Tag: Zack Greinke

Top Potential Zack Greinke Suitors, Trade Packages

What a difference a year makes.

Last winter, Zack Greinke was baseball’s reigning ERA king and arguably the offseason’s hottest free-agent commodity. The Los Angeles Dodgers wanted him back. The San Francisco Giants wanted to pry him away.

Greinke ultimately, and somewhat surprisingly, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for six years and $206.5 million.

Now, after his ERA ballooned to 4.37 during a deflating season in the desert, Greinke is an albatross.

The $34 million he’s owed next season could swallow more than a third of the Diamondbacks’ total budget, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney noted

That’s the mess new D-backs general manager Mike Hazen inherited. His task is to mop it up, per Olney:

…as Hazen establishes himself with the Diamondbacks, perhaps he could do what his predecessor would have never been in position to do: persuade ownership to dump Greinke and as much of his contract as possible, even if it means eating some of his salary in the years ahead. Greinke’s contract is already a serious impediment for Hazen, as he goes about his work of trying to build a consistent winner in Arizona, and the problem might only get worse if Greinke’s performance continues to decline next season.

It won’t be easy. The Diamondbacks would walk away from any Greinke trade with some egg on their face. On Nov. 9, Hazen said the team is “fully anticipating that Zack is going to be back next year,” per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert.

If they can shed a portion of his salary, though, and net a couple of decent prospects, they should jump at the chance.

Despite his down year, Greinke has upside. Between 2013 and 2015, his 13.5 WAR ranks eighth among big league pitchers, according to FanGraphs’ measure.

He’s 33, which means this decline could be real and permanent. But he’s also one season removed from leading MLB in ERA (1.66), ERA+ (222) and WHIP (0.844).

If there were an entry in the dictionary for “high risk, high reward,” it would be a picture of Greinke’s grinning visage.

The only realistic suitors are clubs with gaudy budgets and fertile farms. From that group, three emerge as the most logical. Let’s examine each, and the packages they may be willing to offer.

It’s all speculation at this point, but it should be high on Hazen and Arizona’s due-diligence list. 


New York Yankees

The Yankees have been in rebuild mode since the 2016 trade deadline, jettisoning expensive veterans and adding young talent to a minor league system Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked No. 1 in the game. 

Taking on a chunk of Greinke’s salary and giving up prospects for the privilege would be a redirect, to say the least.

New York, though, is always in win-now mode. The Bronx faithful demand it. Its rotation is sketchy after ace Masahiro Tanaka, with mercurial right-hander Michael Pineda, creaky veteran southpaw CC Sabathia and a muddled cast of youngsters filling in the picture.  

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe name-dropped New York among possible Greinke landing spots. Joe Giglio of NJ Advance Media likewise said the Yanks “loom as a possibility” in the Greinke sweepstakes.

New York should refuse to part with any of its top prospectsa group headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier and shortstop Gleyber Torres—even if the D-backs are willing to pick up half of Greinke’s tab or more.

A mid-tier name such as 20-year-old right-hander Drew Finley—the Yankees’ No. 19 prospect, per MLB.com—along with a throw-in player and an offer to absorb the bulk of Greinke’s salary should get the Diamondbacks’ attention.

Still, given New York’s current trajectory, we’ll put the likelihood of this at somewhere between “low” and “not gonna happen.”


Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox don’t need to add an ace-level arm with recently minted AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price already in the fold.

After a disappointing division-series sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, however, it’s a safe bet president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will have his eyes out for upgrades to any facet of the roster.

Like New York, Boston has a loaded farm system and a hefty payroll. Hazen, meanwhile, was the Sox’s GM last season, so he presumably has a direct line to Dombrowski.

Top prospects such as infielder Yoan Moncada and outfielder Andrew Benintendi shouldn’t even enter the conversation. Perhaps someone like lanky lefty Trey Ball, ranked as the Sox’s No. 14 prospect by MLB.com, or a high-upside gamble like 19-year-old Dominican outfielder Yoan Aybar could whet Arizona’s appetite.

If Boston is going to swing a trade for a starter, it could set its sights on other targets, including the Chicago White Sox‘s Chris Sale or the Detroit Tigers‘ Justin Verlander, as I recently outlined. Greinke would likely come at a lower cost in talent, though, if not dollars.

OK, now the soggy blanket: The Red Sox will pay Price $30 million for at least the next two seasons, at which point the lefty can opt out. They also need to fill the David Ortiz-sized hole in the middle of their lineup. Shelling out for a significant portion of Greinke’s contract would strain the purse strings.

Plus, with both New York and Boston, there’s the question of whether a move to the hitter-happy AL East would help Greinke get his mojo back.


Los Angeles Dodgers

They say you can’t go home again, but the Dodgers and Greinke could test that axiom.

It’s more than a wild fancy. L.A. “expressed interest” in trading for Greinke in August after he cleared waivers, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

The talks “were not substantive and did not advance,” according to Rosenthal’s sources. Still, it shows the door to a Greinke-Dodgers reunion is cracked open.

Ace Clayton Kershaw returned strong from a back injury that cost him two months in 2016, and Japanese import Kenta Maeda was a steady No. 2.

Trade-deadline acquisition Rich Hill is a free agent, however, and the rest of the Dodgers rotation is a mishmash of promising-but-untested youngsters (Julio Urias), middling veterans (Scott Kazmir) and uncertain injury comebacks (Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu). 

Simply putting a Dodgers uniform on won’t return Greinke to his former glory. There are causes for cautious optimism, though.

The Dodgers had the third-best team defense in the NLand all of baseballin 2016, while the D-backs had the Senior Circuit’s second-worst, per FanGraphs. Arizona’s Chase Field was baseball’s second-most hitter-friendly yard, per ESPN’s Park Factors statistic, while Dodger Stadium was the second-least. 

That’s not to suggest all of Greinke’s 2016 struggles can be pinned on shoddy defense or his home-field disadvantage. It’s possible, however, that a return to Chavez Ravine could rekindle his All-Star flame.

Like Boston and New York, Los Angeles could hang on to its top MiLB talent and still put together an enticing package. Catcher Austin Barnes—an Arizona State alum and the team’s No. 10 prospect, per MLB.comwould make for a nice centerpiece, as would 21-year-old right-hander and No. 8 prospect Jordan Sheffield. 

