The Arizona Diamondbacks landed Zack Greinke.
Now, the trick is winning games with him.
That shouldn’t be too difficult in theory, especially when the right-hander takes the mound. Last season with the Dodgers he posted a 19-3 record with a 1.66 ERA in 32 games started and finished second in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
But all that does nothing for the Diamondbacks going forward, other than raise expectations.
“That and the Shelby Miller deal, everybody kind of anoints you on paper to be one of the favorites in the division and the league, but we know the favorites last year on paper ended up with a worse record than we ended up last year with,” D-backs manager Chip Hale, referencing the San Diego Padres, told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “The players understand that. It’s something we talked about before we left for the winter, we knew we’d make some acquisitions.
“Did we think we’d get Greinke? No, but we knew we’d make some good acquisitions to make the team better and we have to start from scratch again in spring training and really work and focus on the process like we always do.”
Hale, who is entering his second season leading the D-backs after guiding the club to a 79-83 record last year, added that he is confident in the group he has but understands Arizona is not the only team that has improved this offseason.
But it’s better to be a team that has upgraded its roster, just as many would argue it’s better to have expectations than not.
In fact, part of the reason the D-backs were able to sign Greinke to a six-year, $206 million contract was that besides the money, the 32-year-old felt like Arizona offered an excellent chance to win.
When being introduced as a Diamondback for the first time last week, Greinke said his interest in the team really began during the 2014 season.
“It started around the All-Star break, or a little before the All-Star break last season,” he 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.'”
Arizona ranked second in the National League in runs scored, third in batting average and third in OPS (on base+slugging percentage). The D-backs also boasted the fourth-best fielding percentage in the Senior Circuit, and very much pass the eye test when trying to determine whether or not they are a good defensive ball club.
Hale said all of that appealed to Greinke, who left the three-time defending NL West champion Dodgers to come to Arizona.
“I think he really felt like with a couple moves like this, that we could put ourselves into a spot to contend,” he said. “So I think it does speak highly of what we have here and the way the front office works, and he felt like this is a place he wanted to play for the next six years.”
Hale and the Diamondbacks certainly cannot wait to get to work, and the skipper said he’s already learned a lot about Greinke from the few times they have been able to chat. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner and 2015 NL Cy Young Award runner-up takes a very analytical approach to the game, and it’s one Hale believes will rub off on his new teammates.
“Our younger pitchers will have the ability to bounce things off of him and he’s not afraid to be honest with them,” Hale said. “Sometimes when you’re with a group of players, the coach can tell you something, your manager can tell you something, but until your fellow teammate is honest with you, you don’t want to change.
“So I think he’s going to be that guy for us with the pitching staff.”