– 16th Season
Greinke carries a lot of responsibility into his age-35 season. Opening Day crosses Greinke and the Dbacks into the second half of the monster deal that brought him to the desert as a free agent. This season also fairly well encapsulates the breaking point of the risk/benefit analysis for a deal of this size.
For better or worse, the fate of the 2019 Diamondbacks can largely be laid at Greinke’s feet. That’s not exactly fair, as there’s 24 other guys on the roster and countless more contributors in one facet or another throughout the organization – but when you sign with a mid-market team for an AAV north of $34MM, you sign on for the added scrutiny as well.
It was inconceivable that Greinke would continue to produce at the level he did in his last season with the Dodgers, 19-3, 1.66 ERA, leading the league in with a 0.844 WHIP and 222 ERA+. Those are video game numbers. They’re machine numbers. Adjusting for human performance, Greinke has been close to, if not exactly the ace the Dbacks expected.
In three seasons, Greinke has averaged a 15-8 record over 30 starts with a 3.53 ERA (3.68 FIP). That’s good for 12.5 rWAR, just under 4.2 rWAR per season. That’s a frontline starter, a level below Cy Young contention.
If the Arizona Diamondbacks contend this season, Greinke will play a major role, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He’s the nominal captain in a vacated clubhouse – and though it’s borderline obsessive to keep returning to this point – his salary takes up over 27% of the team payroll.
Greinke pitching like an ace is only one of many things that need to go right for the Diamondbacks to contend. Meanwhile, the disaster version of this season locks in if Greinke struggles.
If he pitches well and the Dbacks contend, that’s great news. If he pitches well and they don’t contend, Hazen may be able to get out from the remaining $70MM+ owed him by flipping him to a contender, perhaps while securing a future asset or two.
If Greinke struggles, there’s not enough talent on the roster to overcome, and nobody is taking his contract unless there’s a near-guarantee of All-Star level production coming with it. Regression due to age would not be surprising for a starter with almost 3,000 innings of mileage, but that’s the gambit on which the Diamondbacks 2019 depends. That, and the performance of their #2 starter.