The biggest impediment, however, may be the Dodgers’ financial situation.

L.A. boasted baseball’s highest payroll in 2016, but the team is under pressure to tighten its belt to conform to MLB’s debt rules, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times

That could hinder the club’s ability to bring back key free agents such as third baseman Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen, let alone shoulder part of Greinke’s contract. 

The safe bet is on Greinke staying put. The Diamondbacks should keep asking, however, and see if they find a pliable taker.

Last winter’s prize has become this offseason’s toxic asset. What a difference a year makes.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Zack Greinke Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding Diamondbacks SP

Lavishing Zack Greinke with a six-year, $206.5 million contract hasn’t turned the Arizona Diamondbacks into contenders. But if they ever want to get out from under that contract, they’ll reportedly be able to find a suitor within their own division.

Continue for updates.

Dodgers Want Greinke Reunion

Thursday, Sept. 1

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Los Angeles Dodgers contacted the Diamondbacks regarding a trade for their former ace prior to Wednesday’s waiver trade deadline. Per Rosenthal, the talks were not substantive, and it’s unclear if Arizona has any intention of moving Greinke.

The 32-year-old righty played for the Dodgers from 2013 to 2015. He posted an ERA under 3.00 in each season, including a 1.66 rate during his historic 2015 campaign.

The Diamondbacks poached him away last December, but the first year hasn’t worked out. (He has a 4.17 ERA and 1.24 WHIP through his first 22 starts.) Arizona is 56-77 and could be looking at organizational upheaval.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported ownership is considering replacing chief baseball officer Tony La Russa; general manager Dave Stewart; and De Jon Watson, the team’s senior vice president of baseball operations, after two seasons. Arizona brought in La Russa to spearhead an organizational shuffling, seemingly giving him a blank check and an edict to make the team competitive.

The club showed promise with a 79-83 campaign a year ago, but 2016 has been a mess. Greinke is on pace for his lowest wins above replacement since 2007, per FanGraphs, and has seen all his peripherals pale in comparison to his stint in L.A.

The Dodgers have been tighter with their spending than they were when their current ownership group first came aboard, but they’re tied for 26th in quality starts. Their willingness to kick the tires on Greinke is understandable, even with his monstrous contract.

It would also protect the organization if injured starter Clayton Kershaw attempted to join the free-agent market after the 2018 season, as his current deal has an opt-out clause.


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Zack Greinke Injury: Updates on Diamondbacks Star’s Oblique and Return

The Arizona Diamondbacks‘ big offseason acquisition has gotten off to a so-so start this season and is now on the shelf, as right-handed ace Zack Greinke suffered an injury to his oblique. 

Continue for updates.    

Greinke Injury Details Revealed 

Tuesday, July 28

Grienke’s injury is being descried as tightness in his oblique, according to Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com.  

McManaman provided additional details regarding how Greinke left: 

The right-hander appeared to wince in pain while throwing a warm-up pitch to catcher Welington Castillo to start the inning. Manager Chip Hale and head athletic trainer Ken Crenshaw came out to the mound to check on him.

After a few short moments, Greinke left the field and appeared to go inside the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse at Chase Field. He re-emerged quickly and threw a couple of warm-up pitches. He reached for what appeared to be his back area after one of them and then left the field again, this time for good.

Greinke had one the best seasons of his career in 2015, posting an ERA of 1.66, a 0.844 WHIP and a 5.9 FanGraphs wins above replacement. That prompted the Diamondbacks to swipe him away from the National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers with a six-year, $206.5 million deal. 

However, Greinke’s tenure in the desert got off to a rocky start, as his ERA was over 6.00 for most of April. Despite the rough start, Greinke entered Tuesday’s game with a 10-3 record, a 3.62 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. 

While the Diamondbacks don’t have another pitcher on their roster capable of dominating like Greinke at his best, the front office did do a good job of adding quality depth behind him. Shelby Miller, who has also struggled early this season, is a good No. 2 starter. Patrick Corbin, when healthy, has been a quality mid-rotation arm. 

The Diamondbacks went all-in by signing Greinke and trading for Miller to win in 2016. Losing Greinke for even a short period of time puts a huge dent in their plans, in addition to giving the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants an advantage in the division race.

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Zack Greinke’s L.A. Return Stirs Up Good Memories, Weird Feelings for Dodgers

Zack Greinke is renewing acquaintances during his highly anticipated return to Los Angeles this week. Alas, he is not starting in L.A.

This is purely a social visit for the man who opted out of his Dodgers deal and signed a whopping six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the winter. His ex-teammates will find themselves on the business end of his pitches somewhere down the line this summer—and yes, when that happens, it sure will be different.

“It will be really weird,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis says. “It already is really weird seeing him on TV wearing a different uniform.

“It was great to see him this spring. He was a great friend to so many of us while he was here. And he was a great teammate.”

What is far weirder than the sight of Greinke wearing a Diamondbacks uniform is that 9.90 ERA stuck next to his name. Two starts into the season, Greinke has struggled.

Last year, his ERA never even climbed into the 2.00s. His season high in 2015 was 1.97, last June 2. Talk about a stark difference. His next chance at his first victory for Arizona will come Friday in San Diego.

“I guess it could have gone worse, but it’s been pretty bad,” Greinke told reporters after the Chicago Cubs cuffed him for four earned runs and seven hits in six innings during Chicago’s 4-2 win in the desert over the weekend. “I should do better.”

That his 2016 numbers would inflate after last season’s sublime run was one of the most predictable things about this summer. The thin desert air is far more friendly to hitters than to pitchers. Still, given who he is, Greinke should—and will—find his footing.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, look forward to their inevitable meeting with him.

“It’s always cool to get a hit off of one of your ex-teammates, for bragging rights,” Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford says. “I was surprised he left, because he was so close to Clayton Kershaw.”

There are few surprises in free agency, because money speaks loudly. And for a marquee player like Greinke, you never know when the next Brink’s truck will show up in the driveway. The Dodgers thought they had him at one point during the winter when negotiations reached the “1-yard line,” according to Bleacher Report sources.

