There were rumors swirling throughout the month that the Royals believed that a reunion with former AL Cy Young award winner and six-time All-Star Zack Greinke could happen. Now, that appears to be a reality. Kansas City, per reports, are set to bring back the 39-year-old back on a one-year deal that can be worth $8-$10 million depending on performance bonuses. Kansas City will hope that a franchise icon can help provide stability for a young Royals team yet again.
A Look at Greinke
Last season, RHP Zack Greinke pitched as a Kansas City Royal in the Majors for the first time since 2010. The former Royal ace continued to be a star upon leaving the team that drafted him back in 2002, as the righty won 159 games from 2011-2021 and posted a 3.19 ERA over 2,002 innings.
Back in Kansas City, the 39-year-old was far from the 2010 version of Greinke in 2022. Rather than consistently hitting the mid-90s like he did in the early 2010s, Greinke’s mean fastball velocity sat at 89.1 MPH. Advanced analytics, meanwhile paint a pretty ugly picture of the 39-year-old’s campaign from last season — Greinke ranked in the bottom four percent in fastball velocity, expected batting average (xBA), Whiff%, and K%. In fact, Greinke’s 4.8 K/9 was not only the lowest of his career, but also the lowest of all pitchers in MLB who threw at least 125 innings last season. Yet, Greinke posted a solid 3.68 ERA over 137 innings.
While Greinke may not have the stuff of yesteryear, the six-time All-Star still could pitch a good game, thanks in part to his ability to command the zone. The righty posted above-average Edge% and Chase% rates, as well as a 1.8 BB/9 rate. Greinke has always possessed impressive control and command, and that trait will be vital for future success given the drop in his stuff.
Greinke — who may very well be headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame after the end of his career — will look to add to his already impressive career statistical totals. The 39-year-old enters 2023 with 223 career wins, and will need just 118 strikeouts to hit the 3,000 marker. However, Greinke may need to pitch at least two seasons to hit 3,000 — if 2022 is any indication of what’s to come in 2023.
What it Means
Out of all the pitchers that threw at least 100 innings for the Royals last season, just two posted an ERA south of 5.00: Greinke and Brady Singer. Singer broke out last season, as the former University of Florida ace struck out 150 and posted a tidy 2.1 BB/9 rate over 153.1 innings. The Royals’ rotation last season was rather young, as Singer was one of five starters who were at least 26 years of age or younger to accumulate at least 100 innings in KC. But, the other four — Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch, and Jonathan Heasley — all struggled in 2022.
Given what happened in 2022, it made sense for the Royals to target veterans pitchers on short-term deals this winter, and Kansas City did just that. Crafty lefty Ryan Yarbrough and former O’s righty Jordan Lyles both signed with the Royals earlier in the offseason, but each have also had issues. Now, the Royals bring back Greinke for one more run. KC may not getting the 2009 AL Cy Young version of Greinke, but it’s hard to deny after last season that the 39-year-old can still toss a good game.
In 2023, Kansas City will hope that the franchise legend can work his magic once again.