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Rosenthal: D-backs’ Zack Greinke outperforming huge salary in 2019

Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on July 05, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Diamondbacks have a bona fide ace, a starting pitcher better than all but few who have taken the mound for Arizona over the years. But there’s always been a hint of disappointment from some fans as it relates to Zack Greinke, brought on by the impossible expectations that come with a sky-high salary.

This year, it’s been harder to hear the noise. Other than a debacle on opening night in Los Angeles, Greinke has pitched like the ace he’s paid to be; Greinke has a 2.93 ERA (ninth in MLB) and a 0.948 WHIP (third in MLB) this season.

Those numbers are both on pace to be, by far, his best since he led all the major leagues in those two categories in 2015 and finished second in Cy Young voting.

So those who still feel that Greinke is overpaid should consider this observation from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who wrote Monday that in spite of the fact that Greinke is getting paid one of the highest annual salaries ever, he actually has managed outperform his paycheck this year:

Fans and executives recoil at the money owed Greinke — about $11.5 million more this season, plus $35 million in each of the final two years of his deal, including $3 million installments of his signing bonus. But Greinke, 35, actually is outperforming his salary this season, just as he did in 2017, the second year of his six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks.

According to FanGraphs’ “dollars” metric — WAR converted to a dollar scale, based upon what a player would earn in free agency — Greinke was worth $18.2 million in 2016, $37.9 million in ’17 and $23.4 million in ’18. At his current pace, he would be worth $43.2 million this season, which to this point is the best of his four in Arizona.

Rosenthal made this not in a column about the pitching market, wherein he raised the possibility of Greinke or his teammate, Robbie Ray, getting dealt before the July 31 trade deadline. He said the D-backs “should be open” to moving those players, later adding that even though Greinke has been good this season, Arizona could include cash in a deal anyway.

Greinke does, however, have a 15-team no-trade list, which could complicate things, Rosenthal wrote.

Rosenthal got less into the nitty-gritty of a Ray deal, which doesn’t have the complications of a large salary or a no-trade clause. He has been linked to a handful of teams, and the most recent news came Monday that the Phillies had their eye on the left-hander.

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