Arizona Diamondbacks: Harper Inherits The Kingdom, Greinke Keeps The Throne
By TC Zencka
Bryce Harper signed the largest contract in American sports history, but the Diamondbacks Zack Greinke remains the highest paid player in the sport.
Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke remains the highest paid player in baseball, and Bryce Harper joins the Phillies for 13 years, $330MM. It’s a pretty stunning outcome for a saga that dragged on long past its expiration date. In the end, Harper gets the largest contract in American sports history, as he wanted, and the Phillies get their guy, as expected.
Greinke remains the highest paid in the game with an annual salary of $34.5MM. Early indications pointed to Greinke starting the 2019 season playing somewhere other than Arizona, and while there appeared to be offers on the table, the details are unknown.
Finding agreeable terms for a Greinke trade is difficult for a number of reasons. There’s the contract, first and foremost, signed during the winter of 2015. Then-GM Dave Stewart made the surprise move of the winter by inking Greinke to a six year, $206.5MM contract. It speaks to the changing free agent environment that the Greinke and the Dbacks consummated their union on December 8, 2015.
The signing was a coup at the time – the Diamondbacks hadn’t been linked to Greinke at all until the morning on the day the deal would ultimately be finalized, and of course Greinke had given the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw a running mate atop their rotation that could keep him honest. Greinke went 19-2 that season with a mind-boggling 1.66 ERA (2.76 FIP) across 222 2/3 innings.
After a rough first season in AZ, Greinke has put been close to the same guy that he was in LA – the biggest difference being an elevated home run rate. His groundball rate has gone down, – from around 48% in his final two seasons with the Dodgers to 45.1% last season, his lowest groundball rate since 2009 with the Royals.
After back-to-back solid seasons under Torey Lovullo, the Diamondbacks are back to valuing Greinke as an ace, and as a team that admirably refuses to surrender the possibility of contention, they need him. He’s 12th in the majors among starters with 8.6 fWAR over the last two seasons, and he’s thrown the fifth-most innings over that span (410 IP).
The Diamondbacks are not a large market club, and they are not projected by anyone to make the postseason. Yet, the have the highest paid player in major league baseball on their payroll. When those three things are true, you almost have to explore trade opportunities. Because Greinke has a 15-team no-trade list, the Diamondbacks potential trade partners were cut in half from attempt one.
The Diamondbacks either didn’t find an offer with enough salary relief, or they didn’t get the right prospects coming back, or both. Frankly, I suspect the Diamondbacks expectations were too high – if they wanted to move him. But I don’t think they really did. Greinke is the ace of this Diamondbacks team, and extremely hard worker, a veteran and a thinker. He’s a good teammate, and he’s low drama. Does all that add up to $34.5MM a season?
Bryce Harper signed a surprising, and in many ways, confusing 13-year contract with the Phillies yesterday. He has a full no-trade clause, and there are no opt-outs in the deal. It’s difficult enough for two parties to settle on a contract that suits both sides. Without knowing the motivations of the parties in the room, (more specifically than one wants money and one wants to add talent to their baseball team), it’s really hard to judge any contract. For Zack Greinke and the Diamondbacks the union seems a happy one – strange as that may seem from the outside.