Zack Greinke may very well be on the trade market. The rest of the Diamondback roster making any sort of money could be, too. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Arizona is expecting to strip down their roster and go into a rebuild mode.

The Cincinnati Reds are in desperate need of starting pitching. The free agent market isn’t great this year for starting pitching. But even if it were, the Reds wouldn’t be a player for a pitcher of Zack Greinke’s ability. Simply put, they couldn’t afford it. And realistically, the question is: Can they afford Zack Greinke? On the surface, the immediate reaction is no.

Zack Greinke is owed $34.5M, $35M, and $35M over the next three seasons. That is not remotely close to the Reds budget. It would be far and away more than they’ve ever paid a player in the history of the franchise. And while Cincinnati hasn’t exactly ever been a big spender, Greinke is among the highest paid players in the history of baseball. But recent history also gives you a playbook on how a team like the Reds could potentially make it work.

In August of 2017 the Houston Astros acquired Justin Verlander. He wasn’t owed quite as much as Zack Greinke, but they paid the remaining salary on his 2017 season (roughly $4.7M). The Tigers, however, are paying $8M in both 2018 and 2019, while the Astros pick up the remaining $20M of his salary. The price to have Detroit pick up that $16M over the 2018 and 2019 season was not cheap. Houston gave up Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers. After the 2017 season, Baseball America ranked Perez as the Tigers #1 prospect, Rogers the #5 prospect, and Cameron as their #6 prospect. The Tigers did send a prospect back int he deal with Verlander. Juan Ramirez, a then 18-year-old, went to Houston. He was unranked in the Top 30 by Baseball America in the Astros system.

Where Houston was at the time, an elite team, and where Cincinnati is right now, a very poor team, certainly matters here. The Astros may have been, and should have been, more willing to sell the farm to go for it. It worked out for them as Justin Verlander dominated for Houston in his five starts in September (1.06 ERA). In the playoffs he threw 36.2 innings with a 2.21 ERA. He’s paid off in spades in 2018, too – posting a 2.52 ERA in 214.0 innings this season.

The Reds, even if they were to acquire a top tier pitcher, would still need to add more in all likelihood, to even compete for a playoff spot. With what’s been said by the owner, that the team will have the highest payroll they’ve ever had, maybe it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could acquire someone like Zack Greinke AND someone else. Now, is that likely? If you ask me, no, I don’t think the Reds would both take on that salary and go out and spend more. At least not for 2019. But, I have zero information on how much the team is actually willing to spend.

Let’s jump back to the blueprint that the Astros laid out for Justin Verlander. They paid a hefty price in prospects in order to save some money. The Cincinnati Reds have a deep farm system. And they have quality prospects at the top, too. Offensively, the team is solid as they sit. If they were to do something like play Nick Senzel in center field every day, the odds are quite good that the team would field an above-average offense.

That, of course, is a good start to a winning team. But, the Reds would need to make some real changes on the mound. Zack Greinke has thrown 410.0 innings in the last two seasons with an ERA+ of 147 and 135 (2018). Fortunately, the Cincinnati Reds had a pitcher in 2018 with a 135 ERA+. That would mean that if we are adjusting for parks, that’s a 3.11 ERA for the Reds. If those results could be repeated at the expense of 200.0 innings from the worst two starting pitchers by the Reds in 2018, it would result in roughly 58 fewer runs allowed. That’s only worth about six additional wins on a season. It moves the needle, but not nearly enough.

Of course, there’s also the idea that improving that spot in the rotation improves things further down, too. The difference likely isn’t large, but even if it’s two wins, it’s moving the needle some more. It just continues to come back to the question of – if the Reds aren’t spending a lot more money, does it matter? As I noted above, for 2019, I don’t think it does. But what happens in 2020 when Homer Bailey’s salary is off of the books? That’s when things could be interesting.

Joey Votto, for as good as he is, probably will be declining by then. And it’s probably realistic to think Zack Greinke would be by then, too. The question is, how much? And what would it take to not only acquire Greinke, but how much money would you have to pay him? The bigger prospect package you would send, the more money they would kick back. It’s impossible to say exactly what Arizona would be looking for in return for taking on Greinke and sending salary relief back. But, the Reds certainly have the kinds of players that they would be looking for.