Greinke‘s agent, Casey Close, essentially was working with the Dodgers on the final, specific details of what would have been a five-year agreement when Arizona unexpectedly called. A couple of hours later, working under the parameters of a six-year deal with the Diamondbacks, the split with L.A. was sudden and complete.

“Players that earn the right to become a free agent get to make whatever they feel is the best decision for them and their family,” Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, says. “Different people handle it different ways. There is no right or wrong answer.

“This is what he felt made the most sense for him and his family, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The Dodgers have fond memories of their famously quirky former ace. That part of Greinke still elicits big smiles from his former teammates, many of whom still have a favorite among his many, many eccentricities.

“Probably the way he sits on the bench when he’s not pitching, but watching games,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner says, grinning. “He crosses his legs underneath himself. It is so unorthodox.

“Every day coming out of the tunnel into the dugout before a game and seeing that, it was funny to me.”

Says Ellis: “Never knowing whether there was music on when he had his headphones on. You never knew if he was listening to music or not, but you knew he didn’t want to talk.”

“I love the fact that he always gives his honest opinion, and he’s always asking you for your honest opinion,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez says. “I always prefer that to someone who says something to you, and then something else behind your back.

“That’s not a good teammate. With Zack, he tells you right out. Nothing is said behind your back.”

Though he only spent one year with Greinke, Friedman agrees with Gonzalez.

“Just the fact that he didn’t have a filter, it was really refreshing,” Friedman says. “A lot of guys are really premeditated with what they say. I could count on 100 percent honesty from him at all times. It was great.

“It was great dialogue back and forth. I have a lot of respect for what he does to prepare himself, both mentally and physically. I think it’s something that is a little unique among baseball players.”

After this week, the Dodgers don’t play the Diamondbacks again until mid-June, when they travel to Arizona. The Diamondbacks don’t return to Dodger Stadium until July 29-31. So after this week’s hellos, it will be a while before their businesses intersect.

“I always feel like the pitcher has the advantage, no matter what,” Gonzalez says. “Obviously, we haven’t faced him in a long time. It’s all about the unknown. You don’t know what his pitch selection is going to be.

“With really good pitchers, it’s their job to make you go 0-for-3 or 0-for-4. You get a hit, you’ve won.”

Turner, the former Met, ran into similarly awkward situations when the Dodgers played New York in 2014, which was the third baseman’s first season in Los Angeles. Facing his old minor league roommate Matt Harvey was especially entertaining for him.

“It was definitely fun facing all of the Mets guys,” Turner says. “You know what they throw so well. And the competitiveness. You want to beat them.”

Assuming he’s finished wobbling by the time he faces the Dodgers and is back to his regular, dominating self, the thing with Greinke is, he brings so many weapons. And not all of them are obvious.

“The one thing I’m worried about when we face him is his offense,” Ellis says of a former teammate who hit .249 in 185 at-bats with the Dodgers. “I’ll spend more time looking at that, and how to stop him, rather than how to prepare to hit against him.”

By then, assuming Greinke is back in rhythm, preparing to hit against him can be everybody else’s problem.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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How Worried Should Diamondbacks Be About $206.5 Million Man Zack Greinke?

Somewhere in the executive offices of Chase Field, there may be a finger moving closer to the button marked “PANIC.”

After Zack Greinke debuted with seven earned runs in four innings against the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks were surely hoping the right-hander would look more like the ace they deemed worthy of $206.5 million in his second outing Saturday.

Instead, he only went from bad to less bad. In six innings against the Chicago Cubs, the veteran paced Arizona to a 4-2 loss by allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks.

All told, Greinke has allowed 11 earned runs on 16 hits and four walks in 10 innings. Those numbers look especially big on a guy whose 1.66 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers almost won him a second Cy Young Award in 2015. As ESPN Stats and Information notes, it’s now going to take a Herculean effort for Greinke to do that again:

You probably already know what the good news is, but here goes anyway: It’s only been two starts. That’s not a small sample size. It’s an itty-bitty sample size.

Still, it’s only human to be nervous about Greinke. Itty-bitty sample size be damned—just how worried should the Diamondbacks be?

For starters, there’s no getting around the fact that Greinke‘s first outing in his colorful new duds was a legit stinker. The Rockies did not rack up Texas Leaguers and seeing-eye singles against him. Three of their nine hits left the ballpark, and according to FanGraphs, 47.4 percent of their balls in play off Greinke qualified as hard-hit.

Greinke‘s trademark control, however, was not the problem. After walking only 1.6 batters per nine innings last season, he walked only one Rockies hitter. And overall, slightly more than half of his 82 pitches found the strike zone.

With that being the case, one might expect that Greinke‘s stuff was the problem. He is beginning his age-32 season, after all, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Greinke was pitching through the flu.

Nope. Per Brooks Baseball, Greinke‘s four-seam fastball was sitting at 92.5 miles per hour. That’s only a shade below where he was sitting at the end of 2015, and it’s well ahead of where his average fastball velocity (91.1 mph) was last April. 

This takes care of two easy explanations and opens the door for a more nuanced theory for what was dogging Greinke. Cue Pedro Martinez to insinuate that maybe Greinke was tipping his pitches:

When asked about this, Greinke told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that it was “possible.” But he wasn’t so much worried about that as he was about what he knew he did wrong.

“I know I probably threw too many pitches away early in the game and didn’t throw in enough,” he said. “Sometimes that’ll let the other team feel more comfortable in the box. I thought that was more of a possibility than tipping.”

Survey says: Eureka!

As Brooks Baseball shows, Greinke mostly stayed away from both lefties and righties. By the righties in particular, that’s where he was hurt.

There could be something to this. As I noted recently, Greinke dominated last year by feeding lefties fastballs and changeups away, and righties fastballs and sliders away. But though it worked wonders for him last season, his 2016 debut raised the question of whether the jig is up.

Which leads us to the big question: Did Greinke make any changes Saturday?

Sure did! He was much more proactive about working Chicago’s left-handed hitters inside than he was with Colorado’s left-handed hitters. It was largely the same story against Chicago’s right-handed batters, who had to put up with Greinke working both sides of the strike zone.

Meanwhile, Greinke‘s velocity was fine. He sat at 91.9 miles per hour with his four-seam fastball. That may be about a half a mile per hour off where his heat was in his debut, but it’s still well ahead of where he was last April.

Armed with a better approach and decent velocity, it’s no wonder Greinke was a tougher nut to crack. After striking out only two Rockies, he struck out eight Cubs. And though the batted-ball data isn’t yet available, the Cubs didn’t seem to make a ton of loud contact off Greinke after a rough three-run first.

Even the three walks Greinke allowed don’t look too bad from one perspective. Check out all his pitch locations together:

That’s not a pitcher who was all over the place. Even when Greinke missed, he mostly didn’t miss by much. Had he gotten more favorable calls, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about a three-walk performance.

But rather than hope for better luck, this is where Greinke may have to make his next adjustment.

As Brad Johnson of FanGraphs noted in his breakdown of Greinke for the 2016 season, the pitcher’s move from the Dodgers to the Diamondbacks involved swapping an elite pitch-framer (Yasmani Grandal) for a mediocre pitch-framer (Welington Castillo).

That already seems to be having an effect. According to Baseball Savant, Greinke got more called strikes outside the zone than all but four other pitchers last seasonvindication for Bryce Harper! He got only four calls outside the zone in his debut, and the eye counts just three in his second outing.

But as far as concerns go, Greinke having to worry about the number of calls he’s getting outside the zone is a minor one. It would be a much bigger deal if his overall control, his velocity or his approach to pitching were all sending up red flags, but they’re not. The first two are fine, and the third looks like a problem he’s already on his way to figuring out.

Through two starts, Greinke has a 9.90 ERA. It doesn’t take a mind-reader to know the Diamondbacks were hoping their $206.5 million man would make a better first impression than that. But rather than being broken, it looks like their big investment just needs a little more assembly.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Will Kershaw, Greinke or Bumgarner Be NL West’s Top Ace in 2016 Division War?

It’s high noon in the NL West. Into a deserted clearing step Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner. A breeze rolls tumbleweeds across the ground.

What happens next?

Clearly there’s going to be a damn good fight for the not-so-official title of the division’s best ace. Kershaw, Greinke and Bumgarner have been three of the National League’s top pitchers over the past three seasons, and are certainly head-and-shoulders above all other NL West pitchers.

As for which of them will be the last ace standing, that part is complicated. Let’s break it down.


The Case for and Against Madison Bumgarner

On either side of his historically awesome postseason in 2014, Bumgarner has been remarkably consistent. Since 2013, the San Francisco Giants ace is the only pitcher to top 200 innings with an ERA under 3.00 each year.

What’s more, Bumgarner is still just 26 and seemingly only getting better. As I highlighted last week, he’s gained complete control over his unusual delivery and has further baffled hitters with an approach that calls for fastballs up and off-speed pitches down. As a result, he’s improved as a strikeout artist and as a walk artist.

So, color us unsurprised that the projections expect more of the same from Bumgarner in 2016. At FanGraphs, for example, Steamer and ZiPS both see another season of 200-plus innings with an ERA under 3.00 in his future.

The thing is, though, the left-hander hasn’t started 2016 off on the right foot.

Bumgarner was slowed by injuries in spring training, and he posted an 11.12 ERA in four starts. The hard times continued in his 2016 debut at the Milwaukee Brewers, as he surrendered three earned runs on five hits (including two home runs) and five walks in five innings.

Since Bumgarner was supposedly battling the flu, his poor performance may prove to be a one-and-done affair. In particular, better health could help his fastball velocity, which was roughly two miles per hour below its 2015 norm in his debut.

Unless said velocity loss is something that’s about to be unveiled as permanent, that is. According to this Brooks Baseball chart of Bumgarner‘s velocity over the past year, it’s a distinct possibility:

Ever since it peaked last June, his velocity has been on a downward slope. And though he’s still plenty young, research by Bill Petti at FanGraphs suggests Bumgarner is right around the age when he would start losing velocity.

Because Bumgarner still has a delivery that makes it incredibly tough for hitters to track the ball as well as an approach to pitching that further ups the difficulty level, he should still be able to pitch like an ace even if this velocity loss is for real. But since smaller velocity readings tend to mean a smaller margin for error, it’s fair to wonder if his ceiling for 2016 only goes so high.


The Case for and Against Zack Greinke

In case anyone missed it, Greinke is no longer a Los Angeles Dodger. They were open to bringing him back this winter, but instead he followed the scent of a $206.5 million contract to Arizona.

The Diamondbacks aren’t wrong to view Greinke as the ace their rotation sorely lacked in 2015. He’s posted a 2.30 ERA across 602.2 innings over the last three years, culminating in an MLB-best 1.66 ERA in 222.2 innings last season.

Sure, the 32-year-old Greinke isn’t young anymore. In a related story, the electric stuff he had in his Kansas City Royals days is long gone. But without his best stuff, he’s basically become Greg Maddux. Through pinpoint command and expert sequencing, Greinke is in control of hitters at all times.

Or most times, anyway. Greinke wasn’t in a lot of control in his 2016 debut against the Colorado Rockies. He lasted only four innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits, three of which exited the park.

The bright side, such as it is, is that Greinke has the same excuse as Bumgarner for his poor debut. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports found out from his sources, Greinke was also battling the flu:

Another bright side is that Greinke‘s stuff didn’t suffer as much as Bumgarner‘s did. His fastball velocity was only down 0.8 miles per hour from where it was in 2015. To boot, his velocity in his debut was actually better than where he was last April.

With this being the case, Greinke is probably right in thinking that subpar command is to blame for his poor first impression.

“I know I probably threw too many pitches away early in the game and didn’t throw in enough,” he told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. “Sometimes that’ll let the other team feel more comfortable in the box.”

Another thing that didn’t help is that Greinke didn’t get many called strikes outside the strike zone. That’s something he excelled at in 2015, as Baseball Savant reports that 10.9 percent of his balls were called strikes. Only four of his 53 balls, or 7.5 percent, got that treatment in his debut.

But just as Bumgarner‘s lesser velocity may be a trend in the making, Greinke struggling to get favorable calls could be in the same boat. As noted by Brad Johnson at FanGraphs, Greinke is making the switch from an elite strike-framer in Yasmani Grandal to a mediocre strike-framer in Welington Castillo.

