At 38, right-hander Zack Greinke is still getting it done. Although not an ace or rotation anchor at this stage of his MLB career, Greinke is capable of being a middle-of-the-rotation starter on a contending team. One could argue that there’s a spot for him on any team in the sport.
The veteran has relied on his off-speed pitches while mixing in a high 80s fastball of late. Over his last two seasons with the Houston Astros, Greinke served as a veteran complement to an overall young rotation. With the Astros re-signing Justin Verlander, who didn’t pitch last season, and having a handful of young starting pitchers, Greinke will likely have a new home in 2022.
Here are three ideal free agent destinations for Zack Greinke.
3) Zack Greinke adds a veteran to the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation
The World Series-champion Braves aren’t going anywhere. That said, they could use another starting pitcher in the short term, and Greinke fits the bill.
Outside of Charlie Morton, manager Brian Snitker has a young starting rotation. That unit could include Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Huascar Ynoa and Touki Toussaint next season. Mike Soroka could also potentially return to the big-league club after a year and a half of recovery from an Achilles tendon injury. Greinke is a way for the Braves to buy some time with their youngsters.
To be clear: Atlanta already has a sturdy rotation that can only improve. At the same time, Snitker only utilized a handful of the aforementioned starters in the 2021 MLB Playoffs. It’s fair to say that not all of these individuals are locked into spots in the 2022 rotation.
- Zack Greinke stats (2021): 4.16 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 120 strikeouts across 171.0 innings (30 appearances, 29 starts)
Under the scenario that Greinke pitches five innings per start, left-hander Sean Newcomb or one of the pitchers that don’t crack the rotation can be a bridge from the starter to the back end of the bullpen, which was excellent in the playoffs. Greinke is an old reliable who helps balance out the youth in the Braves’ rotation.
With all that said, Atlanta may choose to fill out their 2022 rotation from the inside and focus all their free agent efforts on retaining franchise first baseman Freddie Freeman.
2) Zack Greinke fills out the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation
The Blue Jays have a reliable and/or loaded offense and starting rotation, but they do have some uncertainty in the back end of the latter. Greinke is precisely the type of starter manager Charlie Montoyo needs to round out his rotation.
Hyun-Jin Ryu is an ace. Jose Berrios is a stud. Kevin Gausman has become a sturdy, top-of-the-rotation starter. Alek Manoah has the potential to be a top-tier pitcher. Greinke as a number five starter makes for a prolific Toronto rotation and helps replace Steven Matz (Gausman theoretically replaces the departed Robbie Ray).
Toronto is in a stiff American League East. That should create a sense of urgency with everyone in the division. As great as the Blue Jays looked throughout the bulk of 2021, they still missed the playoffs and finished fourth in the AL East with 91 wins. Perhaps the addition of another proven starter who has pitched in a plethora of pivotal games can be the new ingredient that gets this team into a typical playoff format (the Blue Jays made the expanded playoffs in 2020 at 32-28)?
- Zack Greinke contract prediction: one-year, $9 million deal
Signing Greinke to a short-term deal allows the Blue Jays to fill a void while not hindering their spending ability as it concerns extending young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez. Greinke is a resourceful move for Toronto.
The factor that could prevent the Blue Jays from signing Greinke, however, is them not viewing the veteran as enough of an upgrade over Ross Stripling to sign him.
1) Zack Greinke to the Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, the Rays have like 86 current or soon-to-be All-Star pitchers, but they also have minimal veterans outside of the recently signed Corey Kluber. Greinke would make a difference for their pitching staff.
Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Luis Patino and Drew Rasmussen were heavily relied on down the stretch for the Rays. Those individuals have no more than two MLB seasons under their belt. In the case of the first three pitchers, they’re each 24 or younger.
Tampa Bay’s pitching youth caught up to them in the playoffs. In their three losses to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Divisional Round, the Rays surrendered a combined 26 runs. For the most part, they were relying on young arms. While those same pitchers now have playoff experience and could improve in 2022, manager Kevin Cash needs a proven pitcher.
Kluber is a steady force, but he has been held back by injuries over the last three years. Meanwhile, Tyler Glasnow is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Greinke provides much-needed depth, as well as someone who has been durable over the last decade.
Greinke began consistently pitching five-to-six innings a start in the second half of 2021. That’s all the Rays need from him, as Cash rarely lets his starters go past the sixth inning given his team’s pitching depth. If the Rays can get five innings from Greinke in a postseason start, it takes some of the workload off their young arms. Tampa Bay is in the thick of contention, and Greinke has yet to win a World Series. The two parties are a match.