In my opinion, though, it’s just a tough fit. The Cincinnati Reds just don’t seem like they are to the point of going “all in” so to speak. While Zack Greinke would absolutely improve the Reds in 2019, it’s tough to see how he’s enough to get them where they need to be on his own. And because of what all past information suggests, it’s hard to see how if they did acquire him, that it wouldn’t basically be the final move for the team in 2019.

About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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49 Responses

  1. Patmc

    Friendly heads up, you have a few typos in the first paragraph ?

    • Doug Gray

      This is why you don’t write articles at 6am on two hours of sleep. It also doesn’t help when you spell words correctly, but use the incorrect words because spellcheck definitely doesn’t alert you. I should probably start using grammarly….

      • Michael Smith

        Doug your two hard on your self.

        Good article but I’ll pass. The reds need multiple pitchers and even after some salary relief we are looking at 20-25 million and giving up young talent for ac34 yr old.

  2. Simon Cowell

    Greinke is 34 I’d pass. I’d put my money towards a younger candidate and hope for the best.

    • Joe

      I agree we’re not in a position to go all in on a greinke at his age. If we give up that kinda package I hope it for pitcher few years younger and less miles. Very interesting on the homer salary coming off they could backload some contracts and actually spend around 50 million and still keep it under league average payroll

      • Colt Holt

        Have our 25 year olds been any more reliable? Great pitchers have a way of lasting. If you closed yourself off to pitchers over 34, you could miss out on hall of game performances from Clemens, randy Johnson, curt schilling, etc.

        It’s all about the price. Low level non top 10 player if the reds take on the full salary. If they want someone like Greene, they are paying half (all 3 years) Scale of prospects to money in between.

      • Stock

        I would not even consider giving up a top 5 prospect for Greinke

      • Colt Holt

        I read on mlbtr that, if a free agent, grienke could likely command a similar deal. My proposal is not to give up Greene for grienke, it is to give up Greene for $50 million. How many pitchers are all stars in year one? Greene’s upside is basically Grienke. Grienke could fall off, but Greene May never arrive, or could pull a Robert Stephenson for four years. If you can get an ace on a short term deal at a reasonable dollar cost, I would give a lot of upside to get that.

    • Chris

      Exactly. Why we would even consider paying any 34 year old pitcher that kind of money is asinine.

      Votto has already started decline if you factor in this year. Despite walking 250 times, he did little to nothing. Your franchise player who hits 3rd in your order can go stretches of weeks on end without an RBI and months at a time without extra base hit.

      • redleggingfordayz

        Squints at Joey Votto’s WAR. Is 3.5. What are you talking about?

  3. IndyRedsFan

    No way. The possibility of an injury is always there with a pitcher. Taking on his salary (or even a portion of it while giving up prospects) and then losing him to injury would set the re-build back again.

    Much too large of a risk to take.

  4. Shawn

    We could probably yet Charlie Morton for 2/20M and Patrick Corbin 5/100 without losing prospects. I would rather do something like that and use prospects at the break if we are competing.

    • Greenfield Red

      Doug has said in the past that the Reds need to get payroll up near $150 million to compete. This would do it, and I like the idea. Can the Reds get those guys for those prices?

      • Billy

        I saw that the Yankees are interested in Corbin. Separately, I saw that the Yankees have an outrageous amount of money to spend if they want. I don’t see how the Reds have a chance in a bidding war with New York.

    • Redsvol

      Charlie Morton is a good pitcher – and he will get much more than 2 yrs and 20 million this free agent season unless he gives the Astros a huge home discount.