The odds of Greinke posting another 1.66 ERA are slim no matter what. But if Castillo’s catching doesn’t allow him to pitch like he’s used to, Steamer and ZiPS may be right about his ERA being likely to fall in the 2.75-3.00 range.


The Case for and Against Clayton Kershaw

HOT TAKE INCOMING: Kershaw is really good. 

As in, really good. The Dodgers ace led the majors in ERA each year between 2011 and 2014. And even in breaking the streak in 2015, he still posted a 2.13 ERA, struck out 301 batters and was rated as baseball’s top pitcher by several advanced metrics.

And where Bumgarner and Greinke began 2016 with a thud, Kershaw did this to the San Diego Padres:

Seven shutout innings? Only one walk and one hit allowed? A sharp 93-95 fastball? A disappearing high-80s slider? A mind-bending curveball? 

Yup, that all sounds like Kershaw.

And there’s more! Though it’s not pictured above, Mike Axisa of CBS Sports captured a look at a changeup that Kershaw used to make Alexei Ramirez look silly:

That’s something you don’t see often, as Kershaw‘s changeup has accounted for less than 3 percent of the 28-year-old’s career pitches. And for the most part, his changeups haven’t been good.

That one sure was, though. And that may not be an accident. Though Kershaw has struggled to master the pitch, he hasn’t given up on learning the changeup. And this spring, he sought advice from a guy who had a great changeup in his day.

“He came up to me and asked how I threw my changeup,” former Dodgers closer and Cy Young winner Eric Gagne told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “He’s never satisfied with whatever his numbers are. He just wants to get better. That’s the difference between a good pitcher and one-of-a-kind.”

If the changeup that Kershaw broke out in his 2016 debut is the result of his one-on-one with Gagne, hitters may be screwed. He’s only needed a fastball, slider and curveball to become the best pitcher of modern times. If he now has a changeup too, he might literally morph into Superman.

As for the catch…well, that’s actually a good question.

Kershaw is still in his prime years, and it’s hard to spot red flags. His velocity is fine. He’s gotten good at pounding the strike zone. Between that and his stuff, it makes sense that he excels at walksstrikeouts and contact management.

The only concern may be whether Kershaw will be hurt by the Dodgers defense. With an offense-first shortstop in Corey Seager and older defenders at first, second and third, Kershaw‘s tendency toward ground balls might not be an automatic recipe for success.

But since that’s basically it, it’s hard to disagree with Steamer and ZiPS projecting Kershaw for well over 200 innings and an ERA in the low 2.00s. That’s just what he does.


The Grand Conclusion

Let’s return to our homage to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. If it’s a shootout that Kershaw, Greinke and Bumgarner are getting into this season, who’s the man to beat?

Here’s how I’d rank ’em:

  1. Kershaw
  2. Greinke
  3. Bumgarner

Shocking for a guy who just ranked them the exact same way a week ago, I know. The only difference this time is that I’ll admit that Bumgarner vs. Greinke is probably a push. If Greinke regresses from last year’s 1.66 ERA as much as he should, his production will end up looking a lot like Bumgarner‘s.

But regardless, it’s difficult to imagine either having a better year than Kershaw. He’s been dominating more than any other pitcher for a half-decade now. And going into this season, you practically need a microscope to find nits to pick with his potential.

Put another way, the best pitcher in baseball can probably handle being the best pitcher in the NL West.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: With Zack Greinke, Will D-Backs Take Charge in West?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Know what? A cactus is more prickly than you think it is…

1. Zack Greinke Changes Face of NL West

A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder, walked into a nearly deserted batting cage the other day and waited for the one player to finish his swings. It was Zack Greinke.

Mike Butcher, Arizona pitching coach, surveyed the dugout and noticed Greinke talking even more on the days he pitches than on the other days. He huddles frequently with his catcher to develop communication and strategy.

Chip Hale, Arizona manager, said there is an entirely different tone this spring than last for the Diamondbacks.

It is an air of confidence, the tone of a team that not only knows it is good, but also knows it has an identifiable ace who can carry it to the promised land.

And here’s the thing: As Madison Bumgarner battles a sore right rib cage and sore left foot, and Matt Cain plays catch-up in San Francisco’s camp after removal of a cyst on his throwing arm, and as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation depth has taken a hit with Brett Anderson’s back injury and Hyun-Jin Ryu’s continued slow return from shoulder surgery, it is easy to see a shake-up in the NL West this summer.

“Our identity as a team developed last year,” Pollock told B/R early the other morning. “The exciting part about this year is we’re not searching for our identity anymore. We know what kind of team we’re going to be.”

Only Colorado scored more runs in the National League than Arizona last year, and the Diamondbacks led the majors through this week with a spring .317 batting average, a .373 on-base percentage, an .890 OPS, 144 runs scored, 230 hits and 375 total bases.   

“It seems like we score at least five runs a game and the pitching staff’s better than it was last year,” Greinke said. “All the good things that were going on are still going on, and the things that needed to be improved have been improved.”

Meanwhile, Arizona led the NL with 71 defensive runs saved in 2015. The D-backs have young, skilled players who can produce in the field, too.

“[Jean] Segura’s looked amazing, [Nick] Ahmed’s looked really good, [Chris] Owings has looked good, [Phil] Gosselin’s looked good,” Greinke said of the abundance of shortstops/second basemen general manager Dave Stewart has collected. “That’s more middle infielders than you probably need.

“You’ve got Paul Goldschmidt at first base, you’re not worried about anyone else playing there. [Welington] Castillo has been playing incredible; he looks really solid.”

Arizona is depending on Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal here after opting out of his Dodgers contract last winter, and Shelby Miller, acquired in a trade with Atlanta, to tie it all together.

Greinke is assimilating as quickly as he can, particularly with catchers Castillo and Tuffy Gosewisch.

“I haven’t had any trouble with that in the past,” he said of the learning curve with a new catcher. “It’s tough in spring training because some days you’re working on stuff and it’s tough for the catcher to get a feel for what you like to throw because you’re more working on pitches than you are going through your normal process to get guys out.”

He does not shake off catchers very often, although given the cerebral nature of Greinke’s approach, sometimes that changes.

“It probably depends on how my mind’s thinking that day,” he said. “Some days I would rather not think about it at all, focus on executing pitches. And other days my mind will be working more and I’ll shake off more.”

