Zack Greinke Diamondbacks Trade Revisited: Who won?
By Jake Oliver
Who remembers Zack Greinke pitching for the Diamondbacks? He's probably the best pitcher the team has had in the last decade. During the 2015/16 offseason, Greinke found himself as a free agent after pitching a CY-Young worthy season with the Dodgers. In the complete shock of not just Arizona Diamondbacks fans but the entire MLB world, Ken Kendrick opened his wallet and agreed to pay a record-setting contract for Greinke to join the Dbacks. That turned out to be a 6-year, 206 million dollar deal with an AAV of 34.4 million dollars per year. That was the largest AAV for any contract in MLB history at the time.
Greinke was 31 at the time, and this contract would cover his age-32-37 seasons. It was a risky contract but one that paid off in spades for the Diamondbacks after the injury-riddled 2016 season. Over his 3 1/2 years in the desert, Greinke was an absolute stud of a pitcher. Not only did he constantly trend on social media for his pitches and unique faces/quirks about him, but he was a dominant pitcher on the mound. He finished his time in the desert with 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger award, 3 All-Star appearances, a top-5 CY-Young finish, and as a fan favorite.
That's why it was so heartbreaking at the time of the 2019 trade deadline that GM Mike Hazen traded him to the Astros for a package of 4 prospects. Over Greinke's time in the desert, he had pitched to a 55-29 record with a 3.40 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 131 ERA+, 714.2 innings, 150 walks, 683 K's, 16.5 WAR, 10.7 WAA, and was well worth the salary. Despite that, the Dbacks wanted to get out of the contract while getting some prospects that were close to reaching the MLB. In return for 2 1/2 years of Greinke and 30 million dollars, the team got Seth Beer (#3 Astros prospect), Corbin Martin (just had TJS surgery at the time and #5 Astros prospect), J.B. Bukauskas (#4 Astros prospect), and Josh Rojas (#17 Astros prospect). It was a solid haul for sure, but one that could definitely make or break the future for the Dbacks if all of those guys performed or underwhelmed.
So who won this trade? The Diamondbacks? The Astros? Both? Let's find out
Over Greinke's two and a half years with the Astros, they got their money's worth. He led the pitching staff after Justin Verlander went down to the World Series and helped them get there twice although they didn't win the World Series either time. He pitched in 52 games providing 300.2 innings with a 22-10 record and a 3.89 ERA with 54 walks, 239 K's, a 114 ERA+, 3.99 FIP, and 3.5 WAR. While it was clear that Greinke's stuff was fading, he manipulated it in ways that made him a highly effective pitcher. After the 2021 season, Greinke signed a 1-year deal to return to Kansas City where he played for 7-8 years to start his career.
That's a good return on the Astros end in receiving a star pitcher that leads you deep into the playoffs every year. What about the Diamondbacks?
Well, let's start with Corbin Martin. Martin spent the rest of 2019 and the 2020 season rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. In 2021, his first baseball playing in two years or so was a struggle with getting back into form. He did make his Dbacks debut but it was a rather forgettable year for Martin as he pitched only 16 innings of 19 ERs with 14 walks to only 13 K's. His FIP was 6.89 compared to an ERA of 10.69. Yet, this year has been different.
Corbin Martin has been phenomenal this year yet hasn't been given a chance to start. He's pitched in 4 games so far with a 4.35 ERA. That doesn't tell the whole story. He's pitched 10.1 innings allowing 12 hits, but has only walked 2 and struck out 11. His FIP is 1.52 while being unlucky with opponent BABIP hitting .375 against him. That won't sustain. The hits will lower while his SO% is a great 24.4% and he's walking a minuscule 4.4%. Brent Strom knows how to coach Martin and this could be the star of another star pitcher for the Dbacks.
As for J.B. Bukauskas, he's had a mixed bag start to his Dbacks tenure. Currently out on the 60-Day IL due to a Teres Major Strain Grade 2 in his shoulder, J.B. won't be returning until mid-June at the earliest. However, he's got the potential to be an impact bullpen arm with a strong slider. He made his MLB debut last year and struggled a lot in his 17.1 innings with his control on his potentially lethal slider. He went 2-2 with 7 walks, 14 Ks, and gave up 15 ERs which contributed to his 81 ERA+, 5.77 FIP, and 7.79 ERA. With proper coaching by Strom, I have every reason to believe J.B. can reach his heights of being a late-inning pitcher that can use that wipeout slider of his with a strong fastball to get outs. The biggest worry is his health as he has encountered multiple shoulder injuries in the past two years.
I think we all know who Josh Rojas is and what he can do. Rojas was the unheralded part of the trade yet he made his MLB debut first appearing a month later after the trade. He's yet to play in the MLB this year due to an oblique strain that was deemed Grade 2. He should be back within a couple of weeks which will further help this Dbacks team. Rojas has technically barely played an entire season's worth of games despite playing in three seasons with the team. This is due to his late call-up in 2019, the shortened 2020 season, and a full 2021 season.
Over his 197 games, Rojas hit .247/.328/.698 with an OPS+ of 88, yet he actually hit at an OPS+ of 103 in his largest sample size of the 2021 season. He played in 139 games that season. The left-handed utility player has hit 13 HRs with 62 RBI, 14 SBs, 83 walks, and 194 Ks. He's given the team 0.4 WAR with an OWAR of 1.9. This means his defense is a work in progress. Rojas will never be a true star player, but he's a very capable MLB player that's 27 years old and should play a regular multi-position role throughout his time with the team. Of course, he's getting a shot at third base soon to see if he can lock that spot down. Time will only tell how long the Phoenix native will move around the diamond. Regardless, getting a regular MLB player is a solid return.
That's not all though as the headliner of the trade was Seth Beer. Not only does he have the best name in baseball, but so far in his short MLB career has proven to be a strong hitter. The former first-round pick is only 25 and doesn't even have an entire year of MLB service time yet. He made his debut last year and played in 5 games before suffering a shoulder dislocation that required surgery and ended his season. He picked up right where he left off from 2021 in 2022.
Beer is a first base/DH player who has a powerful and quick left-handed swing that will consistently make contact. He's a strong OBP player and is a near-ideal cleanup hitter. So far over the 23 games, he has played, Beer has a walk-off HR, 2 HRs, 11 RBI, 7 walks, 17 Ks, 19 hits, 4 doubles, and hit at a .306/.403/.468 with an OPS+ of 154. That's pretty good and if Beer truly pans out to become the player we know he can be, this trade will look like an absolute masterpiece by Mike Hazen.
Of course, anytime you make a trade and get 4 guys in return, chances of them all making the majors let alone being on the 40-man roster for an extended amount of time are slim to none. Yet, each of these guys are on the MLB roster less than 3 years after the trade. That's a great return and it's clear that the Diamondbacks so far has the potential to receive far more in return for Greinke than the Astros did.