staff and will be augmented in the rotation with left-handers Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray and right-handers Rubby De La Rosa and Archie Bradley. While the baseball winter meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn., the Diamondbacks now could be a casual observer. Save perhaps the movement of infielders like Jake Lamb, Chris Owings, Brandon Drury, Aaron Hill, Phil Gosselin and Nick Ahmed for additional pitching, Arizona decision-makers seemed to have extinguished all the candles on their wish list cake.