The free agency acquisition that shook the baseball world almost never happened.
A week ago, nobody thought the Arizona Diamondbacks were legitimately a candidate to sign Zack Greinke — not even the Diamondbacks.
“I didn’t think we could,” D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall admitted to Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday.
Hall had said earlier this offseason the Diamondbacks had no intentions of going after Greinke or David Price, and at the time he meant it. He didn’t think it was possible.
But the Diamondbacks were looking for an ace to add to their rotation and his mind kept coming back to Greinke, who he thought was the best pitcher available.
“Ken (Kendrick) and I just kept talking for a week or two of ‘Is it possible? Why wouldn’t we go after the best?’” Hall said. “The more we talked about it, Ken and I over and over kept trying to find a way.”
Then Friday afternoon happened, and Hall got the green light from Kendrick to go after Greinke with a six-year contract worth $206 million.
From the moment Hall got the go-ahead to the moment when Greinke agreed to become a Diamondback, it was an all-out sprint.
“We had our last conversation Friday probably around noon and we had it done by about 5:00-5:30,” Hall said. “It was full throttle, let’s get the thing done.”
While their pursuit of Greinke pretty much came out of left field, it turned out to be perfect timing.
“We actually thought we got involved a little too late and it worked out perfectly. I think it shocked everybody, including those that were in on it,” Hall said. “I think if we’d have been an hour later it wouldn’t have happened. I think they would’ve probably already announced a different team.”
The stars also aligned financially. The moves the Diamondbacks previously made in trading away Trevor Cahill, Addison Reed and Bronson Arroyo that saved money then helped them to take the plunge on Greinke now.
“That’s why we said then we were trying to create flexibility so we could go do something bigger. It’s been tough the last couple years when in the free agent market you go out and you sign a three or a four (starter) and they may not have much impact,” Hall said. “There’s no question that the guy that we signed can have the greatest impact above everyone in the free agent market. We haven’t been able to make an announcement like that for quite some time.”
The decision didn’t come without serious consideration of the risks that come along with signing someone to that large of a contract. With Greinke, it was his near-flawless delivery and healthy track record that made him worth the it to the Diamondbacks.
“A franchise like ours, a market like ours, we can’t make mistakes. If you’re going to take this big ticket and make a mistake with it, it could harm us for years to come,” Hall said. “We need it to work. We needed to take a gamble on the right guy and you just feel very safe and secure going after a guy like him.”
While he won’t take the mound at Chase Field for a few more months, Hall said the Diamondbacks have already seen an increase in season ticket sales since the news broke.
But Greinke isn’t the only piece to the puzzle. With Winter Meetings currently underway in Nashville, the Diamondbacks are still looking to add another arm to their rotation.
Hall said Arizona’s next move will likely be via trade.
“For us to get something done if we’re going to further bolster the rotation — I’m not sure we can but we’re trying, we’re kicking every tire we can — it’s gotta be through trade,” Hall said. “We looked long and hard at our bullpen. We’ve got some talented arms and I think if we put less pressure on them, don’t tax them the way we did last year, and by having guys that know how to go 200 innings or have done it, that’s going to be the effect.”
In order to acquire an arm of that caliber, Hall knows it will cost them. As for the price that the Diamondbacks will be willing to play to get a pitcher like that? It’s still being determined.
“I can’t see us parting with A.J. (Pollock). He’s such an important part of our team, such a core part of our team. He’s an All-Star centerfielder who’s got five tools, who can play great defense — nearly flawless, and he’s got speed and he’s got a great arm and he can hit. It’s tough to part with a guy like that.”
Hall isn’t surprised that everyone has been asking about Pollock, but he’s far from an available trade target.
“Every team wants someone like A.J. Pollock and we’ve got him. I think that’s why you heard me say he’s virtually untouchable, and he is,” Hall said. “You would rather not move a guy like that because they’re so important to our team and our chemistry is so good.”
But Pollock isn’t the only player that the Diamondbacks have little desire to part with. Hall says if a team makes an offer that is too good to pass on they’ll hear it out, but it would take a near miracle for them to part with any of the staples of their team.
“I think if you were to ask who are your untouchables, what we would love to say and stick to it, would be Goldy, Greinke, Corbin and Pollock are untouchable. That’s the way it should be,” he said.
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