    • AirborneJayJay

      Charlie Morton AND Patrick Corbin will get a Qualifying Offer from their teams at $17.9M. Corbin will reject that QO. Morton may accept since he only wants to play 1 more year, maybe 2. So are you prepared to pay the piper and forfeit draft picks from the 2019 draft?? Plus, you are very light on your proposed offers for those 2. Corbin is looking at 5 years and $125M and the Yankees will pay that in a heartbeat. Morton could be looking more at 2 years and $30M, if he doesn’t take the QO.
      Dallas Keuchel will get a QO from Houston also. Gio cannot be offered a QO since he was traded in season and therefore will not have draft pick compensation tied to him. Kershaw, if he opts out, can still be offered a QO, so draft pick compensation will come with him also. Those will be the top 5 free agent pitchers available. Those free agent pitchers just became more expensive with draft pick compensation tied to them. Corbin, Keuchel, and Kershaw will get contracts over $50M so the compensation will be the Reds second highest pick which will be the Competitive Balance pick which usually runs in the low 30’s overall in the draft. I’d be surprised if Morton doesn’t stay in Houston. I don’t know what Gio’s history is in GABP, so I don’t know if he would or would not be a good free agent to go after. He might like to stay with Milwaukee and sign on with them to give him a better chance of winning a ring.
      Free agent pitchers may not be the best avenue for the Reds. They will have to way over-pay even for the likes of Lance Lynn, Anibal Sanchez, JA Happ, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, or Nathan Eovaldi. However this is the cheap Reds front office we are talking about so they probably go after often-injured pitchers trying to make a rebound like Garrett Richards, Tyson Ross, Drew Pomeranz, Clay Buchholz, or Jaime Garcia.

  5. Norwood Nate

    I’d take a hard pass on this. The Reds are more than one frontline pitcher away from having a decent rotation. It’s too much money and risk.

    Now if they want to trade Robbie Ray in his last season of control and the asking price is reasonable, that sounds great. Same for Sonny Gray with the Yankees if it’s a buy low situation. I’d kick the tires on Stroman and Bundy as well for the right price. Any of those guys should be able to be had without giving up our top tier of prospects.

    Giving up prospects and paying that much in salary is a non starter for me.

    • redlegs4ever

      I mentioned Ray yesterday as a preferred target. He has 2 years of control left.

      • Norwood Nate

        Good to know about Ray, I had read he had one year left. With two years of control I’d make him a bigger priority then. I think he could help out the rotation without mortgaging the future.

      • Redsvol

        I like the idea of Ray. He’s going to cost some money the next 2 years and I’m sure the diamondbacks would rather not pay it as long as Grienke is still on the payroll. Affordable, trending up, young, 2 yrs control, lefty – what’s not to like? Probably cost 2 very good prospects.

      • AirborneJayJay

        What injury(s) caused Robbie Ray to miss 5 starts in 2017 and 9 starts in 2018?? He was an all-star in 2017. That is almost a half of a season’s starts in just 2 years. That would be important to know.

      • Redsvol

        2017 – linedrive to head off batted ball caused concussion
        2018- oblique strain.

  6. Cguy

    About the only time the Reds can really afford a guy like Greinke is at the July trading period. Pick someone like him up as a rental or a 16 month deal for midlevel prospects. Cubs signed a couple hundred million dollars worth of starting pitching & are sitting at home. Brewers don’t have a single sp making $10MM and are still in it. The Reds still don’t know enough about their “playoff window” yet to spend a lot of their resources this winter/spring.

  7. Stock

    I think Corbin is a bad investment. He had his career year in his walk year. He saw a drop in his velocity during the season, possibly because of throwing his slider much more often. I just don’t think he is a good risk. Plus he will be a Yankee.

    I would love Charlie Morton though. I think he will cost more than stated above but I would love to sign him and Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is coming off a down year in which his GB% dropped dramatically. He threw his sinker 20% less than in 2017 and threw his 4 seam FB much more. I think if he started throwing his sinker 50% of the time again cut back on his 4 seam and slider he would be back to the 3.00 pitcher he was in the past.

    As for Greinke, I think he is over rated. I think he is not as good as Disco and Castillo to be sure. He was very lucky last year. His FB averaged less than 90 mph last year and seems to go down every year.

    I could make the argument that Cody Reed and Greinke had similar seasons. And if Cody Reed could continue to improve his BB% he would be better than Greinke.

    K%/BB%: CR 22.3/8 ZG 23.7/5.1
    Soft%/Hard%: CR 16.3/34.1 ZG 15.7/40.9
    LD%/GB%/FB%: CR 15.7/61.4/22.8 ZG 23.0/45.1/31.9

    On balls in play Cody Reed is clearly Superior. In fact his GB% – LD% was better than any pitcher in the majors last year who threw at least 100 innings. Of Qualified pitchers Dallas Keuchel had the highest GB% at 53.7%.

