When the Diamondbacks signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract last offseason, they made the kind of move the organization has not been known for.
While the D-backs had signed free agents in the past, rarely have they gone after — and hooked — the really big fish.
The move led to plenty of excitement in Arizona and some question marks outside of it. While Greinke was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, his annual salary was by far the highest on a team whose payroll cannot really keep up with the game’s biggest spenders.
Making matters worse was the fact that Greinke struggled in his first year in Arizona, posting a 13-7 record with a 4.37 ERA in 26 starts. He had stretches of brilliance, like in June when he had four consecutive starts of at least seven innings and allowed just three runs during that span, but for the most part was inconsistent and nothing like the pitcher the team thought it was getting.
Whether Greinke returns to his All-Star form or not, that alone might be reason enough to explore a trade. However, D-backs president Derrick Hall, as a guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday as part of Newsmakers Week, said he hoped Greinke is still around in 2018.
“I certainly hope he is because that means we had a really good 2017 and he had a good year,” he said. “Look, we brought him here for a reason last year because we knew that we were, at the time we thought, we were at least an ace away. And bringing in a second pitcher — it didn’t work out last year, none of it did — but we’re still confident it can.”
Hall noted that the very reasons why people were excited about their roster last year are why they are optimistic for this upcoming season, though he has no problems with the expectations having been lowered.
“We’re not riding on any of those and it’s not putting any pressure on our players,” he said. “But I think we have a very good team; our pitching staff, our starting pitchers, it should be, and I think it will be, one of our strengths.”
It’s possible, and maybe even likely, Greinke will bounce back in 2017 and lead an improved D-backs rotation. But even if he does, there are questions about whether or not it is prudent for a team with a payroll of nearly $83 million to commit $34 million — or 41 percent — to just one player. Factor in how other players will be in line for new contracts in the next couple of years and you really start to wonder if keeping the 33-year-old right-hander is even possible.
“It makes sense why people would say that,” Hall admitted. “We know we have to improve our minor league system, that’s for sure. We know we have to control our payroll, which continues to go up each and every year.”
All that said, Hall understands there will be “tough decisions” to make in the coming years, but is confident in new GM Mike Hazen and his staff’s ability to guide the franchise through them.
“We’ll have some tough decisions, but I hope we’re celebrating a much better season this year with all of those pieces in place,” Hall concluded.