Imagine giving one single player a contract that includes a Major League record $34 million annual salary.
That’s what the Arizona Diamondbacks front office did last December when they lured free agent stud right-hander Zack Greinke away from the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers in a surprising and bold offseason maneuver.
You’d think the Diamondbacks, a mid-market club not used to throwing around massive free agent contracts, would have a little fear or trepidation that Greinke won’t live up to that lofty pay scale.
Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa joined Doug and Wolf Wednesday morning as part of Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and shared a story about Greinke that quelled any fear he may have had.
“Zack showed up in January for a couple of days and worked out — he threw a bullpen with our new pitching coach Mike Butcher and our manager (Chip Hale),” La Russa said. “The ball was just talking to you. I’m going left, right, down.
“When it was over, I go upstairs. And (Zack’s) a really baseball-savvy guy. He really pays attention to the whole game. There was something I wanted to ask him, so I hustled back downstairs and I said ‘where’s Zack, because I have this question I want to ask him.’ I found him in the video room. But here’s the hooker, man, so hold on to your butt. You know what he’s watching? He’s watching the other four starters. He wanted to learn about (Patrick) Corbin, (Rubby) De La Rosa, (Robbie) Ray and Shelby Miller. I’m thinking ‘holy smokes, man.'”
La Russa, who is entering his 51st spring training, was blown away by the offseason work habits of a pitcher coming off a season in which he won 19 games and led the big leagues with a microscopic 1.66 ERA. Seeing that commitment more than a month away from the opening of spring training will do a lot to calm your nerves about a huge financial commitment.
“This guy, he wants to know his teammates. This is great stuff,” La Russa marveled.
La Russa also noted that while the D-backs swooped in at the last minute to secure Greinke, the wheels of the acquisition were in motion last season, when the pitcher commended the Arizona organization.
“One reason we thought we had a chance, if we didn’t think we had the money, was that he made comments to coaches on the Dodgers,” La Russa said. “He had made comments to some of our guys.
“So part of the reason he’s here is he has looked at the talent and the commitment these guys have made to playing the game correctly.”
Greinke, and the rest of the D-backs’ pitchers and catchers, officially report to spring training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale Wednesday. Arizona opens its Cactus League schedule Wednesday, March 2 against the Colorado Rockies.