GM Mode: Texas Rangers Go Get Zack Greinke from Arizona
By Taylor Cruse
The Texas Rangers could be both buyers and sellers as the trade deadline continues to draw near. If they do buy, it will likely be for controllable players at a lower prospect cost. Few of those types exist. Zack Greinke could be one.
The Texas Rangers are in a precarious position. The trade deadline is two weeks away and they are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, sitting just four games out of the second AL Wild Card spot.
The problem, though?
Texas would have to leap frog three of the four teams ahead of them (Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland and Boston), while also fending off the Los Angeles Angels. All of those teams have higher run differentials than the Rangers, and all are in the midst of hot streaks while the Rangers have struggled through July.
An argument could be made that if the Texas Rangers just added a player or two, they could outplay those teams ahead of them.
It is an equally defensible position to state that the Rangers have outperformed their talent to some extent, and will likely fall back to earth or simply be unable to keep up with the teams mentioned above.
It is precisely this predicament that makes Jon Daniels’ job particularly difficult this trade deadline, as ESPN’s Buster Olney & David Schoefield discussed in a recent podcast.
In all likelihood, Daniels will look to make moves that hold onto the organization’s most valued prospects while also improving the team’s chances this year and in the next couple of years. This is challenging to say the least, if not impossible to do. Controllable talent that is ready to help now comes at a high premium.
There is certainly one option out there that could fit their needs both in the short term and long term without sacrificing much of the future.
Enter Zack Greinke.
The Texas Rangers’ have had their eyes on Greinke since, well, forever. He has hit free agency twice and been traded twice. All four times the Rangers were at the very least rumored to be interested.
Texas was reportedly interested in Greinke in 2010 after they failed to resign Cliff Lee, though they didn’t have the types of assets the Royals were looking for.
A year and a half later, the Rangers were in the mix again when the Brewers were shopping the All-Star right-hander, and were also interested when he hit free agency following 2012 prior to signing with the Dodgers.
If that wasn’t enough, the Rangers have explored trade possibilities multiple times since Greinke joined the Diamondbacks.
Why this might be the time to go get Greinke
Zack Greinke is having as good of a year as any he has had with the D’Backs. He is currently 10-4 with a 2.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP (lowest with Arizona) and 4.2 WAR (according to Baseball Reference’s WAR calculation).
Furthermore, Bob Nightengale, baseball writer for USA Today, reports the Diamondbacks would “love to dump the 64 million remaining on [Greinke’s] contract after this season.”
If this is true, the Texas Rangers could conceivably trade for Greinke with no or little salary retention by Arizona, and for a smaller prospect cost than someone like Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman. Greinke also has an extra year of control over those two options. Furthermore, he would cost significantly less than someone like Matthew Boyd in Detroit who is controlled through 2022.
Greinke would be a part of a team trying to make a push this year as well as in 2020 and 2021 before he would become a free agent once again going into 2022.
He will also be turning 36 years old this October, and with that alone comes some risk. He has consistently been among the best pitchers in baseball through his mid-30s, however.
The other risk in the equation is Greinke’s contract. As mentioned, he is owed $64 million between 2020 and 2021. The Rangers would presumably love to have some of that money paid by Arizona, but that might not be likely if they want to get a bargain in terms of what they have to give up from the farm.
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One other small issue for some fans: If the Rangers took on all or at least the vast majority of Greinke’s contract, it would likely take them out of the running for someone like Gerrit Cole this offseason.
While this in itself will make some fans and readers immediately reject the idea of adding Greinke, think of the likelihood the Rangers could get Cole. They will have money, certainly, but they will likely be in a bidding war with teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and possibly the Astros and a few others.
The Rangers would have to outbid these teams by enough to sway Cole’s decision to join an up and coming team rather than already World Series caliber team — Yankees, Dodgers, Astros.
Cole would also be commanding a contract that would take him to a similar age as Greinke and pay roughly the same, if not more.
Counting all of the costs — Greinke’s age, contract and a trade precluding the Rangers from making a bid at Gerrit Cole — Texas should go after Greinke because he is an ace and could help them now and the next two years without sacrificing the premium young prospect talent.
A deal like this is complicated because it all depends on how the Diamondbacks value the Rangers taking on a majority of Greinke’s contract. Here is a possible trade, though:
In this scenario, the Rangers get Greinke and a small amount of cash that would likely be used primarily to offset costs for this season. Some, however, could be used to get Greinke’s contract down into the $29-30 million range for ’20 & ’21.
The D’Backs would be getting the Rangers’ #9 and #20 prospects according to MLB.com. The PTBNL would likely be someone outside the top 30, but someone Arizona sees as having some raw potential that Texas may or may not be high on.
The PTBNL could end up being someone of slightly more prominence (maybe someone like Yohander Mendez) should the Texas Rangers also ask for back up catcher, Alex Avila. Avila could split time at catcher with Jeff Mathis, and has an OPS over .900 against right-handed pitchers. It should be noted though that Mathis was Greinke’s full-time catcher when he played in Arizona.
Regarding the scenario above with just Greinke (sans Avila), the Rangers would be moving two decent prospects without depleting their farm.
Burke is a third round pick who was acquired as part of the three-team deal last offseason that centered around Jurickson Profar. He is often seen as a future reliever though has been working as a starter in the minors. If he continues to polish his off speed pitches, a role as mid to back major league starter seems feasible.
Arias is a scrappy infielder who can post up at all four spots. He does not hit for much power with just three home runs in 2018 and three in 2019, but he gets on base and hits at a high clip, which makes him an attractive piece.
If the Texas Rangers are too high on Arias to give him up, then someone like Jonathan Ornelas, the organization’s #21 prospect, could conceivably be substituted. Likewise, the Rangers would have options apart from Brock Burke.
There are numerous options for how a trade could work here, but Zack Greinke might just be exactly what the Rangers are looking for. He is pitching at peak performance and would be under contract through the first couple of years at the new park. Maybe this is the time for Texas to actually get Greinke.