That’s the stuff Castillo and Gosewisch will learn as they go.

Butcher, who was the Los Angeles Angels’ pitching coach when Greinke was there for a brief stop during the second half of the 2012 season, said the ace made a change “for the better” with his front side when he was with the Dodgers. His glove side stands higher than it did a couple of years ago, and that’s part of what factored into his 19-3 season last summer with a phenomenal 1.66 ERA.

“Coming in before the season starts isn’t that challenging,” Greinke said. “When you get traded in the middle of the year, it was a little tougher, I thought. Because it’s the middle of the year, there’s game action right away, there’s different pitching coaches and scouting reports you have to get used to. That was a little trickier.

“But during the spring you have a lot of time to iron out those things.”


2. Old Legs, Big Bat and Albert Pujols

There was a time when Albert Pujols went out of his way to make sure people knew he preferred playing first base over serving as a designated hitter.

Now, at 36, coming off of his third injury in four seasons, Pujols is simply happy to have two good legs under him as the Los Angeles Angels look to put another disappointing season in the rearview mirror.

The slugger had surgery to relieve pain near the arch in his right foot following the 2015 season. He also suffered from plantar fasciitis through most of the 2013 season and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the 2012 season.

So while C.J. Cron oils up the first base glove, Pujols steams forward ahead of schedule, looking very much like he will be in the Angels’ Opening Day lineup.

“As long as I’m in the frickin’ lineup, DH or first base, it doesn’t matter,” Pujols said.

He smashed two home runs in one inning against Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta the other day, and coming off a season in which he hit 40 homers with 95 RBI, and with six years and $165 million remaining on his contract, Pujols is still too focused on today to think much about retirement.

“I love what I do,” Pujols said. “I love being around my teammates. It’s entertaining. It’s fun.

“And I love to win.”


3. Panda’s Not Smiling Much Anymore

He took the money in Boston, but you wonder whether Pablo Sandoval’s future lies elsewhere. For both himself and the Red Sox, this might be a situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sandoval’s weight always is going to be an issue, and when I was in Fort Myers, Florida, earlier this spring, it was as if someone had clicked out the light in his eyes. He was more grim and less joyful than I’ve seen him in years, and at the time he told me he wasn’t speaking with the media.

Now, manager John Farrell hinted this week that Travis Shaw could start at third base in place of Sandoval.

This is a guy who thrived on having fun, and while the atmosphere in San Francisco was conducive to his carefree ways, the pressure of Boston is not. He seemed a perfect fit to play third base in Fenway Park for a couple of years and then replace David Ortiz as designated hitter, and maybe that can still happen when Ortiz retires after this season.

But reaching that point could be tough, and if Sandoval doesn’t fully commit to getting himself in better shape, it’s hard to see things working out there for him. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had these interesting stats in his Sunday baseball notes column the other day:

There were 17 instances last season when Sandoval was on first base when a single was hit, and all 17 times he made it only as far as second base. There were seven times when Sandoval was on first when a double was hit, and six times he made it only to third, and he never scored. And in the 11 times he was on second when a single was hit, he scored just three times. His “extra base taken percentage” of 9 percent was half of David Ortiz’s. Dustin Pedroia was at 32 percent and Mookie Betts 44 percent.


4. Is It Me, or Are the Cubs Getting Hotter?

So funky Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with 11 of his “lead bulls” Sunday to determine some 2016 club rules.

Lead bulls?

Maddon-speak for team leaders.

And they came up with the best dress code ever.

“If you think you look hot, you wear it,” Maddon said. “That’s the dress code.”

Really, as you might have guessed, Maddon prefers things loose and free over tight and starched. Take, for example, shirts.

“The previous generation really frowns upon noncollared shirts, which I’ve never understood,” Maddon said. “They’ve always been in favor of the collared shirt, and that being more acceptable than the noncollared shirt.

“I’ve never understood that logic. For me, there’s no such thing as having to have a specific shirt on.”

Biggest topic of discussion? Whether the Cubs will wear shorts on the road.

“If you wore shorts on the road, I would never recognize that, so you’d get away with it,” Maddon says. “The $5,000 suit on the airplane ride makes no sense to me whatever. I don’t know who you’re trying to impress.”


5. Mr. President, Do You Have Time to Play?

Great Moments in Tweeting over the past few days from Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer, whose team is playing a historic exhibition game in Cuba on Tuesday.

One that will be attended by president Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama.

So Archer tweeted this to the president:

Left hanging with no response, Archer lobbed this tweet to the first lady:

So if Archer shows up at a state dinner anytime in the near future, you know where that groundwork was laid.


6. Talking Stick and Talking Johns

No spring complex is more beautiful and first-class than Talking Stick, shared by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

Yet, apparently, nothing is perfect.

“They don’t have bathrooms in the bullpens,” Angels closer Huston Street told Bleacher Report the other day, alerting us to a story that had yet to break until now. “What are the odds of 12 grown men not having to urinate in a four-hour period when they’re hydrating?

“That’s an oversight. Bullpens always are an afterthought.

“We’re forever failed starters.”


7. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Child Care: The White Sox ask Adam LaRoche to “dial back” his son’s presence in the clubhouse and all hell breaks loose. Using orange baseballs during games wouldn’t be as bizarre as this story.

2. Cuba: Once again, baseball helps lead the way in bringing together countries and cultures. If only Kramer, with his love of Cuban cigars, could throw out the first pitch.

3. NCAA brackets: Might be the only thing that keeps some clubhouses going as the dog days of spring are in full force and Opening Day now is nearly close enough to reach out and touch. Quick, who has the Badgers?!

4. Bryce Harper: Smashes two home runs Sunday in Lakeland, Florida, and even old Detroit Tigers power hitter Willie Horton was genuflecting. OK, we can start the season now.

5. Jacoby Ellsbury dodges big injury: Thankfully for the New York Yankees and for his own sanity, X-rays revealed no damage when a pitch struck him in the wrist. Question is, can he stay in one piece for the summer? Ellsbury has played in more than 134 games only twice in the past five seasons. 


8. Suitable for Framing

During a discussion on his transition from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Zack Greinke had high praise for Yasmani Grandal, his old catcher in Hollywood.

