NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After signing right-hander Zack Greinke last Friday to a 6-year, $206 million deal, something magical seems have taken place. No longer are the Diamondbacks a low profile, small market team.
Rather, Greinke’s presence catapults the Diamondbacks in the realm of instant credibility, and a seat at nearly every baseball conversation. No longer is the National League West Division a dialogue solely about the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Given the Diamondbacks’ potent offense and strong defense, add Greinke to a core of starters beginning with Patrick Corbin, and the Diamondbacks appear on an equal plane with the Dodgers and Giants.
Coming into the winter meetings, which begin Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort here, Arizona decision-makers should be prepared for a crunch of national media attention. More important, Dave Stewart, the team’s general manager and Tony La Russa, the club’s Chief Baseball Officer, will continue their search for starting pitching.
One name out there which could settle as a number three, four or five starter in the Diamondbacks’ rotation is Mike Leake, a former standout at Arizona State University. Dealt from the Reds to the Giants during the 2015 season and now a free agent, Leake, who went 11-10 with an ERA of 3.35 in 30 combined starts with the Giants and Reds, could ease into the Arizona rotation without much pressure and likely under the radar screen.
If the Diamondbacks’ effort to gain another starter fails, La Russa said at the conclusion of last season that pitchers such as righties Archie Bradley and Rubby De La Rosa, lefty Robbie Ray along with right-handed prospects Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley, have the capability to raise the level of their individual game. This prospect could be interesting. That’s because new pitching coach Mike Butcher now has the task of increasing the value and production from each individual on his staff.
Because of Greinke’s presence, that may be easier to achieve. Successful players tend to raise the ability of players around them. Here, there could be little argument that any or all starters could improve simply from the osmosis of being around Greinke.
Despite arm inflammation during parts of the past two seasons, Greinke turned in one of the best seasons in recent history in 2015. His 19-3 record was augmented by a 1.66 ERA, the lowest ERA for a starter since the Braves’ Greg Maddux (1.63 in 1995). The National League mark is 1.04 turned in by the Cubs’ Mordecai Brown in 1906. Moving to the Diamondbacks, Greinke has an opportunity to better his achievement of last season and stand alone.
That’s because he toiled under the shadow of two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers. Any conversation with L. A. involved Kershaw first and Greinke second. Now, Greinke assumes to top spot in the Arizona rotation and can provide that extra incentive and initiative to the starters which follow.
If the Diamondbacks are willing to trade for additional starting pitching, Stewart can deal from strength. With a plethora of infielders including Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb, Aaron Hill, Phil Gosselin, Jack Reinheimer and Dansby Swanson, last year’s number one overall pick, the organization would not likely be impacted by moving any of these players. Then again, the play Ahmed at shortstop represented one of the cornerstones of the Diamondbacks’ stellar defense of last season. Of this surplus, the Diamondbacks may be less likely to deal Ahmed or Lamb.
On the eve of the winter meetings, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed a one-year deal with Detroit. In 70 games last season for the Diamondbacks, Saltalamacchia hit a credible .251 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs.
At the end of last season, Saltalamacchia made it known he wanted to catch every day. With Welington Castillo and Tuffy Gosewisch ahead of him on the Arizona depth chart, his desire was regarded as unrealistic.