    I personally would not touch Greinke at any price.

    Now is a good time to buy low on Keuchel. I think the Reds need to trust Reed and give him a shot. Castillo and Disco have spots I think. Unfortunately Bailey has a spot locked in. That means acquiring 2 SP may mean Reed goes to the pen which I think is not in the best interest of the Reds so I don’t acquire 2 SP (Morton and Keuchel) unless they are willing to dump Bailey.

    • Cguy

      Frankly, I see Cody Lorenzen (or Michael Reed) as the Reds 3rd best sp. Pair them up every 5th game. Both may eventually become sp in their own right, but for now they’re better as a duo.

      • CP

        Hahahaha I love the combo name! I am hopeful that one of those two can figure it out and be in the middle of the rotation as well.

  8. Jon Ryker

    Not this deal. Not this year. Unless they develop some of their young pitchers successfully, they won’t have the staff depth to justify such an acquisition.

    Joey Votto is already deteriorating. Still paying Homer Bailey. They’d need two of their young starters to become reliable before I made any big deals for expensive starters.

    They also have offensive issues. Very power-focused. Not fundamentally solid.

    It’s just too early to make that level deal.

  9. redlegs4ever

    I like Greinke, (who wouldn’t??) but I gotta say this is just too many eggs in the one basket for a team like the Reds.

  10. redleggingfordayz

    I can really only picture the Greinke thing working out if the Diamondbacks cover more salary than the tigers did for Verlander. Obviously this would mean some sort of upped prospect return, but 35 million a year is a ton to take on for a small club like the Reds. There might be a way to get this to work with some creativity and Homers salary coming off the books after next year, but you have to squint pretty hard to see it. If they did do a Greinke trade, I see them targeting someone like Stroman or Wheeler for a solid #2.

    1. Greinke
    2. Wheeler
    3. Castillo
    4. Disco
    5. Reed\Mahle\Lorenzen

    Honestly that isn’t a half bad rotation in my opinion at least.

  11. Mjc

    Not realistic at all on Zienke.we gotta get lucky with 1-2 of the second tier pitchers were not in play on top tier. Matt Harvey or similar is what to expect . P.Corbin, Keuchel and guys like that = Yankees,cubs etc.

  12. Scott C

    No way, on Greinke. You would have to give up too much and then pay him too much. There has to be better younger options.

  13. SultanofSwaff

    I don’t buy the narrative that the Reds can’t compete next year. I do buy the narrative that they don’t have the guts to make the hard choices to open that competitive window sooner than expected. Those choices involve giving up prospect capital that took years to accumulate.

    I’d much prefer to use that prospect capital to acquire pitching. There’s a lot of depth to our system which will have appeal to any franchise with a thin farm system. This approach also works within the budget constraints. The Reds already have a well stocked, versatile bench that is cost controlled, which negates the need for many of these ‘depth’ prospects. So many of these guys will be blocked for years to come and it’s silly to hold onto them. Package them in threes to fortify the major league roster NOW.

    • Doug Gray

      The Reds, from a talent standpoint, need to add about 20 wins to truly compete for a wild card spot.

      How do you add 20 wins to the 2019 Reds?

      • Scott C

        The second wild card team this past year won 91 games, so maybe we need to add 25 wins to compete for a wild card spot. Your point stands though.

      • AirborneJayJay

        Clean house in the Reds front office would be step #1.

        And a big NO on Greinke.

      • Stock

        LF – Winker playing every day (improve 4 Wins)
        CF – Senzel getting most of the AB (improve 2 Wins)
        RF – Schebler staying healthy and platoon with Ervin (improve 2 wins)
        UTL – Hamilton move to position he will thrive. Pinch run and then stay in to play defense if they have a lead. (2 wins)
        1B – Votto returns (2 wins)
        SP – Castillo pitches like he did in the 2nd half (3 wins)
        SP – Disco healthy and pitches well (3 wins)
        SP – Keuchel signs and replaces Romano (3 Wins)
        SP – Morton signs and replaces Bailey (3 wins)
        SP – Reed/Mahle/Stephenson or someone steps up and pitches decent (2 Wins)

        That is 26 wins Biggest reaches are Disco staying healthy and someone stepping up in the #5 slot.