Specifically, Grandal ranks high among the best pitch-framing catchers every season.

“I don’t even know what he did sometimes. I just noticed he would get calls,” Greinke said. “Even if it didn’t seem like he caught it that great, umpires loved calling strikes when he was catching. It was amazing. His talent’s also pretty impressive. He’s really good at it. It’s easy to see when you’re pitching to him that he’s good.”

On a staff without Greinke, and being that he’s currently recovering from left shoulder surgery, Grandal has his work cut out for him right now. He again figures to split time with A.J. Ellis behind the plate, and after ace Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ pitching is a little dinged up right now.


9. Chatter

• One more on pitch-framing: From his observations of San Diego since he’s been in the NL West, Greinke thinks former Padres manager Bud Black and executive A.J. Hinch, the old catcher now managing Houston, worked some magic with their receivers. “I think they did something there because a lot of their catchers have been really good over the years,” Greinke said. “And [Derek] Norris has improved a lot since he’s gone over there too, I think.”

• He was sick, and then rain wrecked his return to the Minnesota lineup Sunday, and now the race is on for the Twins to make sure Byron Buxton, their prized prospect, is ready for Opening Day. He was only 4-for-20 this spring heading into this week.

• At 35 and coming back from shoulder surgery, Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson is reinventing himself this spring, coming up with a new delivery and a different arm slot. “It’s a career adjustment to where he is physically right now,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. Wilson is expected to open the season on the disabled list.

• The Angels are worried about one-time ace Jered Weaver, whose velocity has been even lower this spring than it was last year. An MRI on his neck revealed no significant new damage, though he does have some degeneration. The hope is that with regular work in that area of his neck and shoulder he can still remain relatively productive.

• Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has been in Seattle Mariners camp since Saturday. He says he hasn’t yet started writing his Hall of Fame speech. Of course, he’s got until July.

• When the New York Mets open the season in Kansas City, it will be the first time in history that the previous season’s World Series opponents open the following regular season against each other.

• Congratulations to statistics guru Bill Chuck, whose work I periodically reference, who is moving on to MLB Network.


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

What a cool thing, the Tampa Bay Rays playing the Cuban National Team on Tuesday in Cuba….

“Ceilin’ fan stirs the air

“Cigar smoke did swirl,

“A fragrance on the pillow case

“And he thinks about the girl

“Spillin’ wine wine and sharin’ good times

“She sure could make him smile.

“He pays her well but what the hell

“He’ll be movin’ in a little while

“Havana daydreamin’

“Oh he’ll be dreamin’ his life away”

— Jimmy Buffett, “Havana Daydreamin'”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Zack Greinke or David Price: Which Ace Will Have Bigger ’16 Impact on New Team?

They signed within days of each other last December for more money per year than any pitcher had ever received. They left first-place teams but didn’t leave their division, both joining sub-.500 clubs itching to win.

The Boston Red Sox saw David Price as the answer to their biggest question. The Arizona Diamondbacks saw Zack Greinke the same way.

Now here we are in March, trying hard to figure out which team did best and which super free-agent ace will do best.

This isn’t about length of contract, how Greinke will do when he’s making $35 million in 2021 at 37 years old or how Price will do when he’s making $32 million at age 36. No, this is strictly about 2016, because when it comes down to it, the Red Sox and Diamondbacks spent all that money for an instant return.

The easy answer is they both will get it, because Price and Greinke both have the talent and the history and the personality to justify the huge belief their new employers showed. But you don’t come here for easy answers.

If the question is which one will have a significant impact, the answer can and should be “both.” But the question is which one will have the bigger 2016 impact, and the answer is David Price.

Some of that has to do with him. A lot of it has to do with the team he joined.

It’s true the Red Sox were a disappointing last-place club in 2015, while the Diamondbacks were seen as a third-place team on the rise. But it’s the Red Sox who are better positioned for a big 2016 jump, especially in the wide-open American League East.

“Strong and deep,” one Fort Myers-based scout said this week when asked for his early impressions from Red Sox camp in Florida.

The starting pitchers behind Price remain a real question, but one of the reasons Price was attractive to Boston is his history of being able to lead a rotation. In fact, if you want to see how much impact a true No. 1 starter can have, the 2016 Red Sox should be a nice case study.

Greinke has some of the same abilities, but his personality makes him less of a natural leader. He should pitch well in Arizona, but will he lift the other starters as much as Price could in Boston?

Even if he does, will the Diamondbacks bullpen be able to hold the leads?

Scouts and executives surveyed by Bleacher Report saw Greinke as the starter more in need of a solid bullpen, but they see the Red Sox bullpen as far superior to the one Greinke will have with the Diamondbacks.

“Price can throw nine innings in his sleep,” one scout said. “He’ll get to the eighth inning a lot more and give the ball to [closer Craig] Kimbrel and the setup guy. Greinke will get a lot of no-decisions in Arizona, and he’ll get frustrated because he wants to win.”

Greinke has just two complete games in the last five seasons combined. Price has 12.

To be fair, Greinke actually finished seven innings more times last year than Price did (21-19). The point still holds, though, because seven innings from Price gets the ball to Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel, while seven from Greinke gets it to Tyler Clippard and Brad Ziegler.

Some scouts surveyed by Bleacher Report did favor Greinke, mostly because pitching in the National League West should help him put up better numbers than Price can manage in the American League East.

But the AL East also presents Price with opportunity because the Red Sox look better positioned to win their division. The Diamondbacks had a good winter, but so did the San Francisco Giants, and even without Greinke, the Los Angeles Dodgers remain a strong threat.

“Greinke could pitch well, and the Diamondbacks could still be a .500 team,” one rival executive said. “If Price pitches well, the Red Sox could win. If he doesn’t, they don’t win.”

For now, both teams seem happy with their big-ticket purchases. Price has made the expected good first impression with the Red Sox, and Greinke has done the same with the Diamondbacks.

Greinke‘s first spring start got big coverage. So did Price’s simulated game last Saturday.

The attention will only grow as Opening Day nears for two pitchers who were paid big money to pitch that game and many big games to follow. They are getting that money for big impact, and there’s a real chance both will deliver.

