The Toronto Blue Jays are considering extending a contract to free agent starter Zach Greinke, according to a report from Rick Westhead of TSN. Greinke stands alongside David Price as the top two arms available this offseason, and is expected to fetch a contract of five to six years with an average annual value north of $25 million.
Greinke, an NL Cy Young finalist, broke in to the league at just 20 years old with the Kansas City Royals in 2004, and since fully establishing himself in the 2008 season, has perennially been one of the game’s most talented pitchers. In 2015, the right-hander posted a 19-3 record with an obscene 1.66 ERA. This earned Greinke a 5.9 WAR over 222.2 innings pitched.
While his velocity no longer matches the totals from his early 20s, Greinke’s fastball has remained very consistent over the past three seasons at a hair below 92 MPH. That fastball is an elite offering, but jumps in both the effectiveness and velocity of his slider and changeup pushed his game into the stratosphere this past season.
What’s most interesting from Westhead’s report is that, according to an MLB executive, some teams are rumored to be more confident in the longterm health and projectability of Greinke’s arm when compared to Price. Especially on the back end of a rich contract that will take each pitcher into their late-30s.
“A couple things worry me about David Price,” Steve Phillips tells Westhead. “He recoils in his delivery. Instead of following through with his arm after he throws the ball, he stops and pulls the arm back. That’s deceleration and that’s where injuries can take place.” He also believes that Price will struggle if he experiences a drop in velocity due to the fact that he “really doesn’t have” quality secondary pitches. Not sure I’m on board with that idea, but he does give the nod to Greinke in that space.
The fit with an arm like Greinke is blatantly obvious. It’s perfect for Toronto, but for a player that will be courted heavily by a crowded group of teams, the Blue Jays are a distant blip on the radar as an underdog at this point. Often times, it helps the optics of an offseason for a team to submit some form of offer to a sought-after free agent, leaving them able to say “See? We tried!”
Regardless of whether or not that’s the intent, and of course, assuming there’s some truth to be found in the fluff here, this should be taken as another piece of good news for Blue Jays fans. After a Monday report that Rogers ownership would be giving the Jays a ~$140 million payroll to open the season with the potential for growth, time spent on a top-level name like this indicate a level of seriousness that has been hoped for.
With the great number of teams that believe they’re one piece away, not to mention the available money around Major League Baseball at the moment, this won’t be a cheap offseason for anyone. Whether Toronto lands their big fish remains to be seen, but for now, perhaps we can rest assured that they do plan on fishing.