      • Doug Gray

        I’m not saying that WAR is everything, but Jesse Winker played about 60% of a season in 2018. Even if you want to believe he was a neutral defender in the corners, doubling his production adds 1.5 wins. He’d had to go from being what he was offensively, to being an MVP caliber hitter (.950 OPS) kind of guy to add 4 wins. That’s a big stretch.

        I don’t believe that Senzel in center and Billy Hamilton being a utility man is possible. If Senzel is playing center almost every day then there’s no way this team keeps Hamilton around.

        Your starting pitching is a bit much, too. Castillo being worth 3 wins over the entire season would be a good outcome. Being +3 wins versus 2018 is a big, big ask. Basically, you’re asking him to be more than a fringe all-star. DeSclafani being healthy for a full season is a big ask on it’s own. Getting +3 wins from him would be a tall order – though, if you think he can pitch 200 innings it may not be impossible. But again, that just seems very unlikely and isn’t something you should expect.

        Dallas Keuchel was worth about 3 total wins over a replacement guy this season. Morton could be that guy. But here’s the big question with these last two: Where’s that money coming from? You seem to have both Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton still with the Reds. I’d venture to guess there’s no way on this planet the Reds boost payroll enough to sign both of those pitchers AND keep either of those guys, much less both.

        In reality, even if the Reds somehow did everything you suggests, that’s probably a 10-win improvement unless literally nothing goes wrong in 2019. No injuries to anyone. And even then, maybe you pick up another 3-4 wins. At that point you are then just hoping things go right and everyone not only maintains past performance, but that multiple guys take large steps forward, too. It’s painful to say, but that’s just how bad this team is.

      • SultanofSwaff

        Without going into as much detail, I’m calculating getting to 20 mores more or less like Stock suggests–incremental improvement with the pitchers already under contract, and upgrades to the rotation and CF.

        Two additional points worth mentioning are that the Reds won’t start the season with Gosselington-like dead weight on the roster, but rather they’ll start from day 1 with a more fortified pitching staff and a solid bench with upside. The logic defying roster decisions leaving spring training easily cost the team a handful of wins in the first 2 months… in that sense, I don’t think the leap into contention is <20 games year over year. The second point is that if the team is in the hunt they will be buyers at the deadline and could pick up a few more wins from acquisitions.

        All that said, even if I'm wrong that the contention window won't be open in 2019, where's the benefit in holding onto prospect capital if they're blocked for the next 2 seasons at least?

  14. Redsvol

    as you stated Doug, we are more than 1 starting pitcher away – probably like 3. If it were July and we were leading the division or in good shape for a wild card berth then it might be worth it to try and seize the day. Today, we are too far away. Besides, keeping the diamondbacks capped on salary means one less competitor for free agents.

  15. GM Nep O'Tism


    Do we really want some “Cy Young Winner” coming here and messing up the Reds winning vibe/culture and positive momentum?

  16. Hits56

    Perfect trade partner………They take on Homers remaining contract which I believe is around 25 mill including the buyout we let them have some of our middle infield and outfield surplus and a lower level lotto ticket pitcher….It would make us players for another starting pitcher either free agent or trade. Personally I think the free agent market is ls lacking this year. If it was my club I would target Greinke (including Bailey) and target Gray(including Hamilton’s contract) this wouldn’t strip our farm system and allow us to spend on bats in free agency (Aj Pollock)

  17. James Phillips

    The Yankees want to get rid of Sonny Gray. Would that be a worthwhile risk as long as you got him for little to nothing? At his salary level it seems to me that it’s a smart reclamation project, certainly much smarter than throwing a multi-year deal at Harvey.

    • MK

      James I kinda like that thought. 6.5 million million is a workable salary for 2019. He has flourished better in an annual rebuild program Oakland than he did with Yankees. Wonder if Brandon Finnegan and somebody like Jesus Reyes could get it done.

  18. CP

    What would it cost to trade for a Blake Snell?

    A trade for a guy like that gives the Reds an immediate #1 that is young and cost controlled for some time. He will no doubt be expensive, but I only see the Reds getting a true #1 through 2 possible ways: 1) Trade 2) Development. Sense the reds development of SP’s is spotty at best, they are going to have to make a Latos kind of trade at some point probably.