The guess here is Price will deliver just a little bit more.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Zack Greinke’s Top Quotes from Introductory Press Conference with Diamondbacks

After shocking the baseball world by agreeing to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, superstar pitcher Zack Greinke was introduced as part of a highly anticipated press conference Friday.

The 32-year-old righty put a bow on his new, six-year, $206.5 million contract by donning a D-backs jersey for the first time, as seen in this GIF, courtesy of Major League Baseball:

Many expected Greinke to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 and beyond after enjoying the best season of his career, but he instead decided to join forces with an NL West rival.

Per MLB.com’s Joey Nowak, the prospect of signing with the Diamondbacks immediately appealed to Greinke: “As soon as (agent Casey Close) told me the D-backs called, it got me excited, and just went from there. It happened pretty fast, but it was a team I had a lot of experience with and knew really well, so it wasn’t like I needed a bunch of extra time to get to know people or get to know the city.”

According to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, however, the deal with Arizona nearly didn’t come to fruition:

Money obviously played a big role in Greinke’s decision, but he revealed Friday there were some other factors at work as well.

Per Gilbert, the former Cy Young Award winner views the Diamondbacks as a team on the rise after admiring their play last season:

More specifically, Greinke cited their aggressiveness as something that drew him toward the desert, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

It turns out the D-backs are also aggressive off of the field, as evidenced by their ability to poach Greinke from the Dodgers.

Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa also spoke at the press conference and explained the rationale behind throwing such a massive contract at Greinke, per Nowak: “We were looking for a true No. 1, a true leader of the staff that would take the ball on Opening Day, and every day in the toughest game (he) would want to be out there. We’re very fortunate. This young man’s in the midst of a great career, and now the next six years—he’ll be having them with us.”

Arizona has a great deal of ground to make up in 2016 as it finished 13 games behind the Dodgers, but landing Greinke is a move that should help close the gap.

He went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA in 2015, and while it will be difficult to match that output, right away he becomes the ace Arizona has lacked for quite some time.

If Greinke can stabilize the pitching staff and pair it with a potentially dynamic offense that includes All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, then the Diamondbacks have a chance to be one of 2016’s breakout teams.


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Shelby Miller Trade Forms Elite Diamondbacks Trio, Fuels Braves Rebuild

They could have kept the money and they could have kept the prospects, and then nobody would have called the Arizona Diamondbacks crazy.

Nobody would have called them winners, either.

Sure, the Diamondbacks paid insane money to sign 32-year-old Zack Greinke, who has a $34.4 million average salary for his six-year contract. Sure, the Diamondbacks stunned plenty of people with what they gave up in Tuesday night’s Shelby Miller trade with the Atlanta Braves. Who trades the first overall draft pick before he’s ever had a chance to shineor fail?

The baseball budget hawks hated the Greinke deal. The prospect hawks were quick to pan the Miller deal. As David Cameron of FanGraphs tweeted not long after news of the trade (first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports) broke:

Not long after that, Cameron (who also blogs about the Seattle Marinerscompared it to the Mariners’ February 2008 trade for Erik Bedard.

Not a compliment, at least not for the team acquiring the established pitcher.

Perhaps he’ll end up being right. Perhaps Dansby Swanson (that No. 1 pick) turns into the Braves’ version of Adam Jones. Perhaps Aaron Blair (the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher in the deal) becomes Chris Tillman or something better.

And perhaps Miller will be as completely average in Arizona as Bedard was in Seattle (Bedard was 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA for three Mariners teams that didn’t make the playoffs).

That’s an optimistic scenario for the Braves’ side of the deal, which also includes outfielder Ender Inciarte. Prospect deals are rarely analyzed well in the minutes after they’re made, but by all accounts, the Braves did well with another trade that continues their long-range rebuilding plan. They could be really good in another two, three or five years.

The Diamondbacks could be really good in 2016. If I’m Greinke, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, general manager Dave Stewart, manager Chip Hale or any Arizona fan, I’d take that.

Think of it this way: A week ago, we were all wondering whether Greinke’s free-agent decision would leave the Los Angeles Dodgers as the acknowledged power in the National League West or shift the balance north to the San Francisco Giants.

He left—and left the balance of power so up in the air that the NL West could become the most interesting (and competitive) division in baseball.

The Dodgers could certainly recover, especially if they find a way to do a monster deal for Jose Fernandez. The Giants lost out on Greinke and Ben Zobrist, but they signed Jeff Samardzija and are still a possible landing spot for one of the many free-agent corner outfielders (or even for Fernandez, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com).

At the moment, though, neither the Dodgers nor the Giants have a rotation top three to match the Diamondbacks trio of Greinke, Miller and Patrick Corbin. Don’t forget Corbin, who was a 14-game winner and an All-Star in 2013 and had an impressive 16 starts last season in his return from Tommy John surgery.

And don’t forget that the 2015 Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the National League (behind the Colorado Rockies but ahead of both the Giants and Dodgers). The D-Backs were a sub-.500 team because they didn’t have nearly enough pitching.

Now they do.

They got it without touching the core of that offense. The first reports (like the one by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic) of the Miller trade quickly mentioned that center fielder A.J. Pollock was not in the deal, and while Swanson, Blair and Inciarte was a big price to pay, trading Pollock would have hurt Arizona’s 2016 chances quite a bit more.

The Diamondbacks also didn’t need to give up Corbin, and a tweet from Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald showed they might have needed to give up Corbin, Swanson and more for Jose Fernandez:

Prospects are more popular than ever, and teams like the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs showed last summer why the path the Braves are now taking can work. But the Diamondbacks believed they made progress in 2015. They have an MVP-type offensive centerpiece in Paul Goldschmidt and a management team that wasn’t brought in for a long-term rebuild.

When La Russa went on Arizona Sports radio Tuesday morning to talk about the Greinke signing, he spoke of the excitement it generated among the Diamondbacks staff at the winter meetings.

“You think about what’s next, and what’s next is to make it work for victories, and go into September with a chance to play into October,” La Russa said. “We don’t want to watch TV in October. We want to play in October.”

The Miller trade may eventually be known as the Swanson trade or the Blair trade, and it may eventually give the Braves their chance to get back to October. The Diamondbacks were looking at October 2016, not October 2019 or 2020.

With Greinke, Miller and Corbin, they have a real chance to get there.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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