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ESPN’s Olney calls for Diamondbacks to explore Zack Greinke trades

Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., rear, runs the bases after hitting a two-run home off Arizona Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke, left, during the second inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Arizona Diamondbacks ownership green-lighted the team’s open pocket books that led the chase of pitcher Zack Greinke in free agency.

The result last offseason gave the ace what is currently the second-biggest contract in MLB by annual average value, but it comes at a cost of restricting the flexibility of a D-backs franchise that hovers close to the bottom third in MLB when it comes to spending.

That’s why ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks it would behoove first-year general manager Mike Hazen and the leaders above him to consider dealing Greinke’s contract that will pay the pitcher $31.9 million next season — that could amount to more than a third of the team’s total salary that Arizona has attempted to keep below $100 million per year.

It didn’t help trade rumors that Greinke’s production fell off considerably, nor that the 33-year-old dealt with an oblique injury last year.

Greinke’s ERA fell off from the year prior, 1.66 to 4.37. He pitched 64 fewer innings but gave up 13 more hits and walked one more batter than he did for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. Greinke went 13-7 and gave up 23 home runs in his first season in Arizona, the latter of which he hadn’t done since his second year with the Kansas City Royals in 2005.

Olney believes that the D-backs not trading Greinke before the season comes with the risk that his stock could plummet.

Greinke’s contract is already a serious impediment for Hazen, as he goes about his work of trying to build a consistent winner in Arizona, and the problem might only get worse if Greinke’s performance continues to decline next season. If Greinke struggles at all at the outset of 2017, any value he has in a pitching-thin market will evaporate entirely.

Of course, the Diamondbacks can go about opening up financial room through other avenues.

The Jean Segura trade, Olney notes, was one of way of doing so. Though it comes with the risk of prospects Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte not developing, they won’t be seeking paydays as soon as Segura — regardless of whether they find success.

Finding a trade partner to dump Yasmany Tomas’ $56 million owed over the next four years is already limited to the American League, where the defensively-trouble outfielder could thrive as a designated hitter. But the market is dense with similar players, often for less money.

Paul Goldschmidt may not be internally viewed as a tradeable asset, but center fielder A.J. Pollock is another star who Olney says should be considered as much.

If they can get a suitable return — in the form of young, cheap players — they should jump at the opportunity.

The risk of keeping all of the D-backs’ best players might be more risky than rewarding for Hazen as he navigates the clean-up of Arizona’s major league roster and reinvigoration of its farm system.

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