PHOENIX — The pursuit and ultimately the landing of right-handed pitcher Zach Greinke occurred quickly, in roughly five hours according to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The flip side is how close the deal came to not happening.
“Without getting too detailed, we were minutes away from going to a different team. It was that close,” Greinke said.
National League West rivals the Dodgers, where Greinke spent the past three seasons, and the Giants were believed to have been in the running for the three-time All-Star, but it was the D-backs who swooped in late and signed him to a six-year, contract worth a reported $206.5 million.
“It happened pretty fast, but it was a team I had a lot of experience with,” Greinke said Friday at his introductory press conference at Chase Field. “I knew (the D-backs) really well, so it wasn’t like I needed a bunch of extra time to get to know people or get to know the city. Being in spring training here the past 12 years, I kind of know probably more than some people that have lived here for a long time.”
The D-backs made pitching, and specifically starting pitching, the focus this winter.
Last season, the club finished with the ninth-best ERA (4.04) with 69 quality starts, which ranked 11th in the National League.
Greinke in 2015 posted a Major League-leading 1.66 ERA and 30 quality starts, while finishing second in baseball in both opponents’ batting average (.187) and wins (19).
“A rotation leader was the No. 1 thing that could really help us,” chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa said. “We were looking for a true No. 1, a true leader of a staff that would take the ball on Opening Day and every time the toughest game he’d want to be the guy out there; would teach, guys like Rubby (De La Rosa) and Robbie (Ray) and Patrick (Corbin) and now Shelby (Miller) and all the other fine young pitchers we got.
“We’re very fortunate.”
Greinke said he was excited when his agent informed him the D-backs had called expressing interest. He had long been an admirer of the club.
“It started around the All-Star break, or a little before the All-Star break last season,” the 32-year-old explained, “and the Dodgers were playing Arizona and just was watching all their position players just running around making all these great catches, taking extra bases like crazy against us; and then you look in the leader board and they had the best offense in the game, scored the most runs, so I was like, ‘dang, that’s a pretty impressive group of guys they got over there.’”
The pitching impressed him as well.
“De La Rosa has an amazing arm. The Dodgers actually hit him pretty well, but he was very impressive, just his stuff; and then Corbin was about as good as anyone two years ago before he got hurt and Archie Bradley, I think people know a lot about him,” Greinke said. “They have a couple of other younger guys and then they traded for the Ray guy that, his arm is way better than, I think, anyone gave him credit for when they traded for him—maybe I just didn’t know much about him, but his arm is pretty good.
“I don’t know how many I’ve named — I know we got Shelby Miller, too — but there’s like seven guys that all have All-Star potential, so just have to kind of put it together.”
Greinke remembers thinking, “They got something going on there; just need a couple of things and then they could be just as good as anybody.”
The D-backs are Greinke’s fifth team after previous stops in Kansas City, Milwaukee and both L.A. clubs.
His addition plus Miller’s has many believing the D-backs are going all-in in 2016.
Greinke doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s not so much a now-type thing; it’s a pretty good future for multiple years, not just now,” he said.
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