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Dan Bickley

Zack Greinke deal little risk, all reward for Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) argues with umpire CB Bucknor, right, after being called for interference during the third inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Friday, July 5, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Zack Greinke left town the same way he arrived.

Surprise, Arizona.

The Diamondbacks rocked the baseball community in December 2015, luring Greinke to the desert with a $206.5 million contract. They did again on Wednesday, receiving four prospects and $53 million in financial freedom in exchange for Greinke, just 30 minutes before the trade deadline.

It’s a great deal for Arizona. It makes the whole relationship a wash. We can thank Greinke without cursing his time in the Valley.

It’s also a New Deal in Arizona, where General Manager Mike Hazen has now shed most of the baggage he inherited — a genius tag if he can find a vanishing act for Yasmany Tomas.

Greinke was not a bust. To the contrary, he was very good. He won 55 games in 3 ½ seasons. He recalibrated his arsenal to fit diminished velocity, reshaping his career on the fly and becoming one of the few true aces in Major League Baseball 2019. He did it with pitches that floated and dipped, traveling slower than most Arizona drivers. Nobody was better beating hitters between the ears.

Greinke was also demolished in his two most important starts with the Diamondbacks: Opening Day 2016 and that wacky wildcard playoff game against the Rockies. We’ll see how he handles the stifling pressure in the upcoming postseason, after joining Houston’s star-studded rotation.

Greinke was something of a baseball savant, excelling in all aspects of the game. He hit home runs, stole bases and brought a Gold Glove to his position. He was keenly compelled to random organizational meetings that dealt with scouting and draft preparation.

Greinke has suffered from social anxiety disorder in the past, which commands empathy and space. But he was also something of a jerk. More than just a terrible interview, he wasn’t above showing his disdain for reporters, their questions or their jobs. He famously feigned relief after losing a no-hitter against the Nationals, calling it a “hassle” that comes with “a bunch of nonsense.” He showed up late for spring training with a ridiculous excuse, that baseball season somehow snuck up on him. He ducked out of the All-Star Game for “personal reasons,” with no further explanation necessary.

Greinke wasn’t pushed during his stay in Arizona. That’s because he wouldn’t budge. There was only one game that Greinke would play, the one between the white lines. He did that extremely well. He was almost worth the money. He bent for no one.

I respect that.

But shedding Greinke is a masterful stroke from Hazen, who utterly confused his peers on Wednesday by contradicting his own motives and actions. He traded away the team’s ace and the highest player in history. He also traded the team’s top-rated minor-league prospect. By definition, he was a buyer and a seller, stalling out the Yankees and finalizing the Mike Leake deal seconds before the deadline, ending up with a series of moves nobody expected.

He hung on to Robbie Ray. He added two starting pitchers that might keep this team in the playoff chase without sacrificing any chunk of the future. The coming weeks are all reward and very little risk. He is the most interesting executive in Arizona, once again proving to be terrific under pressure.

The only guy who could trade Greinke and Goldschmidt for profit, not shame.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier