In a winter meetings which have been curiously devoid of genuine action so far, the first real rumor of a specific deal involving the Arizona Diamondbacks surfaced this evening. It came from T.R. Sullivan, who covers the Rangers for MLB.com. He subsequently cautioned that “A lot must happen for the Rangers to get Greinke but the discussions with the D-backs are real and on-going.”
Rangers are talking to the D-backs about starting pitching and Zack Greinke could be in play. Any potential deal is not close but the two teams have been talking— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) December 13, 2017
Following up on that, Jeff Wilson of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram added a very important nugget to the story.
Confirming @Sullivan_Ranger report on #Rangers' interest in Zack Greinke. The Rangers would need the deal with Arizona to include Shin-Soo Choo and the $63 million he's owed the next three seasons to offset the $138.5 million owed to Greinke the next four.— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) December 13, 2017
We had interest in Choo before he signed with the Rangers in December 2013. At the time, Bob Nightengale wrote that the team were “making a strong play” for Choo, with GM Kevin Towers looking at Choo as a possibility. Rumors had been circulating for some time prior to that. In October, I wrote a piece entitled “Why we shouldn’t sign Shin-Soo Choo,” listing all the potential problems. I concluded “Combine them all together, and you've got enough red flags to stage throwback night at the Kremlin. While there may be a need to strengthen our offense, the odds are that someone will severely overpay this winter for Choo's services. I sincerely hope it's not the Diamondbacks. “
It turned out to be the Rangers, who gave Choo a seven-year, $130 million contract, and they’ve regretted it almost relentlessly since. Even before Opening Day this season, it was being described by the Star-Telegram as “one of the worst among North Texas's pro teams, right up there with Marion Barber and Tony Romo.” Choo was slightly better than he had been in 2016, batting .261 with 22 home-runs, for a 103 OPS+. But his defense continued to drag him back, keeping Choo’s overall value to 1.1 bWAR. Over the four years of the contract thus far, the outfielder has been worth slightly less than five bWAR and been paid $68 million.
He’s due to be paid $20 million in 2018, and then $21 million for each of the two seasons beyond that. That would mean payroll savings of about $13 million for the D-backs in a straight swap with Greinke. But the performance hit would likely be significant. Although how much, depends on whether you think Zack’s performance going forward, is more likely to be like the 2016 version (1.0 bWAR) or the 2017 one (4.4 bWAR). Nick Piecoro reports that the Rangers are not one of the teams on Greinke’s no-trade list, so the Diamondbacks would not need their Opening Day starter’s approval for any deal.
Piecoro says that the swap “makes a lot of sense, and would help fill a hole in Dbacks' outfield.” I’m not quite so convinced. As noted above, I wasn’t a fan of Choo in 2013 (Arizona eventually went the Mark Trumbo route instead, little if any better), and he’s now four years older. While he would likely be somewhat better than Yasmany Tomas, it seems to me less filling a hole, than putting warning tape round a sinkhole and hoping no-one falls in. The team would still have Tomas’s contract to deal with: it’s likely far too much to hope, that Mike Hazen could package both Greinke and Tomas off to Texas for Choo.
Indeed, Nightengale seems to suggest that talks have currently stalled, with the Rangers also wanting the D-backs to pay a portion of Greinke’s salary, and not offering much in exchange.
The #Rangers are offering only marginal prospects for #Dbacks Zack Greinke and want Dbacks to pay portion of salary. Dbacks showing no interest in salary dump. Rangers also talking about other #Dbacks pitchers— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 13, 2017
The last sentence is perhaps interesting though. Patrick Corbin’s name is one that has already been mentioned as a possible trade-chip this winter, and it would not surprise me if he were one of the “other” pitchers being discussed.
UPDATE: The Rangers aren’t the only team interesting in seeing if Greinke is available.
Aside from the reported interest, there aren’t any details behind the Yankees motivation to add him to their roster. The Yankees are looking to get under the luxury tax number, so I assume they’d take him in a salary dump, which is not what the Dbacks are going for primarily. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Keep refreshing the SnakePit frequently, folks!