Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers ever to don a Royals uniform. The six-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove winner, and 2009 Cy Young winner will have a pretty strong case for enshrinement in Cooperstown one day, and with more of his career taking place in Kansas City than with any other team, he very well could wear a Royals cap on his bust.
It was a pleasant surprise when the Royals brought Greinke back on a one-year deal last year, and he showed he still had something to offer at age 38 with a 3.68 ERA in 26 starts with the second-best WAR out of any pitcher on the club, and the best walk rate out of any starting pitcher on the staff.
The Royals have expressed interest in bringing Greinke back, and recent reports indicate they are still trying to come to terms with the veteran. But the inflation in contracts on the starting pitching market has caused talks to hit a snag. If someone like Matt Boyd - who pitched 13 innings last year and wasn’t really good before that - is worth $10 million, then Greinke may very well be due a raise from his $13 million salary from last year. Ken Rosenthal reports that Greinke “will not want to sign for less than he believes he is worth” but that a low-base salary with incentives with the Royals is still the most likely scenario.
But are we sure that a Greinke reunion is the best idea for the Royals at this point? Don’t confuse me for a Greinke-hater. The enigmatic right-hander is still one of my favorite Royals of all-time, both for his dazzling performance on that mound (that slow curve still makes me giggle) and his blunt assessment of well...anything - pitching, opponents, his teammates, his fantasy football team.
As much as I enjoy having Greinke on the team, I am less certain that bringing back a 39-year-old pitcher is the right idea for a team that is clearly still rebuilding. There is some value in having older players on the roster. Veteran presence can be a thing, and there are stories of how Greinke mentored younger Royals pitchers.
However veteran presence is difficult to quantify, and has historically been overrated. It seems more useful to have a veteran help an already good, but inexperienced team get over the hump with, say, a motivational speech. It seems a lot to ask Zack Greinke to make much of a dent with a young pitching staff that led the American League in walks even with Greinke offering his mentorship. The Royals just hired a new pitching coach in Brian Sweeney as well as an assistant pitching coach in Zach Bove. Their job will be to tutor the young arms.
I suppose bringing Greinke back does no real harm, except that it takes up a roster space that could go to someone else. With little hope of contention next year, all Royals transactions should seek to serve one of two purposes - (1) to acquire players that will still be productive players by the time the Royals are ready to contend; and (2) to assist in the development of players that will be productive players by the time the Royals are ready to contend.
At his age, Greinke is definitively not serving the former purpose. It is arguable he is serving the latter. But might the roster spot be better served on some young pitcher that could be here for the next few years, long after Greinke retires? I don’t expect the Royals to be in on Carlos Rodón, but teams like the Rays and Giants have been taking mid-tier free agents and turning them into useful pitchers - guys like Jeffrey Springs and Alex Wood and Jakob Junis. Is the opportunity to find a guy like that worth giving up to have Greinke talk to Brady Singer about pitching?
The Royals have suffered from being too nostalgic in the past - keeping or bringing back players because of past relationships with them. The heart loves seeing Zack Greinke in Royals blue again. But maybe the head is right, the roster spot and money might be better spent on a younger player.
Should the Royals bring back Zack Greinke?
This poll is closed
Yes, at the right price